Dietary advice on iron intake

Insufficient iron in your diet, is one of the causes of anaemia. Iron is needed to make haemoglobin, which is contained in your red blood cells. It carries the oxygen to the cells in your body where it is needed to produce energy. If you do not have enough iron, there is insufficient haemoglobin to take oxygen to the tissues of your body. Common symptoms of anaemia include tiredness, dizzy spells, shortness of breath and palpitations.

Iron from animal products is more easily absorbed by the body than the iron in plant foods. To help your body absorb the iron, take vitamin C rich foods with your meals, e.g. orange juice with breakfast cereals, tomatoes (grilled or in a salad) with dark green vegetables. Tannin in tea can affect the absorption of iron, so drinking tea and to a lesser degree coffee, is better between rather than with meals.

Vegetarians and women with heavy periods are at risk of iron deficiency anaemia and may need iron tablets which can be readily obtained from the chemist.

You can help to prevent anaemia by ensuring that you eat an iron rich diet. The following foods are high in iron (foods marked with an asterisk are particularly high in iron.)

  • Liver* (not to be taken during pregnancy
  • Bran flakes*
  • Beans, e.g. baked beans*, kidney beans
  • Dried apricots*
  • Lean beef steak
  • Lean minced beef
  • Chicken breast
  • Tuna
  • White fish
  • Egg yolks
  • Wholemeal bread
  • Muesli
  • Green vegetables, e.g. spinach and peas
  • Cashew nuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Raisins

Further information

This article published on
26 January 2006

Next review date 1/1/2013


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