Our bodies are designed to absorb two forms of iron: (1) from animals [heme iron] and (2) from plants [nonheme iron]. Animal based iron is the easiest for our body to absorb but animal meats do not contain as much as plant based foods do. The National Institutes of Health, NIH, has great charts that show you how much iron is in each food if you click here.
You can encourage your body to better absorb plant based iron by consuming it with foods high in vitamin C (citrus, strawberries, peppers, etc.). Do not consume your iron foods with tea that contain tannins, calcium, unsoaked beans, or unsoaked grains. The reason why grains and dried beans should be soaked for several hours before cooking is to neutralize the phytic acid (phytates) that inhibits iron, zinc, calcium and other nutrient absorption.
Some fun sources of iron include the recipe for pregnancy tea (containing high iron nettles) and good quality dark chocolate (just don't go overboard).
Mainstream caregivers will tell you to take an iron pill daily. The issue with iron pills is that they are hard for the body to digest and can cause digestive issues leading to constipation.
The best version of iron for your body is absorb is the form that is found in food, thus a whole food based supplement is the best for absorption. There are not many choices out there and Floradix is the main product that is recommended. According to Amber Canaan, for www.livestrong.com:
- "Floradix supplements contain iron gluconate, a form of iron that is easier for the body to absorb than other types of iron, such as ferrous sulfate. Also included are vitamins, including vitamin C, B-1, B-2, B-6 and B-12. Floradix also contains herbs including fennel, nettle wort, African mallow blossom and ocean kelp."
Floradix is available at most health food stores but you will get the best rate at Vitacost (you get $10 off your order if you use this link).
What do I do?
Both times that I have found out that I was anemic, I closely looked at my diet and made as many changes as I could see. What jumps out to me is that I should have more vitamin C and skip my weak cup of black tea (a sad loss for me). It also gives me a good excuse to buy some high quality liverwurst. I already cook my own beans and grains by soaking them first so I am good in that area. For extra protection, I take 10mL of Floradix daily. The dosage is 20mL daily but I also get some iron in my whole foods based prenatal vitamin and diet.