Heme vs. Nonheme Iron Lean meats contain heme iron, which is much more easily absorbed by the body than nonheme iron found in plant foods. Heme iron is an important dietary component for promoting cognitive health, including memory, ability to learn and reasoning. Heme iron is particularly beneficial for growing children because research indicates that some toddlers are at higher risk for iron deficiency, and childhood iron-deficiency anemia is associated with behavioral and cognitive delays.2 Through an effect known as the "meat factor," beef helps the body absorb nonheme iron. Unlike plant proteins, beef is the food supply's most easily absorbed source of iron. In addition, beef is an excellent source of readily available zinc. The absorption of zinc from beef is about four times greater than that from a high-fiber breakfast cereal. As with iron, including meat in your diet also improves the absorption of zinc from other foods.