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Foods That Bind Iron

By Sarah Davis

Iron is a mineral found in foods like beef, chicken and spinach. If you don’t get enough iron from foods, you could develop anemia, which causes fatigue and decreased immune function. If you’re trying to build your iron levels in order to prevent or treat anemia, it’s important to be aware of the foods that bind iron and decrease its absorption. Avoiding foods that bind iron can help keep your iron levels strong.

Tea and Coffee

According to the National Institutes of Health, teas like black tea and pekoe tea, have substances that bind to iron in the body, making the body unable to use the iron. Polyphenols, found in coffee, can also bind to iron, according to Dr. Srimathi Kannan of the American Dietetic Association. He states that black tea has the strongest ability to bind iron of all beverages, followed by coffee and then herbal teas like chamomile tea.

Whole Grains

Whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas and spelt can also bind to iron in the body and block its absorption. The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements states that tannins are the compounds found in whole grains that bind to iron. Dr. Kannan states that the fiber in whole grains can bind to iron and cause the body to excrete the mineral.


Even though milk is full of calcium, vitamin D and vitamin A, it can decrease iron availability in the body. The National Anemia Action Council states that a component in milk can bind to iron. Therefore, it’s important not to drink a glass of milk with an iron supplement or with an iron-rich food like beef or chicken. If you’re trying to prevent or manage anemia, it’s better to drink a glass of milk a few hours before taking iron or eating high-iron foods.


Phosphorus is a mineral found in nuts like almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts. The form of phosphorus in nuts is called phytates. Dr. Kannan of the American Dietetic Association states that phytates are negatively charged, so they connect with positively charged iron ions and prevent the body from using iron effectively. Nuts can still be a part of a healthy diet, especially since they contain some iron and protein, but it’s best to limit portion sizes of nuts and continue eating better sources of iron like meats and beans as well.

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