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Boost Your Iron Levels with Vitamin C

In the realm of nutrition, the topic of iron absorption holds significant importance, especially for those following vegetarian or vegan diets. While our bodies absorb heme iron from animal sources more efficiently, plant-based iron, known as non-heme iron, poses a bit of a challenge in terms of absorption.

Heme iron, primarily found in meat, reigns supreme in both iron content and absorption rates. However, with rising numbers of individuals adopting vegetarian and vegan lifestyles and the prevalence of iron deficiency on the rise, optimizing iron absorption from plant-based sources becomes crucial.

So, what's the key to maximising the benefits of plant-based iron?

Enter vitamin C, the unsung hero of nutrient absorption.

By incorporating vitamin C-rich foods into your meals, you can significantly enhance the absorption of plant-based iron.

Here's how it works: when vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, combines with iron, it forms a compound that is more readily absorbed by our gastrointestinal tract.

In fact, research indicates that consuming 100mg of vitamin C alongside iron can increase iron absorption by a staggering 67%!*

In addition to leveraging the power of vitamin C, it's essential to be mindful of foods that may inhibit iron absorption.

Tannins, commonly found in beverages like wine, tea, and coffee, as well as high-calcium foods, can impede the body's ability to absorb iron. By avoiding or minimizing the intake of these inhibitors, you can further optimize iron absorption and support overall health.

But what are some sources of vitamin C and plant-based iron to incorporate into your diet? Look no further than a colourful array of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains:

  • Vitamin C-rich foods: Guava, berries, capsicum, kiwi fruit, oranges, leafy greens (such as parsley, kale, and broccoli), tomatoes, and papayas.

  • Plant-based sources of iron: Lentils, chickpeas, tofu, quinoa, oats, nuts (such as cashews and pistachios), wholemeal pasta, and fortified foods.

As with any nutritional recommendation, it's important to consider individual dietary needs and preferences. While studies consistently highlight the benefits of vitamin C in enhancing iron absorption, the specifics may vary depending on the meal composition and other factors.

In summary, by incorporating vitamin C-rich foods into your meals and being mindful of iron absorption inhibitors, you can optimise the nutritional benefits of plant-based iron and support overall well-being.

*Full disclosure: While studies generally support the positive impact of vitamin C on iron absorption, specific findings may vary. Some research even suggests that vitamin C could quadruple the absorption of certain foods!


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