Iron (Fe)

Iron is an essential mineral needed for all body cells.

Main function: To carry oxygen around the body. This is achieved by combining the proteins haemoglobin and myoglobin. The majority of the body's iron makes up the protein haemoglobin in red blood cells, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. It also manufactures, the protein myoglobin whereby it delivers oxygen to the muscles.

Other important functions: Immune function, healthy thyroid function, growth, reproduction, DNA synthesis & healthy nerve communication


Age Recommended daily intake (RDI)

Males 14-18 11mg

18+ 8mg

Females 14-18 15mg

18-50 18mg

50+ 8mg

Pregnancy 27mg

Common causes of Iron deficiency

  • Heavy menstruation

  • Vegans/Vegetarians

  • Medications : Antacids, aspirin

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding

  • Gastrointestinal diseases: crohns, coeliac disease

  • Pregnancy due to increased requirement

Forms of Iron

Haeme iron is found in animal protein and is easily absorbed by the body.

Non haeme sources,are plant based and are difficult to absorb. These are found in vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes & grains.


The following inhibit the absorption of iron

  • Calcium & Zinc compete for absorption with Iron

  • Polyphenols - are antioxidants that bind to iron & stops absorption, they are found in tea, coffee, cacao, green tea, flaxseeds, mint, berries & red wine

  • Phytates - are in indigestible parts of plants found in legumes, nuts, seeds & grains

Ways to enhance Iron absorption

Enhancers are only necessary for non haeme sources

  • Vitamin C eaten with meals - capsicum, tomatoes, cabbage

  • Fermented foods - miso, sauerkraut, kimchi

  • Combining a haeme source with non haeme source

  • Eating fish with foods high in phytates

  • Soaking & sprouting legumes & grains

Haeme sources

Food sources Serving size Iron (mg)

Chicken liver (cooked) 100g 13

Oysters (cooked) 85g 10.2

Kangaroo 100g 4.4

Beef 100g 3g

Pork 100g 2.5

Turkey (dark meat) 100g 2.3

Salmon 100g 1.7

Chicken 100g 1.3

Non Haeme Sources

Blackstrap molasses 1tbsp 3.5

Tofu 1/2 cup 3.4

Lentils (cooked) 1/2 cup 3.3

Spinach (cooked) 1/2 cup 3.2

Chia seeds 15g 2.5

Black eye beans 1/2 cup 2.1

Quinoa (cooked) 1/2 cup 2g

Pistachios 30g 1.2

Broccoli 100g 1g

Pumpkin seeds 1tbsp 1g

Warning:Iron supplementation is only recommended in deficiency.

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