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Does Cow’s Milk Have Iron?

Last Updated: 22.04.24


Milk is a very nourishing substance that contains many useful minerals and vitamins, but it is rather low in iron and it can even cause iron deficiency in young children. If you want to learn more about this subject, you can take a closer look at our informative article below and then at the other pieces we have available, including the one on electric milking machine for cows.


Iron and milk

Iron is a mineral that children and babies need for good health and development, and cow’s milk is a major component in the diet of young children. This presents a nutritional dilemma since although cow’s milk is full of nutrients, it is very low in iron and it can cause iron deficiency in young children if consumed excessively.

In fact, too much cow milk in the diet of a child can decrease the absorption of iron from other foods and may also irritate the lining of the intestine which in turn will cause small amounts of bleeding and a gradual loss of iron in the stool. Another reason why cow’s milk can contribute to iron deficiency is due to the fact that children who drink a lot of milk often don’t eat other foods that are rich in iron to make up for the missing minerals.

With that said, you don’t have to avoid giving cow’s milk to your children or drinking it yourself. Researchers have found that the happy medium for most children is about two cups worth of milk per day. This amount is sufficient to maintain vitamin D above the recommended levels without affecting the iron store negatively.

During the winter, when the sunlight provides less vitamin D, instead of increasing the amount of milk that the child drinks, you should provide him or her with vitamin D supplements since increasing the milk intake can lower the iron level.



As always, it is best to discuss the drinking and eating habits of your children with your health care providers so that you optimize the children’s intake of essential micronutrients to the specific needs of their body. You should not administer supplementation with minerals or vitamins without first discussing with your doctor.

The symptoms of iron deficiency, also known as anemia, include fatigue, colder body temperature, decreased work performance, and increased frequency of illness. It’s not just drinking too much milk that can decrease the absorption of iron. Including other calcium-rich products such as yogurt and cheese with your meals can have the same effect.

Young children have the highest risk for developing iron deficiency, especially babies since they store enough iron from the mother’s blood to last for the first six months and after that breast milk and iron-fortified infant formula should provide the amount of iron not met by solids.

Other high-risk populations include women who are pregnant since their increased blood volume will require more iron to carry the oxygen to the baby and the growing reproductive organs. Adolescent girls and women of childbearing age are also of risk, including anyone else who does not have a healthy diet.

If you experience the symptoms of iron deficiency or have been diagnosed with anemia, you should follow the recommendation we have prepared below to maximize iron absorption from your diet. Your doctor might also recommend you take an iron supplement.


Foods that are rich in iron

While the human body can store iron, it cannot make it and you need to get iron from your food if you want to stay healthy. If you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency, your doctor might suggest you eat more foods that are rich in iron. Below, we will show you a diverse list of foods that provide a good source of iron.

Animal-based foods are the best source of iron, but that does not mean that if you follow a vegetarian diet you will need to rely on iron supplements only since this mineral can also be found in many plant-based foods. With that said, if you are a vegetarian you will need to be extra careful about what you include and what you omit from your diet in order to get enough iron.

In foods, iron can be found in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is the best type of iron since up to 40% of it is readily absorbed by your body. It is mainly found in animal foods that contain hemoglobin such as meat, poultry, and fish.

Some good sources of heme iron include beef, chicken, veal, pork, fish such as haddock, perch, salmon, halibut, or tuna, and shellfish such as oysters, mussels, and clams. Organs such as the liver also very good sources of heme iron.

Non-heme iron comes primarily from plant sources and it can be found in vegetables, grains, and fortified foods. Even if this type of mineral does not get absorbed as efficiently by the body, it is estimated that around 90% of the total iron intake comes from the non-heme form.

Good sources of non-heme iron can be found in many plant-based foods like green vegetables such as broccoli, silverbeet, and spinach. It is also found in lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds. Since this is the form that is added to foods that are enriched with iron, you can also find it in fortified breakfast cereals, and grains in general.


How to increase iron absorption from foods

As we mentioned above, not all dietary iron is absorbed equally, but there are a few foods that can help your body absorb it better. For starters, vitamin C is known for its ability to enhance iron absorption and it can capture non-heme iron and store it in a form that is easier for the body to absorb.

Foods that are high in vitamin C are diverse and chances are you already have one of them in your fridge. Citrus fruits, bell peppers, melons, strawberries, and dark green leafy vegetables are all full of vitamin C.



Drinking your favorite citrus juice in the morning or eating some of the other foods we listed above while enjoying your high-iron diet can increase your body’s absorption of this valuable mineral. If you are a vegetarian, including vitamin C-containing vegetables during meals is a must if you don’t want to rely on supplements.

Vitamin A and beta-carotene don’t play a critical role only in bone growth, maintaining healthy vision and immune system but can also increase absorption of iron from cereal-based meals by up to 200%. Food sources of vitamin A and beta-carotene include carrots, spinach, kale, red peppers, cantaloupe, apricots, peaches, oranges, sweet potatoes, and kale.

Lastly, meat, fish, and poultry are not only very good sources of heme iron, but they can also help stimulate your body to enhance the absorption of the non-heme form. Studies have shown that adding chicken, fish, or beef to a cereal-based meal can increase the absorption of non-heme iron up to three times. Adding as little as 75 grams of meat to a meal can increase the absorption of non-heme iron by around 2 times when compared to a meal without meat.



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Fitoru Fitness Challenge

October 5, 2020 at 1:03 pm

Nice article! I really learned a lot from this especially about further knowledge on cow’s milk. Thanks a lot for posting!


October 5, 2020 at 1:58 pm

I’m glad the article was helpful. Thank you for your feedback!

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