Increasing Your Absorption of Iron

Many factors affect the absorption of iron, both negatively and positively. Apply the following information to help you absorb as much iron as possible from the foods you eat:

  • Heme iron (iron from animal foods) is better absorbed than nonheme iron (iron from plant foods, enriched foods, and supplements). This is opposite of the situation with folate, where food folate is less well absorbed than folic acid from supplements and enriched food.
  • Antacids and calcium may decrease absorption of both heme and nonheme iron, because they lower the acidity of the stomach. For this reason, you may want to avoid taking antacids or calcium supplements with meals.
  • Tea, coffee, and wine decrease absorption of nonheme iron. These drinks contain substances called tannins, which bind to iron and decrease its absorption.
  • Vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) increases the absorption of nonheme iron. Vitamin C releases bound iron from substances such as tannins and changes it to a form that is more easily absorbed. For this reason, you should consider eating a source of vitamin C (containing at least 25 milligrams) with your meals.

Vitamin C Content of Selected Foods


Serving Size

Vitamin C

Orange juice

1 cup

124.0 milligrams

Cranberry juice cocktail

1 cup

107.0 milligrams

Red pepper (raw)

V2 cup chopped

95.1 milligrams

Grapefruit juice

1 cup

93.9 milligrams


V2 cup (approximately

82.0 milligrams

1 kiwi)

Green pepper (raw)

V2 cup chopped

59.9 milligrams

Broccoli (cooked)

V2 cup chopped

50.6 milligrams


V2 cup sliced

48.8 milligrams

Brussels sprouts (cooked)

V2 cup

48.4 milligrams

Orange segments

V2 cup (approximately

41.6 milligrams

1 small orange)

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