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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
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3 Comments

  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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