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What are some dietary sources of iron?

What are the different sources of iron?

Heme iron is derived from animal sources and is more easily absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron, which is derived from plant-based sources. Below, we share some dietary sources of iron, both heme and non-heme.

What are sources of heme iron?

Several excellent sources of heme iron include red meat, such as beef, lamb, and pork, as well as organ meats like liver. Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, also contains heme iron. Additionally, seafood, particularly shellfish like oysters, clams, and mussels, is rich in this form of iron.

What are sources of non-heme iron?

Non-heme iron can be found in a variety of plant-based foods. Legumes, including lentils, chickpeas, and soybeans, are excellent sources. Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are also rich in non-heme iron. Additionally, fortified breakfast cereals, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, such as pumpkin and sesame seeds, can contribute to non-heme iron intake.

What affects absorption rates?

It is important to note that while non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed as heme iron, several dietary factors can enhance its absorption. Consuming non-heme iron-rich foods alongside a source of vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, strawberries, or bell peppers, can significantly improve absorption. Conversely, certain compounds, such as phytates found in some whole grains and legumes, and tannins found in tea and coffee, can inhibit iron absorption. Therefore, it is advisable to balance iron-rich plant-based foods with vitamin C sources and be mindful of the potential impact of inhibiting factors.

In conclusion, both heme and non-heme sources of iron play a vital role in meeting the body's iron needs. Incorporating a diverse range of foods from both animal and plant sources can help ensure an adequate intake of this essential nutrient.


  1. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. (n.d.). Iron – Health Professional Fact Sheet. Retrieved from

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