Is it necessary to [include] some red meat [in one’s diet]? Even just once a month to get iron?
I often hear that the iron source best absorbed by our body is from red meat, so women, especially, need red meat.
Is that true?
— Coco (last name unknown)
Via the blog
Your question touches on a variety of issues. Let’s take them one by one.
It is true that heme iron (that from meat, poultry, and shellfish) is absorbed more efficiently by our bodies than non-heme iron (that in dairy, eggs, grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables). Consequently, vegetarians and vegans have higher iron requirements than their meat-eating counterparts.
While all meat-based iron is highly absorbable, organ meats (like liver) have the highest absorption rate, followed by pork, beef, chicken, and fish.
Non-meat-eaters can more easily meet their iron requirements by:
- Abstaining from drinking coffee or tea with meals, as they strongly block iron absorption
- Including foods/beverages rich in vitamin C in meals to enhance non-heme iron absorption
- Consuming high-iron vegetarian foods (beans, nuts, seeds, fortified whole grain cereals) daily