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10 Healthy Foods That Are High in Iron

Iron is a mineral that plays a vital role in our bodies, helping carry oxygen in our blood.…
10 Healthy Foods That Are High In Iron

Iron is a mineral that plays a vital role in our bodies, helping carry oxygen in our blood. For adults who are not pregnant, the recommended daily intake of iron is between 8 to 18 milligrams. You could develop a deficiency if you don’t get enough iron in your diet to replace what you lose each day.

Interestingly, how much iron your body absorbs depends on how much you already have stored. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, causing symptoms like fatigue. Women who have periods and don’t eat enough iron-rich foods are at higher risk of deficiency.

Here are 12 nutritious foods that are rich in iron.


1. Shellfish

10 Healthy Foods That Are High In Iron

Shellfish is not only delicious but also packed with nutrition. Clams, oysters, and mussels are especially rich in iron. For example, a 3.5-ounce serving of clams can provide up to 3 milligrams of iron, about 17% of your daily value.

However, the iron content of clams can vary so that some types may have less iron. The iron in shellfish is called heme iron, which your body absorbs more easily than in plants.

In addition to iron, a 3.5-ounce serving of clams offers 26 grams of protein, 24% of your daily value for vitamin C, and a whopping 4,125% for vitamin B12.

Shellfish are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart health.

Although there are concerns about mercury and toxins in certain types of fish and shellfish, the benefits of eating seafood outweigh the risks.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend consuming 2 to 3 servings of seafood a week from their “Best Choices” list, which includes shellfish like clams, oysters, and scallops.

A 3.5-ounce serving of clams gives you about 17% of your daily iron needs. Shellfish is packed with various nutrients and might help boost your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.


2. Spinach

10 Healthy Foods That Are High In Iron

Spinach is a nutritious leafy green with low calories but high in health benefits.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of raw spinach provides about 15% of your daily iron needs, which is around 2.7 milligrams.

Even though this iron is non-heme and not absorbed, spinach is also packed with vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron better.

Spinach contains antioxidants called carotenoids, which can lower your cancer risk, reduce inflammation, and protect your eyes from diseases.

To get the most out of spinach, try eating it with healthy fats like olive oil. This helps your body absorb the carotenoids better.


Spinach gives you about 15% of your daily iron needs per serving and contains various vitamins and minerals. It’s also rich in important antioxidants.


3. Liver and other organ meats

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Organ meats are super nutritious. They include the liver, kidneys, brain, and heart, all packed with iron.

Consider this: a mere 3.5-ounce serving of beef liver can meet a significant portion of your daily iron needs, providing a whopping 36% or about 6.5 milligrams. This demonstrates the efficiency of organ meats in meeting your nutritional requirements.

Organ meats are also protein-rich and contain B vitamins, copper, and selenium.

The liver, in particular, is loaded with vitamin A, providing a whopping 1,049% of your daily value per 3.5-ounce serving.

Organ meats are also one of the best sources of choline, a vital nutrient for brain and liver health that many people don’t get enough of.


Organ meats are rich in iron, with liver providing 36% of your daily value per serving. They also contain essential nutrients like selenium, vitamin A, and choline.


4. Legumes

10 Healthy Foods That Are High In Iron

Legumes are packed with essential nutrients and come in various types like beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans.

They’re especially beneficial for vegetarians as they’re rich in iron. For example, one cup of cooked lentils contains 37% of your daily iron needs.

Black beans, navy beans, and kidney beans are also good sources of iron. A half-cup serving of cooked black beans provides 10% of your daily iron needs.

Legumes are not just about iron; they’re also rich in folate, magnesium, and potassium.

Research suggests that including beans and legumes in your diet can reduce inflammation, lower the risk of heart disease, and aid in weight loss. They’re high in soluble fiber, which helps you feel full, reduces calorie intake, and supports a healthy gut.

To make sure your body absorbs iron from legumes efficiently, pair them with foods rich in vitamin C, like tomatoes, greens, or citrus fruits.


Cooked lentils are a great source of iron, giving you 37% of your daily value in just one cup. Legumes are also rich in folate, magnesium, potassium, and fiber, and they could help with weight loss.


5. Red meat

10 Healthy Foods That Are High In Iron

Red meat is both tasty and nutritious.

A 3.5-ounce serving of ground beef provides 2.7 mg of iron, which is 15% of your daily value.

Red meat is rich in protein, zinc, selenium, and several B vitamins, in addition to iron.

Studies suggest that people who regularly eat meat, poultry, and fish are less likely to have iron deficiency.

Red meat is one of the best sources of heme iron, making it an important food for those at risk of anemia.

Research indicates that women who eat less than 2 ounces of red meat daily are more likely to have low zinc, iron, vitamin B12, potassium, and vitamin D intakes than those who consume 2 to 3 ounces daily.


A serving of ground beef provides 15% of your daily iron needs and is one of the most accessible sources of heme iron. It also offers B vitamins, zinc, selenium, and high-quality protein.


6. Pumpkin seeds

10 Healthy Foods That Are High In Iron

Pumpkin seeds make a tasty and convenient snack.

