Increasing your intake of iron rich foods should not be too difficult. All it takes is for you to know which of the foods you eat are rich in iron, and start planning your meals accordingly. Sadly, the extent of most people’s knowledge, when it comes to iron and iron rich foods, is just too limited.
For a quick read on where to start you can read our article on Foods with an Iron Punch, but here we’ll give a much more in depth overview of the best iron Rich Foods complete with their Iron content.
The data has been extracted from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 22 from September 2009 which contains all the nutritional data for well over 7,000 food items. Unfortunately you can’t just download the database and do a quick sort on Iron content to give you the best Iron Rich Foods. Actually you can, but the problem is that the list you get won’t be very helpful in your daily life as the top items would be things like freeze dried parsley, dried thyme, beluga meat, cumin seed and all kinds of other foods you wouldn’t eat in large enough quantities to help you load up on Iron.
We have done the hard work for you and have carefully reviewed the USDA database and compiled this list of Top 50 Iron Rich Foods and have listed them by category so you know that when you eat meat what meat to choose, when you buy vegetables what to put in your shopping cart and when you need a quick snack what can help you boost your iron intake in just a few minutes.
This list is not a complete list of the iron content of all possible food items – if you don’t see it here it just means it isn’t particularly high on Iron.
Eat these Iron Rich Foods, combine them with Iron Absorption Enhancers, avoid Iron Absorption Inhibitors and you’ll be well on your way to boost your Iron levels and get rid of those Low Iron Symptoms!
Fortified breakfast cereal is one of your best bets to boost your Iron intake and below is a short list of some of them. As you can see eating just a single serving of these will give you around 18 mg Iron, but bear in mind that the typical absorption rate of a healthy adult is only approximately 10% to 15% of dietary iron. So drink a glass of Orange juice with your cereal to boost your absorption. Also, bear in mind that the last two items in this last are dry, i.e. before you have added milk or water to them!
- Ralston Enriched Bran Flakes: 27 mg/cup
- Kellog’s Complete Oat Bran Flakes: 25 mg/cup
- General Mills Multi-Grain Cheerios: 24 mg/cup
- Kellog’s All-Bran Complete Wheat Flakes: 24 mg/cup
- Malt-O-Meal, plain, dry: 92 mg/cup
- Cream of Wheat, instant, dry: 51 mg/cup
Red meat is high on iron and it comes in the heme form you body most easily absorbs; typically 15% to 35% of heme iron is absorbed by your body. Organ meats are the best sources of iron within the meat category and of these liver is probably the most popular so we’ve included it the list since we don’t know too many people who’ll eat spleen or lungs we’ve excluded these kinds of organs. If you like liver then go for goose liver expensive, but very nice! or at least opt for pork liver instead of beef liver. When you opt for red meat in your diet add some less standard options like Emu, Ostrich or Duck instead of beef.
- Goose liver, raw: 31 mg / 100g
- Pork liver, cooked: 18 mg / 100g
- Chicken liver, cooked: 13 mg / 100g
- Lamb liver, cooked: 10 mg / 100g
- Beef liver, cooked: 7 mg / 100g
- Emu, cooked: 7 mg / 100g
- Ostrich oyster, cooked: 5 mg / 100g
- Quail meat, raw: 5 mg / 100g
- Duck breast, raw: 5 mg / 100g
- Beef, steak, cooked: 4 mg / 100g
- Beef, ground, cooked: 3 mg / 100g
Fish and Shellfish
Fish is not often considered as a good source of iron and most finfish is indeed not, only the oily fish like mackerel and sardines provide you with a decent amount of iron. So when you want to eat fish, opt for oily fish which gives you the most iron and is high in omega-3 too. When you add shellfish into the equation suddenly we find some of the best Iron Rich Foods you can find, especially clams think clam chowder. A quick comparison with the meat category shows that octopus or cuttlefish beat all the regular meats in terms of iron content and are only outdone by liver. So, it’s time to add some stir fried squid to your weekly menu.
- Clams, canned, drained solids: 28 mg / 100g
- Clams, cooked: 28 mg / 100g
- Fish caviar, black and red: 12 mg / 100g
- Cuttlefish, cooked: 11 mg / 100g
- Octopus, cooked: 10 mg / 100g
- Oyster, medium sized, cooked: 10 mg / 100g
- Anchovy, canned in oil: 5 mg / 100g
- Shrimp, cooked: 3 mg / 100g
- Sardine, canned in oil: 3 mg / 100g
- Mackerel, cooked: 2 mg / 100g
Vegetables are an essential part of your diet, full of essential nutrients and most people don’t eat enough of them, but when it comes to Iron most vegetables are not too hot. If you choose your vegetables carefully then can use vegetables to help you boost your iron levels, especially if you include some iron absorption enhancers in your diet as the non-heme iron in vegetables is not easily absorbed by your body. Vegetables in the Top 50 Iron Rich Foods include various beans, potato skins, tomatoes and green leafy vegetables like spinach, chard and parsley. Chili con carne, which combines meat, kidney beans and tomato sauce, makes an excellent Iron Rich Recipe, but so does a white bean salad with plenty of fresh parsley and light vinaigrette.
