Top 50 Iron Rich Foods

by Peter Erickson on October 17, 2010

in Articles,Featured

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!

Breakfast Cereals:

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!

DescriptionIron Content
(mg / 100g)
Iron Content
(mg / cup)
Ralston Enriched Bran Flakes6827
Kellog's Complete Oat Bran Flakes6325
General Mills Multi-Grain Cheerios6224
Kellog's All-Bran Complete Wheat Flakes6224
Malt-O-Meal, plain, dry5692
Cream of Wheat, instant, dry2951

Meat

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.

DescriptionIron Content
(mg / 100g)
Iron Content
(mg / serving of 3 oz)
Goose liver, raw3126
Pork liver, cooked1815
Chicken liver, cooked1311
Lamb liver, cooked 109
Beef liver, cooked76
Emu, cooked76
Ostrich oyster, cooked54
Quail meat, raw54
Duck breast, raw54
Beef, steak, cooked43
Beef, ground, cooked33

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.

DescriptionIron Content
(mg Iron / 100g)
Iron Content
(household measures)
Clams, canned, drained solids2845 mg iron / cup
Clams,cooked2824 mg iron / serving ( 3 oz )
Fish caviar, black and red122 mg iron / tbsp
Cuttlefish, cooked119 mg iron / serving ( 3 oz )
Octopus, cooked108 mg iron / serving ( 3 oz )
Oyster, medium sized, cooked102 mg iron / oyster
Anchovy, canned in oil51 mg iron / oz
Shrimp,cooked33 mg iron / serving ( 3 oz )
Sardine, canned in oil34 mg iron / cup
Mackerel, cooked28 mg iron / fillet

Vegetables

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. Top iron rich vegetables 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.

DescriptionIron Content
(mg Iron / 100g)
Iron Content
(household measures)
Mushrooms, morel, raw128 mg Iron / cup
Tomatoes, sun-dried95 mg Iron / cup
Potato skins, baked74 mg Iron / skin
Parsley, raw64 mg Iron / cup
Soybeans, boiled59 mg Iron / cup
Spinach, boiled, drained46 mg Iron / cup
Tomato sauce, canned49 mg Iron / cup
Lentils, boiled37 mg Iron / cup
Hearts of palm, canned35 mg Iron / cup
White Beans, canned38 mg Iron / cup
Kidney beans, boiled35 mg Iron / cup
Chickpeas, boiled35 mg Iron / cup
Pinto Beans, frozen, boiled38 mg Iron / package (10 oz)
Lima beans, boiled34 mg Iron / cup
Hummus, commercial26 mg Iron / cup
Swiss Chard, boiled, chopped24 mg Iron / cup
Asparagus, canned24 mg Iron / cup
Chickpeas, canned13 mg Iron / cup
Tomatoes, canned13 mg Iron / cup
Sweet potato, canned, mashed13 mg Iron / cup
Endive, raw14 mg Iron / 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.

DescriptionIron Content
(mg Iron / 100g)
Iron Content
(mg Iron / cup)
Sesame seeds, whole, dried1521
Pumpkin seeds and squash seed kernels, dried911
Sunflower seed kernels, toasted79
Cashew nuts, dry roasted, halves and whole68
Pistachio nuts, dry roasted45
Almonds, whole kernels, blanched45

Fruit

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.

DescriptionIron Content
(mg Iron / 100g)
Iron Content
(mg Iron / cup)
Apricots, dehydrated (low-moisture)68
Peaches, dehydrated (low-moisture)66
Prunes, dehydrated (low-moisture)45
Olives, canned (jumbo)30.3 mg / olive
Currants, dried35
Apricots, dried, sulfured, uncooked34
Blueberries, canned27

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.

DescriptionIron Content
(mg Iron / 100g)
Iron Content
(mg Iron / cup)
Nestle Supligen, canned supplement drink29 mg Iron / can
Snickers Marathon Honey Nut Oat Bar188 mg Iron / bar
Snickers Marathon Double Chocolate Nut Bar188 mg Iron / bar
Snickers Marathon Multigrain Crunch Bar158 mg Iron / bar
Pretzels, soft46 mg Iron / large
Trail mix, regular33 mg Iron / cup

Dairy:

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!

DescriptionIron Content
(mg Iron / 100g)
Iron Content
(household measures)
Goose Egg, whole45 mg iron / egg
Egg yolk, raw37 mg iron / cup
Egg, scrambled13 mg iron / cup

 

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Billye Viner November 22, 2011 at 01:31

Hemochromatosis prohibits iron in my diet. What are the foods with the least amounts of iron?

Reply

Peter Erickson November 23, 2011 at 10:05

Hi, sorry to hear about your condition. If you want to avoid iron, best is to avoid red meat, oily fish and shell fish. MOst certainly don’t eat any organ meat or game. Instead eat chicken breast, trout, salmon and other white fish.

Eat a lot of fruit which is typically low in iron and I would say that in general most vegetables are ok too, just stay away from most green leafy vegetables.

Eat plenty of grains, bread and pasta none of which are very high in iron. Don’t eat eat legumes.

The other strategy would be to avoid vitamin C with your meals which act as an iron absorption enhancer, instead have iron inhibitors with your meal i.e. coffee, tea and plenty of calcium rich products like milk or yoghurt. Have fruit etc. as snacks between your meals which is better anyway.

I trust you will have seen a doctor and discussed treatment, diet etc. but just in case have a look at http://www.hemochromatosis.org

Reply

paul Simpson, Jr. December 6, 2011 at 20:28

I am on a low potassium diet. When checking on foods high in iron, they are on my “not to eat” diet. Is my only alternative iron pills?

Thank you
Paul Simpson, Jr.

Reply

ma.lourdes bonsilao salas June 13, 2012 at 11:28

i want to know how to increase my iron and himoglobin thats my problem please let me know,what im going to do…..thank you!

Reply

melissa hernandez July 9, 2012 at 13:33

I am borderline anemic and am 32 weeks pregnant. My doctor says that if i start eating more red meats and other iron rich foods ill be fine. I have been and i have been feeling tired and weak. Just dont know if my body is absorbing the iron, or if its tirdeness from the pregnency or my thyroid condition.

Reply

Rebecca October 25, 2012 at 21:28

Hi, thanks for the list.
I’m giving blood tomorrow and i want to make sure i have enough iron in my blood. How long does it take iron to absorb into your blood? And is it possible to tell if your currently low in iron without a blood test?

Reply

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