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Ask the Expert: Meat or Plants

Q: If I’m iron deficient, does it matter whether I consume a plant or animal source of iron?  What are the best ways to increase my iron intake?



Jen WelperA: Chef Jen:

There are two forms of iron that can be consumed through foods:  heme iron, found in meat, fish and poultry, or non-heme iron from plant sources (example: spinach).  For those trying to increase your iron intake, you will need to know this fact:  heme iron is absorbed two to three times more efficiently than non-heme iron.  Assuming you are not vegetarian, it is best to get iron through animal sources (meat, fish, and poultry).

For those following a vegetarian diet, careful meal planning can help increase the amount of iron absorbed.  Foods rich in vitamin C help aid the absorption of non-heme iron when eaten at the same meal. 

A few ways to increase your iron intake is to include any of the following into your meal plan: two eggs, chicken breast sandwich, turkey breast, lean hamburger, or a fish filet.  If you are a vegetarian, you may try options like a handful of nuts on a spinach salad, or maybe a lentil and bean soup. 

To see a list of foods rich in iron and vitamin C, click here


For well-balanced and nutritious recipes, visit the Member’s Only section of our website.


If you think you may have an iron deficiency, please check with your healthcare provider.  Iron deficiencies can also have causes unrelated to diet; your healthcare provider’s recommendations will be specific to your needs.

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