What are the best sources of iron?
There are two types of iron found in foods. Haem iron is found in flesh foods such as red meat, chicken and fish, and non-haem iron is found in plant foods such as wholegrain breads and cereals and some vegetables.
The iron in meat, chicken and fish (haem iron) is better absorbed than the non-haem iron. However, the absorption of non-haem iron is increased greatly when a food containing vitamin C is eaten at the same meal. Foods rich in haem iron can help to absorb iron from non-haem sources too.
Foods which contain haem iron include:
Lean red meats such as beef, lamb and veal.
Offal meats such as liver and kidney.
Chicken, pork (including ham), fish and shellfish.
Pate or fish paste.
Foods which contain non-haem iron include:
Iron-fortified breakfast cereals (check the label to see if iron is added).
Wholemeal/wholegrain breads and cereals.
Dried peas, beans and legumes eg. lentils, baked beans, soybeans, kidney beans and tofu.
Leafy green vegetables eg. spinach, parsley, broccoli.
Peanut butter and nuts (whole nuts are not recommended for children under five).
Milo® or Ovaltine® for older children.
Tahini and hommus.
Vitamin C helps the body to absorb more iron. Foods that are high in vitamin C include some fruits (rockmelon, strawberries, pineapple, citrus fruits, kiwi fruit and tomato) and some vegetables (broccoli, capsicum, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts).
Include a serve of vitamin C rich fruit and vegetables with meals to help the body absorb more iron. Here are some ideas to try:
Fruit on breakfast cereal.
Vegetables or a salad with meals.
Fruit for dessert.
A small glass of juice with meals.
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