Heme Iron Supplements

Heme iron supplements

Heme Iron Supplements

If you have low iron levels, or are suffering from iron deficiency, then heme iron supplements are an ideal option for you to explore. While there are several types of iron supplements available, heme iron supplements offer several significant benefits:

  • Heme iron supplements are easily absorbed by your body
  • Heme iron produces lower side effects
  • Heme iron absorption is not affected by the food you eat

Iron plays a crucial role in your body, as it is needed to form hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is present in your red blood cells and it carries oxygen from the lungs to your organs and tissues.

Heme vs Non Heme Iron

According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies across the world. The symptoms of iron deficiency are typically fatigue, breathlessness, and even rapid hearbeats. Due to this, it is important to ensure your body is getting enough iron.


There are two types of iron and your body absorbs each one differently. The first is heme iron which is found in animals and fish. The second is non-heme iron which is found in plants.


Your body absorbs non-heme iron through the Divalent Metal Transporter 1 (DMT1) protein. The DMT1 protein carries iron and other metals into your cells. On the other hand, heme iron is absorbed by the Heme Carrier Protein 1 (HCP1) which only absorbs heme iron.

Heme Iron Foods

There are several foods that are good sources of heme iron. HealthLink BC lists some of these foods with the amount of heme iron they contain:

  • Clams: 21.0mg of heme iron per 75g
  • Oysters: 6.4mg of heme iron per 75g
  • Sardines: 2.0mg of heme iron per 75g
  • Shrimp: 2.3 mg of heme iron per 75g
  • Turkey: 1.5mg of heme iron per 75g
  • Lamb: 1.5mg of heme iron per 75g
  • Beef: 2.4mg of heme iron per 75g
  • Beef liver: 2.4mg of heme iron per 75g
  • Chicken liver: 8.7mg of heme iron per 75g

While an iron-rich diet can help combat iron deficiency, it may not be possible to include some of these foods in your diet. In such cases, iron supplements can be an ideal way to increase your iron stores.

Types Of Iron Supplements

As mentioned before, there are different types of iron supplements available. These are: iron tablets, liquid iron, and powder iron. Liquid iron and powder iron are typically non-heme iron supplements. Iron tablets can be either heme iron or non-heme.


Because your body absorbs heme iron and non-heme iron differently, the amount of non-heme iron listed on a supplement may not be how much your body absorbs.

According to BC Health, heme iron is absorbed at rates of 15%to 35%, whereas non-heme iron only has an absorption rate between 2% to 5%.

Lower Side Effects

Absorption rates are not the only aspect to keep in mind when choosing an iron supplement. Non-heme iron needs to be converted from the ferrous state to the ferric state for absorption. This process produces free radicals which cause damage to your tissues and lead to side effects such as constipation and abdominal pain.


Heme iron does not need to be converted into another state for absorption. This leads to fewer side effects. Furthermore, unlike non-heme iron, heme iron absorption is not affected by your diet.


With a heme iron supplement, you do not need to avoid caffeine or pair it with orange juice for better absorption.

Heme Iron Supplement: Summary

There are several groups of people who are at a greater risk of iron deficiency. If you are of menstruating age, pregnant, or vegetarian, your iron needs may not be met through diet alone.


Heme iron supplements offer a way to combat iron deficiency, especially if your blood tests reveal low iron stores.
Not only are heme iron supplements absorbed better by your body, they produce lower side effects, and are not affected by your diet.

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