Iron is a major constituent of blood and is one of the minerals we should eat regularly in our diet. There are many iron rich foods available across the food groups.
[Read more about the dietary requirement of iron]
We should maintain a good amount of iron in our diet by eating iron rich foods.
We have divided the article into different food groups. So here is information on more than 50 iron rich foods so that you can add them to diet and never be deficient in iron.
People who regularly eat meat, poultry and seafood are less likely to have iron deficiency because all meats are iron rich food sources. They are a source of heme iron which is easily and more readily absorbed by the body as compared to nonheme iron found in plants.
Red Meat (Beef, Lamb, Pork)
It is the single most easily accessible source of heme iron, making it an important food for non-vegetarian people who are prone to anemia.
100 g of ground beef provides 2.7 mg of iron. 100 g of lamb contains 2.5 mg of iron while 100 g of pork provides 0.87 mg of iron.
It is also rich in protein, zinc, selenium and several B vitamins.
Turkey, especially dark turkey is a good source of iron.
100 g of dark turkey meat has 2.3 mg of iron. In comparison, the same amount of white turkey meat contains only 1.3 mg.
Turkey also provides protein, several B vitamins, and minerals, like zinc and selenium.
This lean protein is a good way for non-vegetarians to get their required dose of iron.
The iron content of 100 g of chicken is 0.7 mg.
Liver and Other Organ Meats
Organ meat is one of the most nutrient-dense food in the world. They are rich in iron, protein, vitamin B, copper, and selenium. They are also a good source of choline, an important nutrient for the human brain and liver. Liver meat is especially high in vitamin A.
Both the chicken liver and beef liver can be consumed to meet daily iron requirements. Other organ meats include kidneys, brain, and heart — all of which are high in iron.
100 g of chicken liver provides 9 mg of iron while the same amount of beef liver provides 6.5 mg of iron.
All shellfish contain iron, but clams, oysters and mussels are extremely good sources. They are also rich in nutrients like protein, vitamin C and vitamin B12 and are known to increase the level of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol in the blood.
100 g of clams contain up to 28 mg of iron, making it one of the richest sources of iron.
100 g of oysters provide up to 7 mg of iron.
100 g of mussels provide up to 6.7 mg of iron.
The iron content of prawns per 100 g is 3 mg
100 g of shrimp provides 0.5 mg of iron.
100 g of crabs provide 0.4 mg of iron.
Small finfish are also excellent sources of iron. These include
100 g of anchoives provides 4.6 mg of iron.
100 g of sardine provides 2.9 mg of iron.
Among larger finfish, the oily varieties provide higher amounts of iron besides being rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. These include
The iron content of these varies from 1.7 – 2.0 mg per 100 g of fish.
Simply put, vegetables are the most preferred recommended iron-rich food item, especially in vegetarians. Some vegetables have iron content which equals or even exceeds the foods typically associated with high iron, such as meat, poultry, and seafood.
Though vegetables contain nonheme iron, (which is less easily absorbed as compared to heme iron present in animal products), they are also generally rich in vitamin C, which helps enhance iron absorption
Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are one of the most nutrient-packed foods found on this planet. They provide a large variety of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, fibers and are rich in anti-oxidants. Moreover, they are low in calories making them an ideal food for weight-loss. They are a rich source of iron and must be included in a vegetarian diet to provide the daily required dose of iron.
It has the highest content of iron amongst all vegetables. Also, it provides more iron than many animal products.
It can be eaten both raw as well as cooked.
100 g of cooked spinach provides around 4 mg of iron while a similar quantity of raw spinach provides 2.7 mg of iron.
It is a member of the beet family.
100 g of swiss chard provides 1.8 mg of iron.
It also provides protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
Mustard greens can be eaten in a variety of forms.
They provide 1.6 mg of iron per 100 g. They are also rich in dietary fiber, protein, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, manganese, calcium, vitamin E, potassium, vitamin B 6, phosphorus and copper.
Another nutrient-dense food, it belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables.
It provides 1.5 mg of iron per 100 g.
Kale also provides vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B 6, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus.
It is among the most sought after greens, can be used to make crunchy green salads or healthy sandwiches.
It provides 0.9 mg of iron per 100 g.
