I used to think that eating a big, juicy sirloin burger with a slice of cheese was my ticket to satisfying my meat craving while getting a hefty dose of iron.
There are two different types of iron in foods — heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is much better absorbed and utilized than non-heme iron, which makes it a superior source.
Heme iron is found in animal foods like meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish. Non-heme iron is found in vegetarian sources like molasses, leafy green vegetables, cocoa, and dried fruits.
Vegetarians can easily get enough iron in their diets, but they may need to be a little more careful about it and get their levels checked more regularly by their doctors. Pregnant women, menstruating women (particularly teens), people with certain digestive disorders and kidney dialysis patients can also be susceptible to low iron.
While calcium supplements have been found to interfere with iron absorption and it’s often stated that high calcium foods do the same, a French study stated the contrary: dairy products did not interfere much at all. So, while there are other reasons to avoid dairy consumption, interfering with iron absorption does not appear to be one of them.
Foods that definitely interfere with iron absorption are coffee, black tea, sugar, wheat bran and egg yolk; so if you have iron problems you may want to either avoid these foods altogether or eat them away from your iron-rich foods. It’s also a good idea to avoid beer, candy bars, ice cream and soft drinks as the additives in these foods interfere with iron absorption by playing havoc with digestion.