With vegetarian and vegan choices becoming more popular, let’s have an update on the importance of iron in our diet.
Iron is a mineral found in some foods and is crucial to good health and to our mental and physical well-being. It helps to carry oxygen to the brain and muscles.
There are two types of iron in food: Haem iron and non haem iron.
The absorption of these two kinds of iron is quite different.
HAEM IRON – found in: Offal, red meats, chicken and fish.
- Is well absorbed
- Absorption is affected by the body’s iron stores rather than components in food
- Haem iron is found only in animal foods. Generally the darker the red of the meat, the higher the haem iron content
NON HAEM IRON – found in tofu, eggs, some vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, fruits and whole grain cereals
- Is not well absorbed
- Absorption is affected by the body’s iron stores and components in food eaten at the same time. These components are:
– The MPF factor (A factor in Meat, Fish and Poultry) which promotes absorption of iron
– Vitamin C promotes the absorption of non haem iron.
– Milk, cheese and eggs inhibit iron absorption
– Phytates (found in the outer layers of cereal grains, legumes and seeds, eg wholegrain breads and cereals) inhibit iron absorption
– Tannins in tea and coffee limit absorption
- Non haem iron is found in both animal and plant food
Haem foods (well absorbed iron – approx. 25% absorption) Cooked lean, without added fat.
This table shows the amount of iron (in mg) in 100g of these foods:
- Lamb kidneys 11.4mg
- Lambs fry liver 10mg
- Mussels, boiled 7.7
- Beef blade steak 4.3
- Beef topside lean 3.6
- Beef rump steak lean 3.4
- Lamb leg steak lean 3.4
- Lamb mid loin chop lean 3.0
- Sardines canned 2.9
- Pork, (lean leg, steak, chops) 2.7
- Beef sausages 2.4
- Tuna canned in brine 2.3
- Mince pie 1 2.2
- Chicken lean (breast/drumstick) 1.9
- Snapper 0.7
- Hoki 0.2
Non haem foods (poorly absorbed – approx. 5% absorption)
- Tofu 100g 5.4
- Beetroot canned 2 slices 1.3
- Porridge 1 cup 1.3
- Prunes 5 1.2
- Green peas (frozen) cooked ½ cup 1.2
- Baked beans ½ cup 1.2
- Egg 1 boiled 1.1
- Taro 1 cup 1.0
- Red wine 1 glass (104 ml) 0.9
- Sesame seeds 1 tablespoon 0.7
- Kumara 1 0.6
- Weetbix 1 0.6
- Wholemeal bread 1 slice 0.5
- Peanut butter 1 tablespoon 0.5
- Silverbeet cooked ¼ cup 0.4
- Parsley 1 tablespoon 0.3
- Baked potato 1 0.3
- Orange 1 0.3
- Spinach cooked ¼ cup 0.3
- Raisins snack box 0.3