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USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine



How can I get more iron from foods?

There are two ways to get more iron out of your diet, says Dr. Debby Demory-Luce, a registered dietitian with the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.  First, you could eat more iron-rich foods, such as beef liver, lean meats, salmon, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, tofu, soybeans, dried beans, oatmeal, pumpkin and sesame seeds, spinach and enriched breads, rice and pasta. In addition, you could adopt a few of the following dietary "tricks" that give iron absorption a boost:

  • Eat a little meat when dining on iron-rich vegetables.  Although the form of iron in plants isn't easily absorbed by humans, adding a bit of meat, such as a piece of grilled chicken to bean burritos or a slice of marinated beef to a spinach salad, can significantly boost the iron "yield."
  • Add a good source of vitamin C to each meal.  Top oatmeal with sliced strawberries, drink orange juice with iron-fortified cereal, toss red pepper strips into a whole-grain pasta dish or eat broccoli salad with a peanut-butter sandwich to pump up iron absorption.
  • Don't overdo tea and coffee beverages.  Compounds called tannins found in tea and coffee tie up iron, reducing how much is absorbed.

Also see:
How much iron do children need?
What are the best dietary sources of iron?

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