What is heme iron?
Heme iron is the type of iron found in blood and muscle. It makes up a large portion of the iron in a typical western diet. The “heme” in hemoglobin refers to this form of iron. Heme iron-rich foods include oysters, beef, liver and sardines.
While the exact mechanism of absorption is unclear, it is clear that the body absorbs heme iron more readily than non-heme iron.
What is non-heme iron?
Nonheme iron is found in plant foods like green leafy vegetables, beans, and nuts. It is not absorbed as readily but allows us to eat more iron-rich plants without worrying about iron toxicity. Foods rich in non-heme iron include spinach, lentils and pumpkin seeds.
Maintaining adequate levels of iron is a delicate balance. Too much or too little iron can be harmful to the body. Today, iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional problems in the world.
Here are a few tips for improving iron absorption:
- eat foods high in vitamin C with foods that contain iron
- cook your plant foods to improve the amount of available iron
- avoid having tea, coffee or calcium during or directly after having a source of iron
Please consult your doctor for further information on iron absorption and deficiency.