Learn about iron and how to get enough.

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About iron

Iron is a mineral that is important for your health. Iron plays many different roles in the body. For example, it:

  • helps produce red blood cells
  • transports oxygen throughout the body

Getting enough iron

Canada's food guide recommends eating a variety of healthy foods each day. Many foods recommended by Canada's food guide can help you get enough iron. Examples include:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • legumes
  • eggs (yolk)
  • fish and shellfish
  • dark green vegetables
  • lean red meat, including wild game
  • whole grains and whole grain foods

Fortified grain foods such as pasta and cereal also contribute iron to the diet. If you eat these foods, choose varieties that have little to no added sodium, sugars or saturated fat.

If you're a vegetarian, you need to eat more iron. This is because your body doesn't absorb iron from plant foods as well as it does from meat, poultry, fish or shellfish.

Tips to increase the absorption of iron from foods

When your meal doesn't include meat, poultry, fish or shellfish, include a source of vitamin C to help your body absorb iron from foods.

The amount of iron absorbed by your body decreases if you:

  • drink coffee or tea with meals
  • take calcium supplements or calcium-containing antacids with meals

To increase the amount of iron your body absorbs, wait 1 to 2 hours after a meal to:

  • drink tea or coffee
  • take calcium supplements

If a food has a nutrition facts table, you can use it to understand how much iron there is in a serving.

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