ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Foods That Help Reduce Iron Absorption

Updated on March 4, 2012

While iron is an essential mineral in the body, there are some conditions where too much iron is absorbed through the small intestine.

In those cases, it is a good idea to eat foods that limit or reduce iron absorption.

Iron is present in a huge range of foods, and is considered so essential it is artificially added to many breads and breakfast cereals.

The main function of iron is to help the red blood cells to carry oxygen around our bodies. Our red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin which absorbs the iron. In turn,it allows the cells to transport gases and build enzymes.

Without iron, we would very quickly become anemic, ill and lethargic.

Foods rich in iron include:

  • red meats
  • green vegetables
  • pulses
  • beans
  • lentils
  • fish
  • poultry
  • fortified breads
  • fortified cereals

These foods are diificult to avoid when our bodies are storing too much iron, as happens in people suffering from conditions like hemochromatosis.

While some foods actually helps increase the absorption of iron, others decrease the rate and amount of iron absorbed.

Iron itself is divided into two group - heme and non-heme.

  • Heme iron is found in meats, fish and poultry. It is originated from hemoglobin cells and so comes from a previously living creature.
  • Non-heme iron comes from plants.

They are important to know about, as different food groups cane affect the two types of iron differently.

Here, I have a list of foods you can take to discourage iron absorption.

Foods containing calcium

  • milk
  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • sardines
  • canned salmon
  • tofu
  • broccoli
  • almonds
  • figs
  • turnip greens
  • rhubarb


Foods containing calcium help reduce the absorption of iron, though you have to take a lot of it to be effective.

It is the only essential mineral that can effectively limit the absorption of both heme and non-heme iron.

Aim for at least 300 - 600mgs to block both heme and non-heme iron.

A single cup of milk contains 300mgs.

Calcium supplements, if recommended by your health care provider, are best taken at bed-time.

Your daily recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of calcium is in the region of 1200mgs.

Foods rich in oxalates

  • spinach
  • kale
  • beetroot
  • nuts
  • chocolate
  • tea
  • wheat bran
  • rhubarb
  • strawberries
  • oregano
  • basil
  • parsley


Oxalates come from compounds containing oxalic acid, and they reduce the absorption of non-heme iron.

In order for oxalates to work well in the body, they should be taken with calcium.

Calcium bind with the oxalates ensuring a safe passage through the body.

When oxalates roam free, they tend to cause kidney stones and crystalise in the bones, joints, blood vessels and even in the brain.

Oxalates acts as chelating agents, trapping heavy metals including iron, lead and mercury and without calcium to bind to the oxalates, those metals would be stuck in the tissues instead of being safely removed from the body.


A protein called phosvitin, which is a type of phosphoprotein, is present in eggs. It has the ability to bind to iron so that it passes through the body without being absorbed.

A single hard-boiled egg before a main meal can reduce iron absorption by up to 30%.


Phytates are found in fiber and soy protein. They have the ability to reduce iron absorption by up to 70%.

Foods rich in phytates include:

  • walnuts
  • almonds
  • sesame
  • dried beans
  • lentils
  • peas
  • cereals
  • whole grains


Foods containing polyphenols can reduce iron absorption by up to 90%.

Foods rich in polyphenols include:

  • black teas
  • peppermint and herbal teas
  • coffee
  • cocoa
  • spices
  • walnuts
  • apples
  • blackberries
  • raspberries
  • blueberries

They are most effective when taken more than 2 hours before or after meals, not inside this time period.

A reminder that iron is a metal!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Thank You!! 

      21 months ago

      Thank You!!

    • Health Visitor profile imageAUTHOR

      Health Visitor 

      6 years ago from UK

      Thanks LL, yes exactly, people wishing to increase their iron absorption can still use this information, and cut down on those foods. Thanks for the welcome :)

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Interesting topic. And for those people who are looking to increase their iron intake and blood levels, just follow this information in reverse.

      Welcome to HubPages!

      Voted up and SHARED.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)