It is high in minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium. It is naturally low in sodium. Also, it is packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate.
It is another green leafy vegetable belonging to the cruciferous family.
It provides 0.5 mg of iron per 100 g.
Collard greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B 6, calcium, and magnesium. They also contain thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and choline.
Broccoli besides being a rich source of iron also contains other essential nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and magnesium.
The highest iron content of 2.14 milligrams per 100 grams is provided by Broccoli raab.
Another cruciferous vegetable, cabbage is a commonly used vegetable.
100 g of cabbage provides 0.5 mg of iron.
Besides, it is rich in protein, fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, manganese, vitamin B 6, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. It also contains small amounts of other micronutrients, including vitamin A, iron and riboflavin.
Looking like miniature cabbages, they are a good source of fiber, manganese, potassium, choline, B vitamins, and protein
1.4 mg of iron is provided per 100 g.
It is a great source of iron and Vitamin C. Packed with essential nutrients, beetroots are a great source of fiber, folate, manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C. It is associated with numerous health benefits, including improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, and increased exercise performance.
100 g of Beetroot provides 0.8 mg of iron.
Potato is also a good source of iron which is mostly concentrated in their skins. It also provides vitamin C, B 6, potassium, and fiber.
100 g of potato contains around 0.8 mg of iron.
Certain varieties of mushrooms are particularly rich in iron.
100 g of white mushrooms contains around 0.5 mg of iron.
Red, ripe tomatoes contain 0.27 mg of iron per 100 g.
Raw tomatoes contain very little iron. However, when dried or concentrated, their iron content increases significantly. Tomatoes are also rich in vitamin C and lycopene (an antioxidant).
Palm hearts is a tropical vegetable containing a good amount of iron along with fiber, potassium, manganese, vitamin C and folate.
It provides 1.7 mg of iron per 100 g.
Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils, are great sources of iron.
Tofu, Tempeh, Natto, and Soybeans
Soybeans and foods derived from soybeans are packed with iron. Extra firm tofu has more iron than soft, medium or firm tofu.
The iron content of raw soybeans is 15.7 mg per 100 g. A similar quantity of Natto which is a fermented soybean product provides around 8.6 mg. 100 g of tofu offers 5.4 mg of iron while 100 g of tempeh provides 2.7 mg of iron.
Besides iron, these soy products contain around 10–19 g of protein per portion, making them an excellent source of proteins for vegetarians and vegans. They are also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Lentils are also rich in iron, providing 7.5 mg per 100 g.
Lentils contain a significant amount of protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, folate, and manganese. They are one of the important sources of proteins for vegetarians.
Other Beans and Peas
White lima, red kidney, and navy beans also contain a good amount of iron, offering 4.4–6.6 mg of iron per 100 g. Chickpeas provide 6.2 mg and black-eyed peas provide around 1.1 mg of iron per 100 g.
Also, beans and peas are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates, fiber, folate, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, etc.
Processing of grains removes parts of the grain that contain fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, including iron. Hence, whole grains contain more iron than processed grains.
Amaranth is a gluten-free ancient grain. It is called a pseudocereal as it doesn’t grow from grasses like other grains.
100 g of cooked amaranth contains around 2.1 mg of iron.
It is also a rich source of plant proteins, complex carbohydrates, fiber, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Spelt is another iron-rich ancient grain.
100 g of cooked spelt contains around 1.7 mg of iron.
It also contains a variety of other nutrients including complex carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, zinc, selenium and B vitamins. It provides around 1.5 times more protein as compared to wheat. Its mineral content is also higher than conventional grains.
100 g of oats contains around 4.7 mg of iron.
It also contains good amounts of plant protein, fiber, magnesium, zinc, and folate. Oats also contain a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which is known to promote gut health and reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
It is also a gluten-free pseudocereal rich in protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
It offers around 1.4 mg of iron per 100 g.
Brown rice is a healthier food option as compared to white rice.
Its iron content is 0.5 mg per 100 g.
Seeds and Nuts
Pumpkin, Sesame, Hemp, and Flaxseeds
These seeds are rich in iron.
Sesame seeds provide 14 mg of iron per 100 g.
Pumpkin seeds contain around 8.8 mg of iron per 100 g.
