Dietary Iron Overview

Dietary Iron

To ensure that you get the iron your body needs, it's important that your diet include foods that are rich in iron.

Eating Heme vs. Non-Heme Iron

There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme iron.

Heme Iron — This form of iron comes from animal sources, such as red meat, and makes up about 10% of the dietary iron most people ingest.1 Heme iron is more easily absorbed.2

Non-heme Iron — Non-heme iron comes from a variety of other sources, making up the remaining 90% of dietary iron. Non-heme iron is more difficult for the body to absorb. Absorption is facilitated by ascorbic acid, or other sugars and acids that help increase the iron's solubility.2

Challenges in Non-Heme Iron Absorption

Getting the right amount of iron isn't just about eating iron-rich foods; it can also mean eating them in the right combination. Certain foods can also increase or decrease the amount of non-heme iron your body absorbs.

1 Barton JC. Iron deficiency. In: Rakel RE, Bope ET, eds. Conn’s Current Therapy. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Saunders/Elsevier; 2008:385-389.

2 Iron [definition]. In: Venes D, ed. Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Company; 2005.