What Foods Are High in Iron?

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    Iron is a vital nutrient that our bodies need to function properly. Luckily, there are plenty of iron-rich foods that we can add to our diets.

    Iron is a crucial mineral that plays a significant role in maintaining many aspects of our health. It is an essential component of hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Without enough iron, our bodies can experience fatigue, weakness, and other potential health problems.

    Luckily, there are plenty of iron-rich foods that we can add to our diets to help keep our iron levels in check. In this article, we will explore some of the best dietary sources of iron and how we can incorporate them into our meals to ensure we are getting the iron we need.

    How Much Iron Do You Need?

    Iron is a vital nutrient that our bodies need to function properly. Our bodies cannot produce iron on their own, so we must obtain it from the foods we eat. The amount of iron we need each day varies depending on our age and sex. These are outlined below:

    • Adult men 19–50 years: 8 mg
    • Adult women 19–50 years: 8 mg
    • Adults 51 years and older: 8 mg
    • Pregnant women: 27 mg
    • Breastfeeding women: 9 mg

    Healthy, Iron-Rich Foods

    If you are looking to maintain a healthy balance of iron in your diet, incorporating iron-rich foods is crucial. But did you know that not all sources of iron are created equal? The two types of iron found in food are heme and non-heme iron. Understanding the differences between these types can be key to maximizing your iron intake. Don't worry, we've got you covered. We'll dive into the details and provide everything you need to know about heme and non-heme iron sources.


    Spinach is a popular leafy green vegetable that is known for being a nutritional superfood. It is loaded with the perfect balance of vitamins and minerals, especially iron. In fact, just 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw spinach contains 2.7 mg of iron, making it a great dietary option for those looking to increase their iron intake. Spinach is also a rich source of non-heme iron, which is a form of iron found in plant-based foods.

    Non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed by the body as heme iron, which is found in animal-based foods, but consuming vitamin C alongside non-heme iron can increase absorption. Luckily, spinach is also high in vitamin C, making it an ideal food to consume for those looking to increase their iron levels. Incorporating spinach into your diet is a delicious and nutritious way to boost your iron intake.

    Pro tip: Adding a squeeze of fresh lemon (source of vitamin C) can also help boost non-heme iron absorption from spinach!


    Legumes, such as lentils and beans, are another good source of iron, particularly for vegetarians who may not consume animal-based foods that are rich in heme iron. For example, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cooked lentils contain 3.3 mg of iron.

    Legumes are also a rich source of non-heme iron, which, as mentioned earlier, is the form of iron found in plant-based foods. Incorporating legumes into your diet is not only a great way to boost your iron levels, but they are also an excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber.

    Red Meat

    Red meat, such as beef and lamb, is a great dietary source of heme iron, the type of iron that is only found in animal flesh like poultry, fish, and red meat. Specifically, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cooked red meat contains 2.74 mg of iron. This type of iron is easily absorbed by the body, making it an efficient way to increase iron levels for those who consume animal-based foods.

    However, it's important to consume red meat in moderation, as excessive consumption can have negative health effects. If you do eat red meat, choose lean cuts, and consider incorporating other plant-based sources of iron into your meals as well.

    Pumpkin Seeds

    Pumpkin seeds are an excellent plant-based source of iron, with just one ounce containing 2.5 mg of iron. They also contain other essential nutrients, such as zinc, magnesium, and vitamin K. These seeds can easily be incorporated into your diet by adding them to salads, granolas, or using them as a topping for soups and stews. They are also a great snack option, providing a healthy dose of iron and other nutrients.

    Incorporating pumpkin seeds into your meals is an easy and tasty way to increase your daily iron intake.


    Oysters are not only a delicious seafood delicacy but also an excellent source of iron. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of cooked oysters contains 2.81 mg of iron. Oysters also contain other important nutrients, such as zinc, copper, and vitamin B12. However, it's important to note that oysters are also high in cholesterol, so they should be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

    Liver and Organ Meat

    Organ meats, such as liver, are some of the most concentrated dietary sources of iron. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of cooked liver contains a whopping 6.54 mg of iron, which is almost as much as the recommended daily amount for adult men and women. In addition to being a rich source of heme iron, organ meats are also high in other essential nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin B12, and copper. If you're looking to increase your iron levels, incorporating organ meats into your meals is an excellent way to do so.


    Quinoa is a versatile and nutritious grain that is also a great source of iron. Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains 2.76 mg of iron, which is over 15% of the recommended daily intake for adult men and women. Quinoa is also rich in other essential nutrients, including fiber, protein, and magnesium.

    It's easy to incorporate quinoa into your diet by using it as a base for salads, as a side dish, or even as a substitute for rice. Whether you're a vegetarian or simply looking to increase your iron intake, quinoa is a healthy and tasty option that can help you meet your daily nutrient needs.


    While turkey is not typically thought of as a high-iron food, dark meat from the bird can provide a significant amount of this essential mineral. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of cooked dark turkey meat contains 1.43 mg of iron.


    Edamame is a delicious and nutritious snack that contains a significant amount of iron. As a matter of fact, a one-cup serving of cooked edamame contains 3.52mg of iron, which is almost 50% of the recommended daily intake for adult men and women! Edamame is also high in protein, fiber, and a variety of other essential vitamins and minerals. Whether you enjoy edamame as a snack or as an ingredient in salads or stir-fries, incorporating this tasty legume into your diet is an excellent way to boost your iron intake.


    Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a popular legume that are widely used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. In addition to being a great source of protein and fiber, chickpeas are also an excellent source of iron. A one-cup serving of canned chickpeas contains 1.49mg of iron, which is almost 20% of the recommended daily intake for adult men and women.

    Chickpeas are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads and soups to hummus and falafel. By incorporating chickpeas into your diet, you can not only boost your iron intake but also enjoy a range of delicious and nutritious meals.

    Dark Chocolate

    Good news for chocolate lovers! Dark chocolate, in particular, is not only a delicious treat but also a surprisingly good source of iron. A one-ounce serving of dark chocolate with 45-59% cacao solids contains 2.76 mg of iron.


    Fish, especially fatty fish like mackerel, can be a great source of iron. A single filet of cooked mackerel contains 1.78mg of iron. In addition to iron, fish like mackerel are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have numerous health benefits, including supporting heart health and brain function.

    Fortified Breakfast Cereals

    Fortified cereals are a great option for those looking to increase their iron intake. The iron in these cereals is added during processing; it is not naturally occurring. This fortification makes it a non-heme form of iron. To enhance the absorption of non-heme iron, it's advisable to pair it with vitamin C. Adding fresh fruits like berries to your fortified cereal can aid in the absorption of iron. Another way to improve absorption is by pairing non-heme iron with heme iron. For example, adding a slice of turkey bacon on the side can support the absorption of non-heme iron in fortified cereals.

    Avoid Too Much Iron In Your Diet

    While iron is an important nutrient, it is also essential to be mindful of the amount you consume. While some people may worry about getting too much iron in their diet, this is typically not a concern for those who obtain their iron from food sources.

    In fact, excess iron is usually more of an issue through supplementation rather than diet. Nevertheless, it is still important to be aware of how much iron you are consuming and to avoid supplementing unless advised to do so by a healthcare professional. Unless you have an iron overload disorder, it is unlikely that you need to worry about consuming too much iron from your diet.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.