Vitamin C and non-heme iron

Knowing how the body assimilates nutrients can be very helpful when it comes to preparing a meal, as it allows you to combine foods to benefit the most from their nutritional value.

For instance, the simple fact that a meal contains vitamin C, protein, and heme iron will improve the absorption of non-heme iron by the body. The synergistic duo formed by vitamin C and non-heme iron will be discussed in this article.

Heme or non-heme iron

First of all, it must be understood that iron, which is indispensable to the synthesis of red blood cells by the body, is present in two forms in your diet: heme and non-heme. In its first form it is found in hemoglobin and myoglobin, thus in red meats, poultry and fish and seafood. In its second form, it is present in leguminous plants, green vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as eggs and dairy products.

Whether in heme or non-heme form, it is at the level of the duodenum, the most acidic part of the smallest intestine, that the absorption of iron takes place. On the other hand, their rate and mode of absorption are very different. In non-heme form, iron needs to be released from the complexes to which it is bound before being absorbed into the intestinal mucosa. It is the gastric secretions that perform this work. 

The much talked about vitamin C

 As far as we know, the most powerful facilitator of non-heme iron absorption is vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid. Of natural origin, it is mainly present in fresh fruits and vegetables. It is an essential micronutrient that, in addition to promoting the absorption of non-heme iron, bestows protective effects against many cancers.

It should be noted, however, that to impact the absorption of iron, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) must be consumed along with it at the same time. Swallowing a vitamin C tablet in the morning will certainly encourage iron absorption at breakfast, but will not have any effect for the rest of the day. Therefore, it is best to consume fresh fruits and vegetables that are full of vitamin C at each meal. 

Simple Tricks

Combinations are easy! For example, you can add strawberries to a spinach salad, oranges to an arugulua salad or cranberries to a broccoli salad. Simply add a good dressing to enhance it all and you’re done! In addition to being tasty, these simple combinations favor the absorption of iron by the body.

Le Grec offers a host of recipes to fill you up with freshness … and iron!