If you want to absorb more iron, follow these dietary-nutritional guidelines

The ferric state of an individual is the result between the iron contributed and the losses of said mineral.

In the case of the athlete, the maintenance of body iron may be more difficult than in the general population, due to factors such as increased hemolysis (rupture of red blood cells), gastrointestinal bleeding, hematuria (presence of blood in the urine) or excessive sweating.

In turn, there are factors that can affect the absorption of iron, with the physiological effect of being able to increase or reduce this absorption , so knowing dietary-nutritional guidelines that favor the bioavailability of iron are very useful for all people, men or women, athletes or non-athletes.

As always I rely on science, so the review study on which I rely, which is in Spanish and in addition to these guidelines talks about more aspects of iron.

Types of iron and absorption rate

It must be considered that the rate of absorption of iron is between 5 and 25%, depending on whether it is heme iron (Fe2 +), present in sources of animal origin, or non-heme iron (Fe3 +), present in sources of vegetable and animal origin and that constitutes between 90-95% of the total ingested iron (main iron present in the diet).

However, there are different factors that can enhance or hinder the processes of iron absorption, with the concept of bioavailability becoming very important, which refers to the proportion of a nutrient that is digested, absorbed and used for its normal metabolic functions.

Factors that increase iron absorption and dietary-nutritional guidelines to follow

Vitamin C

The vitamin C is potentiating iron absorption, so the dietary-nutritional guidelines for this factor are:

  • Increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Opt for fruit as a dessert at main meals and at breakfast
  • Include lemon dressing
  • Use foods such as potatoes in stews or fruit in salads

Meat factor

The meat factor refers to a series of components of meat, fish and poultry. It is a factor that enhances the absorption of iron, since it is a stabilizer against factors that reduce absorption. The dietary-nutritional guideline to follow in this case is:

  • Increase the consumption of small portions of meat and fish instead of consuming it in larger portions with less frequency.

Vitamin A and beta-carotenes

Like the meat factor, vitamin A and beta-carotenes are factors that enhance the absorption of iron by being stabilizers against factors that decrease absorption. Dietary-nutritional guidelines to follow are:

  • Increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables (sources rich in beta carotene) in the main meals.
  • Do not forget to include certain foods rich in vitamin A, such as casserole, pâtés, squid, eels, etc.

Factors that decrease iron absorption and dietary-nutritional guidelines to follow


The calcium is an inhibitor of iron absorption and resulting interaction with iron in the intestinal mucosa. Dietary-nutritional guidelines to follow are the following:

  • Avoid or, at least, moderate, the consumption of products such as cheese in the main meals
  • Opting for fruit consumption as a dessert instead of yoghurts, ice cream, cream or sweets made from milk ( custards, custards, rice pudding, etc.)
  • Avoid the consumption of sauces such as béchamel or carbonara, among others


The fiber is inhibiting the absorption of iron due to the formation of insoluble complexes. Dietary-nutritional guidelines would be:

  • Do not abuse integral products
  • Remove the pulp from the juices
  • The consumption of nuts make it out of the main meals


Like fiber, they are inhibitors of iron absorption due to the formation of insoluble complexes, being dietary-nutritional guidelines in this case the following:

  • Isolate the coffee and tea consumption of the main meals
  • Drink water instead of other drinks such as wine or beer during meals
  • Soak legumes and cereals for 24 hours

Freezing and prolonged cooking

They are also inhibitors of iron absorption, so we can already imagine dietary-nutritional guidelines:

  • Do not prolong the cooking of sources of natural origin
  • Choose to eat fresh food and cook daily, avoiding abusing freezing as a way to preserve food

The functions of iron in the body are essential, so knowing these dietary-nutritional guidelines to increase their absorption (or not to diminish it) will help us when choosing foods and their combinations, as well as preparing our meals.

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