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plant iron vs animal iron

What Is Heme Iron

March 24, 20232 min read

Iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in the human body. It is required for the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. Iron is also important for the formation of myoglobin, a protein in muscles that stores oxygen for energy production.

Iron is present in both plants and animals, but the form of iron in each differs. Plants contain non-heme iron, which is not as easily absorbed by the body as heme iron found in animal sources. This is because non-heme iron is bound to other compounds in plant foods, which can inhibit its absorption.

Animal sources of iron, on the other hand, contain heme iron, which is more easily absorbed by the body. Heme iron is found in the blood and muscle tissues of animals and is more bioavailable than non-heme iron.

The amount of iron present in plant-based foods can vary widely depending on factors such as soil quality and preparation methods. However, some plant sources of iron that are relatively high include spinach, lentils, tofu, and fortified cereals.

Although plant-based diets may be lower in heme iron, they are often higher in vitamin C and other nutrients that can enhance the absorption of non-heme iron. For example, consuming vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, bell peppers, and broccoli can improve the absorption of non-heme iron.

It is important to note that iron absorption is also influenced by other dietary factors, such as the presence of phytates and calcium. Phytates, which are present in many plant-based foods, can inhibit iron absorption. However, soaking, sprouting, or fermenting plant-based foods can help reduce phytate levels and increase iron absorption.


  1. "Iron." National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

  2. "Heme Iron vs. Non Heme Iron in Food." Dr. Erick Lewis, ND Diet and nutrition.

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