Iron Deficiency - Prevention

What is the outlook?

Iron deficiency should resolve with treatment. If iron supplements are required, it is usually recommended that they should be taken for three months.

Iron deficiency will come back if the cause has not been dealt with.

How can I prevent iron deficiency?

Iron deficiency may be difficult to prevent if it is due to disease - for example, bleeding from the bowels. However, it should be possible to prevent iron deficiency that is due solely to not having enough iron in your diet. See the section above on iron-containing foods.

With increasing evidence that we need to limit our intake of meat, particularly red meat, how much iron do we need in our diet? The UK recommended daily intake for an adult man is 8.7 mg. For a woman who has not reached her menopause, this is increased to 14.8 mg. Higher amounts are needed in pregnancy and in children and young people.

Can I do anything to help my body to absorb the iron in my diet?

Vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) helps the body to absorb non-haem iron from the gut. Vitamin C is found in high amounts in lemons, limes, tomatoes and red peppers - it is partially destroyed by cooking, so these foods will help more if you eat (or drink) them raw with your meal.

Lactic acid fermented vegetables may also aid the absorption of non-haem iron. Sauerkraut and kimchi are examples of lacto-fermented vegetables.

Calcium, which is present in milk, yoghurt and cheese, interferes with the absorption of both haem iron and non-haem iron. So drinking cow's milk is best avoided during mealtimes. However, research has suggested that lactobacillus, such as is used in the production of live yoghurt, may aid in the absorption of non-haem iron.

Tea and coffee are best avoided at mealtimes too. This is because they contain chemicals called phenols which interfere with the absorption of non-haem iron.

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Dr Jacqueline Payne
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Hannah Gronow
Document ID:
29400 (v1)
Last Checked:
26 May 2017
Next Review:
26 June 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.