Did you know that you can improve iron absorption with Vitamin C? This is a topic that is not discussed much in the anemia community but is imperative for those with iron deficiency to be aware of if they would like to overcome their anemia once and for all. But this is not as simple as it sounds.
Iron absorption is a complex topic, and the amount and timing of Vitamin C also matters greatly, so just saying that Vitamin C increased iron absorption is not enough to believe you have all of the information that you need to improve your Iron Deficiency Anemia or Iron Poor Blood. And this information is particularly relevant to the African-American’s Who Have a Higher Incidence of Anemia for whom Vitamin C might be more important in their diets for this reason.
How Vitamin C Fits Into the Puzzle
Nutrients do not act in isolation to one another. They are not drugs, even though many people and even doctors treat them that way. Interactions between nutrients and other nutrients are often very complex and important. On another page, we discussed the importance of Vitamin D and Iron and their relation to the extremely important hormone called Hepcidin that regulates the absorption of iron.
Vitamin C’s importance in this piece of the puzzle for iron absorption can’t be stated emphatically enough since iron absorption may even rely on the presence of Vitamin C to occur. In fact, there have been many cases of iron deficiency being resolved only when Vitamin C was added! 1
Dramatically Improves Iron Absorption
First of all, Vitamin C doesn’t just improve iron absorption, it DRAMATICALLY increases it. This is an extremely well-studied subject, and studies using even minimal amounts of Vitamin C with iron minimally show a doubling in the amount of absorption of iron, and maximally up to 6 times. 2
Since iron is difficult to absorb, even under the best circumstances, these improvements in iron absorption have led to at least one study showing that just giving Vitamin C alone was sufficient to reverse anemia in many women, and to even prevent anemia altogether, particularly in children and in pregnant women. 3
Dosage for Iron Absorption
The dosage of Vitamin C for the maximum iron absorption is surprisingly small. Basically any amount of Vitamin C improved iron absorption. Even dosages as seemingly insignificant as 20 mg were effective at improving iron absorption,. While larger amounts improved absorption even more, it seems that maximum absorption peaks at just 100 mg of Vitamin C. 4
This is good news since it’s pretty easy to get 100 mg of Vitamin C when you eat basically any fresh, uncooked fruit. But Vitamin C content drastically decreases when food is cooked or stored, additionally, the Vitamin C must be taken or eaten at the same time as the iron supplements or iron rich meal. That might not sound hard, just have some fresh vegetables with red meat at dinner, right? Wrong.
Iron is absorbed poorly or not at all in the evening meal, so your steak is almost worthless for its iron content. This is because iron is maximally absorbed first thing in the morning when the hormone Hepcidin is lowest. How many of us eat high iron foods like Spinach or Meat for Iron in the mornings? So getting your Vitamin C for iron absorption becomes even more of a challenge.
The ability of ascorbate to regulate transferrin iron uptake could help explain the metabolic defect that contributes to ascorbate-deficiency-induced anemia
The active role of vitamin C in mammalian iron metabolism: Much more than just enhanced iron absorption!
So if you want to increase the absorption of iron in food, eating a high iron meal first thing in the morning, to take advantage of the all important Hepcidin hormone levels, along with a piece of fresh fruit or fruit juice is a good first step.
If you take iron supplements, however, it’s important to know that many foods and drinks inhibit the absorption of iron, and so taking your iron supplements first thing in the morning with a piece of fruit or fruit juice and nothing else is the best way to ensure you will be maximizing iron absorption.
If you have stomach issues when you take iron, however, consider switching to the iron that I personally take myself, the Best Iron Supplement available. Since it has an extremely high absorption rate and causes almost no stomach issues or constipation, it’s the one I take along with a pinch of Vitamin C Powder in apple juice in order to maximize iron absorption without any side effects.