- Mushrooms, morel, raw: 12 mg / cup
- Tomatoes, sun-dried: 5 mg / cup
- Potato skins, baked: 4 mg / skin
- Parsley, raw: 4 mg / cup
- Soybeans, boiled: 9 mg / cup
- Spinach, boiled, drained: 6 mg / cup
- Tomato sauce, canned: 9 mg / cup
- Lentils, boiled: 7 mg / cup
- Hearts of palm, canned: 5 mg / cup
- White Beans, canned: 8 mg / cup
- Kidney beans, boiled: 5 mg / cup
- Chickpeas, boiled: 5 mg / cup
- Pinto Beans, frozen, boiled: 3 mg / cup
- Lima beans, boiled: 4 mg / cup
- Hummus, commercial: 6 mg / cup
- Swiss Chard, boiled, chopped: 4 mg / cup
- Asparagus, canned: 4 mg / cup
- Chickpeas, canned: 3 mg / cup
- Tomatoes, canned: 3 mg / cup
- Sweet potato, canned, mashed: 3 mg / cup
- Endive, raw: 4 mg / head
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are great Iron Rich Foods in that they have a pretty high iron content and are so versatile that you can eat them in many ways. A quick snack on some cashew nuts is filling, healthy and gives plenty of iron – tasty too! Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds can be easily toasted and added to a salad for a nice crunch and an iron boost. Sesame seeds are used in a variety of Asian dishes and all of these can be used in baking or as a quick addition to your breakfast cereal. Just make sure you always have some in the house and you’ll soon find many ways to add them into your day-to-day food.
- Sesame seeds, whole, dried: 21 mg/cup
- Pumpkin seeds and squash seed kernels, dried: 11 mg/cup
- Sunflower seed kernels, toasted: 9 mg/cup
- Cashew nuts, dry roasted, halves and whole: 8 mg/cup
- Pistachio nuts, dry roasted: 5 mg/cup
- Almonds, whole kernels, blanched: 5 mg/cup
Fresh fruit is not rich in Iron, but dried fruit like apricots, peaches or prunes are great Iron Rich Snacks to eat in between meals or to add to various recipes. The one thing you must remember about fresh fruit is that most of it contains a lot of Vitamin C and since Vitamin is an Iron Absorption Enhancer eating fresh fruit or vegetables high in Vitamin C with your meal can greatly boost the amount of iron your body actually absorbs.
- Apricots, dehydrated low-moisture: 8 mg/cup
- Peaches, dehydrated low-moisture: 6 mg/cup
- Prunes, dehydrated low-moisture: 5 mg/cup
- Olives, canned jumbo: 0.3 mg / olive
- Currants, dried: 5 mg/cup
- Apricots, dried, sulfured, uncooked: 4 mg/cup
- Blueberries, canned: 7 mg/cup
Iron Rich Snacks
Apart from the nuts and dried fruit there are quick and easy Iron Rich Snacks which you can simply buy in the supermarket and use as a instant Iron Booster. Below or some examples, but if you’re planning to buy some bars or drinks then you need to remember to check the nutrition labels on the actual products you buy as the actual Iron content can vary greatly from brand to brand and even from product to product within the same brand.
- Nestle Supligen, canned supplement drink 9 mg / can
- Snickers Marathon Honey Nut Oat Bar: 8 mg / bar
- Snickers Marathon Double Chocolate Nut Bar 8 mg / bar
- Snickers Marathon Multigrain Crunch Bar: 8 mg / bar
- Pretzels, soft: 6 mg / large
- Trail mix, regular: 3 mg / cup
Dairy products are not high in Iron, but do contain a lot of calcium and calcium has been known to act as a Iron Absorption Inhibitor so you should try and eat calcium rich foods separate from your Iron Rich Foods as much as possible. Eggs are not too high in Iron, but egg yolks are not too bad and if you can find fresh goose eggs they could be used in a great Iron Rich Breakfast!
- Goose Egg, whole: 5 mg / egg
- Egg yolk, raw: 7 mg iron / cup
- Egg, scrambled: 3 mg iron / cup