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You Ask, I Answer: Red Meat & Iron

_d220328Is 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


  1. Corey said on September 3rd, 2009

    You said heme protein. Did you mean heme iron?

  2. coco said on September 3rd, 2009

    thanks a lot for answering my question! :)

  3. Andy Bellatti said on September 3rd, 2009

    Yes, that is what I meant. Thanks for catching that — have fixed it. The perils of blogging after midnight and being your own editor!

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