What Kind of Iron is in Our Diet?
In both food and supplements, iron is present in two distinct forms: heme iron and non-heme iron. Let's discuss iron in the foods we eat.
Heme iron is found in meat, fish, and poultry. Only foods derived from animal sources provide heme iron (though they also provide non-heme iron as well).
Heme iron is the most bioavailable form of iron, as up to 45% of it is readily absorbed by your body.
Good food sources of heme iron include:
Red meats like beef, lamb and venison contain the highest amounts of heme iron as compared to pork or chicken which contain lower amounts of heme.
Non-heme iron primarily comes from plant sources and is present in grains, vegetables and fortified foods.
This is the form added to foods enriched or fortified with iron. It’s estimated that the majority of our dietary iron intake comes from the non-heme form, while a smaller percentage comes from heme iron.
In terms of its bioavailability, non-heme iron is absorbed much less efficiently (2-5%) than heme iron, because its absorption is inhibited by a number of factors.
Good sources of non-heme iron include:
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