The in vitro bioaccessibility of iron in context to fortification of key foods to cereal based diets was studied to optimize the meals for enhanced iron bioaccessibility to meet the needs of vegetarian and non-vegetarian adult women. Four individual food items and thirty six composite meals were selected to represent a wide spectrum of meal ingredients. The four individual foods: chapati, rice, dal and saag were choosen on the basis of data reported on meal pattern of surveyed households of north India. The basic meals were then fortified with key food ingredients which may influence in vitro iron bioaccessibility. Eight selected key foods were salad, orange, lemonade, milk, curd, chicken, egg and tea. The results revealed that inclusion of 200 g of chicken, 135 g of salad and 120 g of orange to the basic meals of rice or chapati with either dal or saag enhanced iron bioaccessibility by 1.6 fold to 5.0 fold; 5.2 to 28.9 % and 4.7 to 10.7 %, respectively. The best enhancer of iron absorption for vegetarians was lemonade (250 ml) which resulted in 70.2 and 61.0 % increase of in vitro bioaccessibility of iron to the rice based meals with dal and saag, respectively. The inclusion of lemonade resulted in 1.3 fold increase in iron bioaccessibility in chapati based meals. The major inhibitors of iron bioaccessibility were egg and tea, the percent reduction caused by egg being 16.1 to 50.2 % while by tea, it was between 21.5 to 55.3 %. The study recommends that those vulnerable to iron deficiency should be encouraged to increase overall intake of iron from iron rich foods. The increase should be coupled with efforts to combine appropriate foods in the diet to enhance the bioaccessibility of iron and reduce inhibitory factors.
Keywords: Dialyzable iron; Iron bioaccessibility; Iron enhancers; Iron inhibitors; Total iron.