Although alcohol can enhance the absorption of iron. Obviously, since alcohol places additional strain on a damaged liver, alcohol should not be consumed to increase iron absorption. Alcohol increases the risk of liver damage, liver cancer and blood cell production.
More commonly known as vitamin C, this substance occurs naturally in vegetables and fruits, especially citrus. Ascorbic acid can easily be mixed with other food products. Ascorbic acid enhances the absorption of nutrients such as iron.
Beta-carotene is one of more than 100 carotenoids that occur naturally in plants and animals. Carotenoids are yellow to red pigments that are contained in foods such as apricots, beets and beet greens, carrots, collard greens, corn, red grapes, oranges, peaches, prunes, red peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnip greens and yellow squash. Beta-carotene enables the body to produce vitamin A (retinol).
Red meat especially increases the absorption of non-heme iron. Beef, lamb and venison contain the highest amounts of heme iron as compared to pork or chicken, which contains low amounts of heme. There are two different types of iron. The heme iron is present in the hemoglobin and myoglobin that is in blood. Heme iron occurs in red meat where it represents approximately 40% of total iron. Non-heme iron is in every other food: vegetables, eggs and dairy products. A classic omnivore diet provides approximately 15 % of heme iron while a vegetarian diet is 100% non-heme iron. The iron found in the vegetable world is not as well absorbed as heme iron.
Smoking cessation gums can increase serum ferritin levels.
_Calcium (like iron) is an essential mineral, which means the body gets this nutrient from diet. Calcium is found in foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, canned salmon, tofu, broccoli, almonds, figs, turnip greens and rhubarb and is the only known substance to inhibit absorption of both non-heme and heme iron. While 50 milligrams or less of calcium has little if any effect on iron absorption, calcium in amounts 300-600 milligrams inhibit the absorption of heme iron similarly to non-heme iron. One cup of skimmed milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium. When a healthcare provider recommends calcium, as is often the case for trying to prevent bone loss, these supplements can be taken at bedtime. Calcium supplements are best taken with vitamin D and in a citrate rather than carbonate form.
Eggs contain a compound that impairs absorption of iron. This iron-inhibiting characteristic of eggs is called the “egg factor”. The egg factor has been observed in several separate studies. One boiled egg can reduce absorption of iron in a meal by as much as 28%
Oxalates impair the absorption of non-heme iron. Oxalates are found in foods such as spinach, kale, beets, nuts, chocolate, tea, wheat bran, rhubarb, strawberries and herbs such as oregano, basil and parsley. The presence of oxalates in spinach explains why the iron in spinach is not absorbed. In fact, reports are that the iron from spinach that does get absorbed is probably from the minute particles of sand or dirt clinging to the plant rather than the iron contained in the plant.
Polyphenols are major inhibitors of iron absorption. Polyphenols are found in cocoa, coffee and some herbs. Phenolic acid found in apples, peppermint and some herbal teas, and tannins found in black teas, coffee, cocoa, spices, walnuts, fruits such as apples, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries all have the ability to inhibit iron absorption. Of the polyphenols, Swedish cocoa and certain teas demonstrate the most powerful iron absorption inhibiting capabilities. Coffee is high in tannin and chlorogenic acid. These foods or substance should not be consumed within two hours prior to and following your main iron-rich meal.
Phytate is a compound contained in soy protein and fiber. Even low levels of phytate (about 5 percent of the amounts in cereal whole flours) have a strong inhibitory effect on iron bioavailability. Phytate is in walnuts, almonds, sesame, dried beans, lentils and peas, and cereals and whole grains.