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Foods to Boost Iron Supplement Action and Avoid Deficiency

You can increase the energy-boosting effect of that iron supplement you’ve been prescribed. What you eat with your nutritional supplement will affect how well your body absorbs this vital mineral. Some foods will make it even easier to absorb the iron; other foods will actively block it. Once you know which foods to choose and which to avoid, it’s a simple matter to alter your diet to suit, and squeeze the highest value from that supplement.

WHAT TO EAT WITH YOUR SUPPLEMENT FOR BEST EFFECTS

Most people like to take their supplements with breakfast; it’s easier to remember, and slots into their daily routine without hassle. If you are taking your iron supplement with breakfast:

– Include vitamin-C rich foods like orange juice or fresh fruit. The ascorbic acid helps reduce ferric to ferrous iron, increasing your absorption by 30%.

– Eat meat proteins with your breakfast. Meat also contains a huge range of vitamins and minerals, many of which will actively participate in the biochemical reactions that help iron across your bowel wall and into your bloodstream.

A high-iron breakfast idea: A glass of orange juice plus some savoury kangaroo mince on toast.

WHAT FOODS TO AVOID WITH YOUR IRON SUPPLEMENT

– Delay your cup of tea for a few hours. Tannins in tea love iron, and bind to it, effectively carrying it right out of your body. Many women who suffer from iron deficiency also drink multiple cups of tea, compounding their deficiency. Coffee will also block iron uptake, although not to the same extent as tea will.

– Phytates in some vegetables will block iron absorption, so avoid raw spinach or very high fibre vegetables like legumes with your iron supplement. This is usually only a concern for vegans or vegetarians who eat large amounts of phytate and oxalate-containing foods combined with a low intake of iron rich foods.

– Avoid any zinc supplements, as iron and zinc compete for absorption across your bowel wall. Take them later in the day so the iron supplement gets a ‘free run’.

– Iron absorption from food occurs in the upper part of your small intestines, the duodenum, where the acidity is just right. Antacids interfere with this process, as they create a pH in your small intestines that will actively block the uptake of iron.

HIGH IRON FOODS FOR OTHER MEALS

Animal foods contain ‘Heme’ iron, a form of iron easier to absorb than ‘non-Heme’ iron (the type found in plant foods). Some of the best sources of Heme iron are liver, oysters, shellfish, kidney, egg yolk, and lean red meat (particularly kangaroo). Legumes, dried fruit, green leafy vegetables, molasses, whole grains and wine are also good sources of iron, but not as easily absorbed.

Now you know what foods affect your iron supplement, it’s easy to make the right choices to get your iron status back up again fast!