In the diet, iron is present in two distinct forms: haem iron and non-haem iron. The former is found in animal products and the latter mainly in plants. Contrary to popular belief, spinach contains relatively little iron, with between 2.5 and 3 mg of iron per 100 g.
For our bodies, this distinction makes sense because the body absorbs heme iron from meat products much better than non-heme iron from plant products.
Haem iron :
- Blood sausage, poultry liver, lamb liver, offal;
- Red and white meat;
- Fish, seafood.
- Wheat germ, pistachio, soya;
- Lentils, chickpeas, dried beans, spinach;
- Bread, peas, green beans, etc.
An adult man or a post-menopausal woman should have a daily iron intake of about 9 milligrams. A teenager will need 13 milligrams, about 50% more, and a woman of childbearing age will need even more. However, the need for iron is particularly high during pregnancy, when the daily requirement is 25 to 35 mg. This explains why additional iron is often more than necessary for pregnant women.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 25% of the world's population suffers from anaemia (lack of red blood cells). Half of these cases are thought to be due to iron deficiency (iron deficiency anaemia). In North America, iron deficiency anaemia affects about 20% of women, 50% of pregnant women and 3% of men.
In the United States and Canada, certain refined products such as wheat flour, breakfast cereals, pre-cooked rice and pasta are fortified with non-haem iron to prevent potential deficiencies.