High Iron Foods: A Complete List

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

A diet of high iron foods along with iron supplements is often recommended for women with iron deficiency anemia. However, as iron supplements often result in discomfort, particularly constipation and nauseousness, women prefer to choose eating iron-rich foods more often instead.

Top 10 Iron-Rich Foods

Top 10 Iron Rich Foods List
  1. Clams
  2. Total Whole Grain Cereal
  3. Raisin Bran Breakfast Cereal
  4. Cheerios
  5. Oysters
  6. Sunflower Seeds
  7. Tofu
  8. White Beans
  9. Mussels
  10. Lentils

How Much Iron Do You Need?

Iron plays an integral role in the formation of hemoglobin in blood and myoglobin in muscles, both of which carry oxygen to the cells. That’s why fatigue and tiredness is the first symptom most people notice when they may be low in iron.

The recommended intake for iron is:

  • Kids 1-3 years old: 7 mg/day
  • Kids 4-8 years old: 10 mg/day
  • Teenagers 9 – 13: 8 mg/day
  • Teenagers 14 – 18: 11 mg/day for boys & 15 mg/day for girls
  • Males 19+: 8 mg/day
  • Females 19-50: 18 mg/day
  • Females 51+: 8 mg/day
  • Pregnant Females: 27 mg/day

Top Iron Rich Foods for Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron absorption is often influenced by multiple factors. One important factor being the form of iron. Heme Iron, found in animal sources, is highly available for absorption. Non-heme iron on the other hand, found in vegetable sources, is less available.

Foods containing Heme Iron

  • Clams – 23.8 mg per 3 oz
  • Oysters – 7.8 mg per 3 oz
  • Liver per 3 oz
    • Chicken – 8 mg
    • Beef – 5.8 mg
  • Mussels – 5.7 mg per 3 oz
  • Sardines – 2.4 mg per 3 oz
  • Turkey – 1.6 mg per 3 oz
  • Beef per 3 oz
    • Extra lean ground – 2.5 mg
    • Prime rib – 2.1 mg
    • Short rib – 2 mg
    • Rib eye – 1.7 mg
    • Sirloin – 1.6 mg
  • Lamb chop – 2.1 mg per 3 oz
  • Egg – 1.2 mg per 2 large eggs

Foods containing Non-Heme Iron

  • Pumpkin seeds – 8.6 mg per 1/4 cup
  • Firm Tofu – 8 mg per 3/4 cup
  • Beans per 3/4 cup cooked
    • White beans – 5.8 mg
    • Red kidney beans – 3.9 mg
    • Soybeans: 3.4 mg
  • Lentils – 4.9 mg per 3/4 cup cooked
  • Some whole-grain breakfast cereals (per cup)
    • Total – 18 mg
    • Raisin Bran – 10.8 mg
    • Cheerios – 8.9 mg
    • Special K – 8.7 mg
    • All-Bran – 5.5 mg
  • Baked potato with skin – 2.7 mg
  • Chickpeas – 2.4 mg per 3/4 cup cooked
  • Blackstrap Molasses – 3.6 mg per Tbsp
  • Prune juice – 3.2 mg per cup
  • Dried fruits per 1/2 cup
    • Peaches – 1.6 mg
    • Raisins – 1.4 mg
    • Plums – 1.3 mg
    • Apricots – 1.2 mg
  • Nuts per 1/4 cup:
    • Cashew: 1.7 mg
    • Almonds: 1.4 mg
    • Pistachio: 1.2 mg
    • Walnuts: 0.9 mg
    • Pecan: 0.7 mg

Warning: Pregnant women should not eat liver because of its high Vitamin A content. Large amounts of Vitamin A can be harmful to the baby.

The Magic of Iron-Food Pairing

The absorption of non-heme iron can be improved when a source of heme iron is consumed in the same meal. In addition, the iron absorption-enhancing foods can also increase the absorption of non-heme iron. While some food items can enhance iron absorption, some can inhibit or interfere iron absorption. Avoid pairing these iron-inhibiting foods when you’re eating iron-rich foods in the same meal.

Iron Absorption Enhancers

  • ​Meat/fish/poultry
  • Fruits: Orange, Orange Juice, cantaloupe, strawberries, grapefruit etc
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomato, tomato juice, potato, green and red peppers
  • White wine

Iron Absorption Inhibitors

  • Red Wine, Coffee and Tea
  • Vegetables: Spinach, chard, beet greens, rhubarb and sweet potato
  • Whole grains and bran
  • Isolated soy ingredients, like products made with soy flour and isolated soy protein concentrate.

Groceries, Health

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