10 Healthy Snacks that Won’t Impede Iron Absorption

May 26, 2022 | BY First & Foremost Clinical Team

10 Healthy Snacks that Won’t Impede Iron Absorption

Iron is required for growth, development, and normal cellular function, largely by transporting oxygen from the lungs to your muscle tissue. Throughout your lifespan, your iron needs dramatically shift as you age, especially for women. So to provide you with a healthy foundation, we included your full RDA of iron in the afternoon occasion of First & Foremost. 

What’s important to note about iron is that there are a wide variety of foods and nutrients that impede its absorption into your system. Among the list of foods to avoid to encourage maximum iron bioavailability are those with polyphenols, oxalic acids, phytic acid, fiber, caffeine or alcohol. With this in mind, we scheduled your afternoon occasion to be taken in between lunch and dinner, around 3-4 pm when you typically will have an empty stomach. But we understand that snacks happen, so we put together a list of sweet and savory options to gnosh on while keeping optimal iron bioavailability in mind.

What are polyphenols?

Polyphenols are plant-based compounds that are rich in antioxidants. Though they are very healthy for you, they interact with iron, calcium, and copper in such a way that hinders optimal absorption by binding to the iron and forming a non-transportable complex that cannot be broken down by enzymes to enter the bloodstream and thus is excreted without giving you the benefits of the minerals. Common foods containing polyphenols are: cloves, cocoa powder and dark chocolate, berries, plums, apples, beans, nuts, spinach, red onion, artichokes, soy, black and green tea, and red wine. 

What are oxalic acids?

Oxalic acids, or oxalates, are found in many plants: leafy greens (spinach, beet greens), vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets), fruits (rhubarb, star fruit), cocoa, nuts (peanuts), and seeds. It can also be synthesized by your body. It binds minerals and has been linked to kidney stones and other health problems. Additionally, it can bind to minerals in your gut and inhibit nutrient absorption, especially when combined with fiber. But this is not to scare you off from oxalates in general, many foods containing them are very healthy for you. 

What is phytic acid?

Phytic acid is a plant compound found in seeds (sesame), legumes (lentils, beans, peas), grains (rice, maize, corn, soybeans), and nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts). Phytic acid prevents the absorption of zinc, iron, calcium and other minerals into your body during a single meal – not throughout the day – by binding to other minerals to create phytates which your body cannot break down to absorb their nutrients. However, there are methods of food preparation that can decrease phytic acid content of the aforementioned foods via soaking, cooking for long periods of time, and fermenting. But for the sake of maximizing your afternoon moment’s iron bioavailability we suggest sticking to the following list of iron safe snacks:

Iron-Safe Snacks

  1. Turkey & cheese roll up 
  2. Rice cakes/rice crackers & tuna salad
  3. Cottage cheese
  4. Yogurt - avoid added sugars
  5. avocado, marinated cucumber salad - EVOO, ACV, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, cherry tomatoes, feta, dried oregano, thyme & parsley 
  6. Broccoli & ranch 
  7. Orange slices & cheddar cheese 
  8. Pineapple & ham 
  9. Pineapple & cottage cheese 
  10. Rotisserie chicken, cheese, rice cracker

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