To increase iron absorption, include foods high in vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, in the same meal as iron-rich foods. However, if demand exceeds supply, the body will begin to consume the iron stored in the liver, which can cause iron deficiency. When the body has run out of iron, it is unable to produce hemoglobin. This is called iron deficiency anemia.
The iron found in plant foods such as lentils, beans, and spinach is non-heme iron. This is the form of iron that is added to iron-fortified and iron-fortified foods. Our bodies are less efficient at absorbing non-heme iron, but most dietary iron is non-heme iron. To maximize your iron intake, try to include meat, fish, poultry, and plant foods rich in iron in your diet, as well as foods rich in vitamin C during meals.
In addition, distribute your intake of tea, coffee, and dairy products between meals. By carefully selecting the foods you eat and knowing how certain foods can improve or inhibit absorption, you can ensure that you're getting the iron you need. To improve iron absorption, consume it along with a good source of vitamin C (such as orange juice, broccoli, or strawberries) or eat foods that don't contain heme iron along with a food in the meat, fish, and poultry group. Foods with non-heme iron are still an important part of a well-balanced, nutritious diet, but the iron in these foods won't be fully absorbed.
Therefore, drinking citrus juice or other foods rich in vitamin C while eating foods that are high in iron can increase the body's absorption.