Did you know that in the Australian diet, most of our iron comes from plant foods rather than meat, even for non-vegetarians?
Some common vegetable iron sources include spinach, silverbeet, kale, parsley, bok choy and broccoli.
Other plant-food sources of iron include iron-enriched breakfast cereals, beans, lentils, tofu, wholegrain bread, rolled oats, dried apricots, almonds and sunflower seeds.
Some plant foods contain compounds that reduce the amount of iron our body absorbs but you can easily boost iron absorption from plant sources in a number of ways:
- Eat a wide variety of vegetarian iron-containing foods
- Combine them with vitamin C-rich foods, such as orange, mandarin, strawberries, kiwi fruit, capsicum, cabbage, broccoli and tomato
- Soak or sprout your legumes, wholegrains and seeds
- Cook your plant foods to help increase the amount of iron available
- Avoid drinking tea and coffee with, or directly after, your iron-containing meal
- Avoid eating high-calcium foods, like dairy or calcium supplements, with or directly after your iron-containing meal
Remember, the body is effective at regulating the amount of iron it absorbs from plant foods. When iron levels in the body are low or iron needs are higher (such as during pregnancy), the body will increase the amount of iron absorbed and reduce the amount that is excreted from the body.
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Any advice given is general in nature and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice and must not be relied upon as such. For any healthcare advice, always consult a healthcare practitioner.
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