Iron deficiency anemia is prevalent throughout the world because of the inefficient absorption of nonheme iron which forms the bulk of the iron in the diet. Absorption of this type of iron is impaired by substances in food which reduce its availability. Ascorbic acid reverses the effect of dietary inhibitors and is one of the most powerful known promoters of nonheme iron absorption. It facilitates iron absorption by forming a chelate with the ferric iron in food at the acid pH of the stomach; the chelated iron remains soluble at the alkaline pH of the duodenum. However, the consumption of ascorbic acid with a vegetarian meal containing primarily nonheme iron could improve the absorption of iron for an individual whose diet contains little or no heme iron. Unfortunately, relatively high cost and instability of ascorbic acid during food storage have proven to be major obstacles to its use in combating nutritional iron deficiency in developing countries.