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Essential for Life, Throughout Life.

Function of Iron:

  • Transport of oxygen
  • Co-factor of enzymes and other proteins involved in energy production and proper functioning of cells
  • Formation of red blood cells

Are You Getting Enough?

New Canadian Recommendations for Iron have been established.  In general they are higher compared to the 1990 Nutrition Recommendations for Canadians.

Canadian Iron Recommendations as of 2001

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) mg/day - total iron intake
Ages Males Females
0 to 6 months 0.27 0.27
7 to 2 months 11 11
1 to 3 years 7 7
4 to 8 years 10 10
9 to 13 years 8 8
14 to 18 years 11 15
19 to 30 years 8 18
31 to 50 years 8 18
51 to 70 years 8 8
>70 years 8 8
Pregnancy 27
RDA for vegetarians (who do not consume meat, fish or poultry) can be estimated by multiplying the RDA by 1.8 e.g. a vegetarian woman, 19 to 50 years would be 32 mg iron. Recommendations for infants 0 to 6 months are based on the iron content of breast milk.

  • Canadian literature indicates iron deficiency may occur in up to 65% of infants 6 to 12 months of age, up to 37% of toddlers 13 to 36 months of age and up to 39% of teenage girls.
  • New Canadian intake data indicate that 57% of teenage girls and 46% of women 18 to 49 years of age do not consume the minimum number of servings from the Meat and Alternatives food group of Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating.

Not All Iron is Created Equal:

  • Iron is present in food in two forms, heme iron in meat, fish, poultry and seafood and non-heme in both animal and plant foods. The primary source of non-heme iron in the Canadian diet is grain products, many of which are fortified with iron.
Sources of heme iron
(easily absorbed)
Sources of non-heme iron
(not a easily absorbed)
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Liver
  • Veal
  • Turkey and Chicken (dark meat has more iron)
  • Fish and seafood
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Breads and pasta (whole grain and enriched)
  • Legumes (lentils, dried peas, beans)
  • Seeds and nuts (pumkin, sesame, peanuts)
  • Dried fruit (raisins, apricots)
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Eggs

Iron Absorption is Key:

  • Some foods called "Enhancers", are components in the diet, that when consumed at the same time as non-heme iron, increase the absorption of the iron. Enhancers include: meat or alternatives and vitamin C rich foods.
  • Other foods are called "Inhibitors", of non-heme iron absorption because they decrease the body's ability to utilize iron.

Enhancers Inhibitors
  • Beef, lamb, pork, veal
  • Turkey, Chicken
  • Fish, seafood
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Fruits such as strawberries, melon, tomato
  • Vegetables such as peppers, turnips, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Cocoa
  • Legumes, rice and grains to a lesser extent