IRON is an essential nutrient needed by your body to function. There are two types of iron : Heme iron - comes from non-human animal flesh &and non-heme iron - comes from plant foods.
Heme iron is easily absorbed by the human body. Non-heme iron isn't as bio-available as heme, however non-heme iron is still an excellent source of iron, so don't get discouraged or let people tell you that you need to eat animals to get iron, cuz ya don't!
It's important to eat iron rich sources of food, however as equally important are the foods eaten with them, these will play a roll in how well iron gets absorbed.
Plant foods that contain iron:
Dark leafy greens
Black strap molasses
Beans, lentils, soybeans
Whole grains, oats, fortified cereals
Foods that can INCREASE absorption of non-heme iron
Vitamin C - Citrus, bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts are some great sources.
Vitamin A - Sweet potatoes, carrots, kale are some great sources.
Foods that may DEREASE absorption of non-heme iron
Calcium - dairy, calcium supplements, high calcium fortified foods.
Phytates - grains, soy, nuts and legumes *eating vitamin C with phytate containing foods will counteract this problem.
Polyphenols - coffee & tea
Tips to INCREASE iron absorption:
Always squeeze lemon/lime into your salads
Soak and or sprout grains & legumes to remove some of the anti-nutrients like phytates
Consume foods high in vitamin C with grains, nuts, legumes
Avoid drinking coffee and tea with iron rich meals
Consume veggies/fruits rich in vitamin A with non-heme iron sources of food
If you menstruate, eat iron rich sources of food before/during menstruation
Don't take calcium and iron supplements together