Diet for iron deficiency


Iron is an important trace element in the human body. It plays a big role in blood formation and metabolic processes. Deficiency symptoms can accordingly lead to a wide variety of serious symptoms.

In the case of a mild iron deficiency, a change in diet and an increased supply of iron through food are often sufficient to replenish the iron stores. There are both animal and plant-based foods that contain iron.

Overview of foods high in iron

Below you will find an overview of the foods that are particularly rich in iron. The iron content is given per 100g of the food.

  • Blood sausage 30.0 mg
  • Pork liver 18.0 mg
  • Dried chanterelles 17.0 mg
  • Pumpkin seeds 12.5 mg
  • Millet 9.0 mg
  • Flaxseed 8.0 mg
  • Lentils 8.0 mg
  • Quinoa 8.0 mg
  • Calf liver 7.8 mg
  • Soybeans 6.6 mg
  • Oysters 6.25 mg
  • Chickpeas 6.2 mg
  • Oatmeal 5.5 mg
  • Spinach 4.1 mg

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meat and sausage

In nature, iron is found in two different forms: divalent and trivalent iron. Bivalent iron is 3 times better absorbed by the intestine than trivalent iron. Bivalent iron is only found in animal foods, such as beef fillet (2.3 mg / 100g), pork fillet (3.0 mg / 100g), in particularly large quantities in black pudding (30 mg / 100g), pork liver (18.0 mg / 100g) or beef ham (10.0 / 100g).

However, red meat in particular also contains cholesterol, which is bad for the cardiovascular system, purines, which promote gout and other pollutants (especially liver). Therefore, meat should be eaten in moderation.

Cereal products

There are also good iron suppliers for vegetarians and vegans.

Grain products such as wheat (8.0 mg / 100g), millet flakes (9.0 mg / 100g) or especially quinoa (8.0 mg / 100g) and amaranth (9.0 mg / 100g) are good alternatives to animal products and offer a rich breakfast option.

Iron from plant-based products has a poorer bioavailability, so it is more difficult to absorb and use by the body. To improve this, it is recommended to use these products with vitamin C e.g. take in the form of orange or lemon juice.

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Nuts and kernels

Pumpkin seeds are very high on the list of foods that contain the most iron. With 12.5 mg per 100 g they are among the top 10. Pistachios also contain 7.0 mg, sunflower seeds 6.0 mg and pine nuts 5.0 mg iron per 100 g.

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Dried fruits are a varied alternative or addition to a rich breakfast cereal. Dried peaches (6.5 mg / 100g), apricots (4.4 mg / 100g) or figs (3.2 mg / 100g) also contain a large amount of iron. Fresh fruits such as mango or blueberries also contain a lot of iron.

Vegetables and potatoes

There are also a number of sources of iron among vegetables, including chanterelles (8.0 mg / 100g), spinach (4.0 mg / 100g), types of cabbage (up to 2.0 mg / 100g) or somewhat unusual Jerusalem artichokes (3.7 mg / 100g) and black salsify (3.3 mg / 100g).

Potatoes, on the other hand, contain less iron, with 0.3 mg / 100g a woman would have to consume approx. 5 kg of potatoes to cover her daily requirement of 150 mg iron. Legumes are a very iron-rich alternative. Soybeans (9.7 mg / 100g), lentils (8.0 mg / 100g) or white beans (7.0 mg / 100g) can easily compete with animal products. It is also positive that iron - in contrast to vitamins - does not break down during cooking and so hot dishes can also be prepared.

Eggs and dairy products

Eggs are another animal product with high iron bioavailability. Eating 2 eggs (= 100g) provides 1.8 mg of iron.

Dairy products such as parmesan (0.7 mg / 100g), processed cheese (0.9 mg / 100g) or semi-hard cheese (0.3 mg / 100g) contain relatively little iron. Dairy products also contain calcium, which hinders the absorption of iron in the intestine. Milk, cheese and yoghurt should therefore be avoided or reduced 1 hour before, during and after meals with foods rich in iron.

How does vitamin C help?

Most iron is found in food as trivalent iron Fe3 +. In this form, however, it cannot be absorbed by the intestinal lining. Various enzymes and vitamin C are necessary to convert iron into its bivalent form Fe2 + (reduction). It then enters the blood as bivalent iron via special transporters and can be used by the body.

It is therefore advisable to eat foods containing vitamin C and foods containing iron at the same time. Vitamin C is found in many fruits, e.g. Oranges (50 mg / 100g), sea buckthorn juice (260 mg / 100g), herbs like parsley (160 mg / 100g), wild garlic (150 mg / 100g), or vegetables like red peppers (120 mg / 100g). Iron absorption can also be improved by cooking the food before consumption.

What inhibits iron absorption?

There are a number of foods that significantly reduce iron absorption in the intestine and should therefore not be consumed in conjunction with iron-rich products. These include coffee, cocoa, tea (black and green), red wine, dairy products and generally calcium-containing foods.

In addition, food that also contains phosphates, such as soft drinks, processed cheese, ice cream. These products should be avoided for up to an hour before and after a meal. An acidic stomach environment is also important for good iron absorption.

The stomach acid breaks down (denatures) proteins to which iron is bound, among other things. The stomach acid is reduced by taking stomach protection tablets such as proton pump inhibitors (e.g. pantoprazole). Iron is therefore more difficult to reach for other digestive enzymes and absorption in the intestine is inhibited.

When does further therapy have to take place?

Despite a balanced iron-rich diet, iron deficiency can occur.

Risk groups are mainly women with heavy menstrual bleeding, in whom the loss of blood and thus iron exceeds the natural iron absorption capacity. In severe cases, hormone substitution can reduce the amount of menstrual bleeding in order to give the body the opportunity to replenish iron stores.

People with inflammatory bowel disease also often suffer from iron deficiency, as less iron is absorbed through the damaged intestinal wall or iron is lost through bleeding. Anti-inflammatory therapy can reduce the symptoms of the underlying disease but also the iron deficiency.

Iron utilization disorders, e.g. due to tumor diseases. Despite a sufficient supply of iron, iron cannot be incorporated in the right places in the body. Here, too, the underlying disease must be treated in addition to an increased iron intake.

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