Products derived from these seeds are also beneficial. For example, sesame seeds can be made into a paste, called tahini, which is also a good source of iron.
In addition, these seeds contain good amounts of plant protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds. They are also a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Cashews, Pine Nuts, Almonds, and Other Nuts
They contain around 3.7–6.7 mg of iron per 100 g.
They are also a great source of protein, fiber, good fats, vitamins, and minerals, as well as antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds.
Since blanching or roasting the nuts takes away many nutrients, so it is best to consume unprocessed nuts.
Most of the fruits although possess high nutritional value are not a very rich source of iron. The following fruits, however, have relatively good iron levels.
Olives are rich in iron, fiber, good fats and fat-soluble vitamins A and E.
They contain around 3.3 mg of iron per 100 g.
Prunes help to relieve constipation because of their mild laxative effect.
They are also rich in iron, fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B 6, and manganese.
Prunes provide about 0.9 mg of iron per 100 g.
These are also a source of iron and vitamin C.
They provide about 0.4 mg of iron per 100 g.
Mulberries are rich in iron, vitamin C and anti-oxidants.
They provide around 0.3 mg of iron per 100 g.
It is a rich source of various minerals and vitamins including iron and vitamin C.
It contains 0.2 mg of iron per 100 g.
Apart from iron, pomegranate also contains calcium, protein, fiber, etc.
Iron content is 0.3 mg per 100 g of pomegranate.
One of the healthiest and most commonly found fruit, apples provide about 0.1 mg of iron per 100 g.
Certain foods do not fit in one of the food groups above, yet contain significant amounts of iron. Incorporating them into your diet can help you meet your recommended daily iron requirement.
Dark chocolate contains significantly more nutrients than its milk chocolate counterpart.
It provides around 11.9 mg of iron per 100 g. It also contains a good amount of fiber, magnesium, copper, manganese, and antioxidants.
Jaggery is unrefined cane sugar which can be used as a substitute for sugar.
It is rich in iron, folate and many other minerals and vitamins. Its consumption is extremely beneficial for pregnant women.
It contains around 11 mg of iron per 100 g.
Blackstrap molasses is a byproduct of the sugarcane refining process. It has the lowest sugar content of any sugarcane product. It is used as a sweetener and a healthier substitute for table sugar.
It contains around 4.7 mg of iron per 100 g.
It also provides copper, selenium, potassium, vitamin B 6, magnesium, and manganese. In spite of its high nutritional value, it remains a rich source of sugar and so should not be consumed in very high quantity.
Coconut milk is also a good source of iron, providing around 1.6 mg per 100 g.
It is a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, copper, and manganese. However, due to high-fat content, it is very rich in calories.
Dried thyme is a popular culinary herb. It is also one of the herbs with the highest iron content.
1 teaspoon provides around 1.2 mg of iron.
It is considered a nutritional powerhouse and has been found to be beneficial in fighting bacterial infections, fungal infections and provide various other health benefits.
Other Dietary Recommendations
While it is important to consume iron-rich foods to prevent or treat iron deficiency, it is equally important to eat foods which increase the absorption of iron within the body. This is especially important in the case of nonheme iron which is mainly derived from plant products. Similarly, foods which decrease the absorption of iron should be either avoided or consumed before or after a sufficient time period of consuming iron foods so that they do not hinder the absorption of dietary iron.
- Vitamin C increase the absorption of nonheme iron by as much as 85%. So foods rich in vitamin C (oranges, grapefruit, Indian gooseberry, guavas, tomatoes, citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, fresh vegetables and salads, and other fruits) should be included with each meal.
- Meat proteins increase the absorption of nonheme iron. So for non-vegetarians, it is best that plant iron-rich foods are eaten along with meat to increase the bio-availability of iron.
- Avoid drinking tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and caffeine-containing cold drinks, (colas) with meals as it decreases the amount of iron that the body can absorb.
- Avoid drinking excessive milk with meals.
- Avoid taking antacids as it will also decrease iron absorption.
- Polyphenols and phytates found in legumes, whole grains, and chocolate can reduce the absorption of nonheme iron.
- Cooking of food in iron utensils is a very simple and cost-effective method to increase the amount of iron present in the diet.
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