A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving provides 2.5 mg of iron or 14% of your daily value.

They’re also rich in vitamin K, zinc, and manganese. Plus, pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of magnesium, a nutrient many people lack.

In fact, a one-ounce serving provides 40% of your daily magnesium needs, which can help lower the risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, and depression.



7. Quinoa

10 Healthy Foods That Are High In Iron

Quinoa is a popular grain known as a pseudocereal. One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa provides 2.8 mg of iron, 16% of your daily value.

Quinoa is gluten-free, making it ideal for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

It also has more protein than most other grains and is rich in folate, magnesium, copper, manganese, and many other nutrients.

Additionally, quinoa has higher antioxidant activity than many other grains. Antioxidants help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals from metabolism and stress.


Quinoa provides 16% of your daily iron needs per serving. It’s gluten-free and contains protein, folate, minerals, and antioxidants.


8. Turkey

10 Healthy Foods That Are High In Iron

Turkey meat is nutritious and tasty, particularly dark meat, which is a good source of iron.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of dark turkey meat contains 1.4 mg of iron, or 8% of the daily value, while the same amount of white turkey meat has only 0.7 mg.

Dark turkey meat also provides 28 grams of protein per serving and is rich in B vitamins and minerals, including 32% of your daily zinc needs and 57% of your daily selenium needs.

Eating high-protein foods like turkey can help you lose weight by feeling full and boosting your metabolism. High protein intake also helps prevent muscle loss during weight loss and as you age.


Turkey provides 13% of the daily value for iron and is rich in vitamins and minerals. Its high protein content helps promote fullness, boosts metabolism, and prevents muscle loss.


9. Broccoli

10 Healthy Foods That Are High In Iron

Broccoli is highly nutritious. A 1-cup (156-gram) serving of cooked broccoli provides 1 mg of iron or 6% of the daily value.

This serving also offers 112% of the daily vitamin C value, enhancing iron absorption.

Additionally, it is high in folate, contains 5 grams of fiber, and provides vitamin K. Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage.

Cruciferous vegetables contain indole, sulforaphane, and glucosinolates, which may help protect against cancer.


One serving of broccoli offers 6% of your daily iron needs is rich in vitamins C, K, and folate. It may also help lower the risk of cancer.


10. Tofu

10 Healthy Foods That Are High In Iron

Tofu, a soy-based food popular among vegetarians and in some Asian countries, is packed with nutrients.

A half-cup (126-gram) serving provides 3.4 mg of iron, which is 19% of the daily value.

It’s also rich in thiamine and various minerals like calcium, magnesium, and selenium, and it provides 22 grams of protein per serving.

Tofu contains special compounds called isoflavones, which are associated with better insulin sensitivity, reduced risk of heart disease, and relief from menopausal symptoms.


One serving of tofu provides 19% of your daily iron needs and is packed with protein and minerals. Its isoflavones could help with heart health and ease menopausal symptoms.


Conclusion

In conclusion, incorporating these iron-rich foods into your diet can help maintain healthy iron levels. From leafy greens like spinach to protein-packed options like tofu and turkey, plenty of delicious and nutritious choices are available. Whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat-eater, there’s something for everyone to enjoy while reaping the benefits of iron’s essential role in overall health and well-being.


FAQs

Q1: Why is iron important for health?

Ans: Iron is crucial for many bodily functions, including carrying oxygen in the blood and supporting energy levels.

Q2: What are some symptoms of iron deficiency?

Ans: Symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, and difficulty concentrating.

Q3: Can I get enough iron from plant-based sources?

Ans: Yes, many plant-based foods, such as spinach, lentils, and tofu, are rich in iron and can help meet your dietary needs.

Q4: Are there any foods that can enhance iron absorption?

Ans: Yes, pairing iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods can enhance iron absorption. Examples include citrus fruits, tomatoes, and bell peppers.

Q5: Can too much iron be harmful?

Ans: Yes, excessive iron intake can lead to iron toxicity, which can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and organ damage.

Q6: How can I incorporate iron-rich foods into my diet?

Ans: You can add iron-rich foods to your meals in various ways, such as incorporating spinach into salads, adding lentils to soups, or enjoying tofu stir-fries.

Q7: Are there any foods that can inhibit iron absorption?

Ans: Yes, some foods, such as tea, coffee, and calcium-rich foods, can inhibit iron absorption when consumed simultaneously with iron-rich foods.

Q8: Is it necessary to take iron supplements?

Ans: Iron supplements may be necessary for individuals with diagnosed iron deficiency anemia or those at risk of deficiency who cannot meet their needs through diet alone. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation.

Q9: Are there any foods naturally high in iron and low in calories?

Ans: Yes, some iron-rich foods, such as spinach, broccoli, and tofu, are low in calories but high in nutrients, making them excellent choices for weight-conscious individuals.

Q10: Can I get enough iron from fortified foods?

Ans: Fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals and plant-based milk alternatives, can be a convenient source of iron, especially for individuals with dietary restrictions or limited access to fresh foods.


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