People with the blood disorder hemochromatosis absorb too much iron in their intestines. This iron passes into the bloodstream, leaving hemochomatosis patients with joint and abdominal pain, weight loss and darkening skin. One preventative treatment for this condition is a low-iron diet. An iron-free diet is impossible, as iron exists in trace amounts in all foods, but low iron is feasible.
Meats and Animal Fats
The body can absorb animal-based iron faster than plant-based iron. For most people who eat appropriate amounts of meat, the quicker absorption is beneficial, but someone who needs a low-iron diet should cut out all meat. Animal fats work as binding agents in foods such as cheese, mass-produced chocolate, and even candy. Limiting these foods helps reduce iron absorption.
Fiber-rich foods slow digestion. This slowing of food moving through the digestive tract increases the time it takes the body to absorb the iron. Whole grains contain large quantities of fiber, and on a low-iron diet, substituting whole grains, such as whole wheat and rye, for processed grains aids in slowing iron absorption. Nuts and beans are excellent high-fiber foods. They also provide protein, which is helpful since animal-based proteins should be limited.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Spinach, kale, romaine lettuce and other leafy green vegetables should make up a major part of a low-iron diet. Many of these vegetables contain chemicals that inhibit the absorption of iron. Because these foods also are stocked with other vitamins and minerals, they work well in a low-iron diet.
People on low-iron diets should consume alcohol in moderation. The liver can break down iron, which helps rid the blood of the mineral. Alcohol consumption interferes with this iron breakdown, which results in faster iron absorption. Coffee and tea, which often are excluded from special diets, help people who have low iron needs. These drinks contain a chemical called tannin, which slows iron absorption, but to receive the full benefit, drinking coffee and tea with meals is necessary.