Food With High Iron For Anemia


Food With High Iron For Anemia. Anemia is a condition in which the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen. Red blood cells are essential to physical activities and health conditions. Anemia can affect people of all ages, even infants. Diet and nutrition play an important role in fighting against iron-deficiency anemia.

Top 15 Iron-Rich Foods, Recommended Intake and Key Benefits

Iron-rich foods - Dr. Axe

Are you getting enough iron-rich foods in your diet right now? Iron is a trace mineral found in every living cell in our bodies. It’s a primary component of two proteins: hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues while myoglobin is the part of the muscle cells that hold oxygen.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, iron deficiency is the most common known form of nutritional deficiency. The best way to make sure you’re not lacking in this key nutrient is to eat adequate amounts of iron-rich foods each and every day.

Recommended Intake

The amount of iron you need varies based on your age. According to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), the recommended daily amounts of iron are as follows:

  • Infants under 12 months: 11 mg
  • Children ages 1–4 years: 7 mg
  • Adults and children over 4 years: 18 mg
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women: 27 mg

Iron-Rich Foods

What foods are high in iron? Here are the top healthy iron-rich foods, including meat, fish, beans, nuts, vegetables and even some fruit.

1. Spirulina

1 ounce: 8 milligrams (44 percent DV)

Spirulina is a blue-green algae renowned for its intense flavor and even more powerful nutrition profile. Just one ounce provides nearly half of typical iron requirements.

When it comes to vegetarian, non-heme sources of iron, spirulina is a superstar without a doubt. It’s also rich in essential amino acids, iron, protein, B vitamins and vitamins C, D and E.

2. Liver

3 ounces of organic beef liver: 4.05 milligrams (22.5 percent DV)

When it comes to foods with iron, specifically heme iron (the more easily absorbable form), liver definitely tops the list.

If you struggle with any type of anemia — a clear sign of an iron deficiency — this is probably the best food to consume because it contains iron as well as folate and vitamin B12. These are the three vitamins and minerals you need in order to overcome anemia naturally.

3. Grass-Fed Beef

One lean, grass-fed strip steak: 4 milligrams (22 percent DV)

Grass-fed beef is another awesome red meat source of heme iron as well as many other key nutrients and it’s a favorite for many when it comes to iron-rich foods. In addition to iron, grass-fed beef is also higher in precursors for vitamin A and E, along with cancer-fighting antioxidants, compared to grain-fed beef.

4. Lentils

½ cup: 3.3 milligrams (20.4 percent DV)

Lentils are legumes that have a really impressive amount of non-heme iron per serving. Aside from their high supply of nutrients, they’re also really cheap and incredibly versatile.

5. Dark Chocolate

1 ounce: 3.3 milligrams (19 percent DV)

When you buy high-quality dark chocolate, you not only satisfy your sweet tooth — you also give your body a significant dose of iron. All you need is one ounce to fulfill almost 20 percent of your daily iron requirements. Now that’s one healthy dessert option!

6. Spinach

½ cup cooked: 3.2 milligrams (17.8 percent DV)

There is good reason why Popeye got stronger when he ate spinach. This leafy green is loaded with iron as well as many other essential nutrients. As one of the top vegetable sources of iron, spinach is delicious raw or cooked. When you cook it, you tend to end up eating more since it cooks down so much, which means even more iron per spoonful.

7. Sardines

1/4 cup: 1.8 milligrams (10 percent DV)

When it comes to sardines nutrition, these little fish are probably best known for their high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, but they’re also a significant source of heme iron. It’s easy to find canned sardines for a very affordable price in most grocery stores. Try adding them to sauces, salads and pasta dishes.

8. Black beans

½ cup: 1.8 milligrams (10 percent DV)

Black beans are high in iron as well as protein and fiber. Black beans provide “time-released” energy in the form of starches, making them an excellent carbohydrate source for anyone who has prediabetes, diabetes or insulin resistance.

9. Pistachios

1 ounce: 1.1 milligrams (6.1 percent DV)

Nutrient-dense pistachios reign supreme when it comes to those looking for healthy snack ideas for weight loss and weight control. Just one ounce, or 49 pistachio kernels (a typical serving size), provides iron as well as high levels of vitamin B6 (25 percent DV), thiamine (20 percent DV) and copper (20 percent DV). Pistachios are also one of the best nut sources of iron.

10. Raisins

1/4 cup: 1.1 milligrams (6.1 percent DV)

One of the highlights of raisins nutrition is their significantly high content of iron per serving, especially for a fruit. Other great fruit sources of iron include prunes and figs.

11. Pumpkin Seeds

1 ounce: 0.9 milligrams (5 percent DV)

Versatile, delicious, and chock-full of nutrition, pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of iron available. Plus, adding these flavorful seeds to your diet can also bump up your intake of several other important nutrients, including fiber, magnesium and zinc.

Simply roast them and season with your choice of herbs for a delicious snack, or add them to salads, sauces and baked goods.

12. Eggs

1 large: 0.9 milligrams (5 percent DV)

Eggs are one of the top sources of heme iron, packing a whopping 5 percent of the daily value into a single egg. In addition to being one of the best iron-rich foods for kids and adults alike, eggs are also loaded with protein, selenium, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and phosphorus.

13. Chickpeas

1/2 cup: 2.4 milligrams (13 percent DV)

Not only have chickpeas secured a slot on the healthiest legumes and vegetables list, but they are also one of the best high-iron foods that you can add to your diet. These power-packed legumes boast a wide range of other nutrients as well, offering a good amount of manganese, folate and copper in each serving.

Chickpeas make a great addition to curries, salads, pasta dishes and sandwiches and can help bring just about any recipe to the next level in terms of nutrition.

14. Kale

1 cup raw: 1.1 milligrams (6 percent DV)

Often hailed as a true superfood, it should come as no surprise that kale is also a stellar source of iron. And besides being among the top foods rich in iron, kale is also high in fiber, vitamin K and vitamin A.

Plus, it’s brimming with vitamin C, which can help boost the absorption of iron even more to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

15. Chicken

3 ounces cooked: 0.9 milligrams (5 percent DV)

Like other types of meat and poultry, chicken is undoubtedly one of the best foods high in iron. It’s also one of the easiest to incorporate into your meals and makes a great addition to soups, stews, salads, sandwiches and more.

Additionally, chicken is considered one of the best iron-rich foods for babies transitioning from breast milk to food. However, be sure to mince or shred thoroughly and mix with mashed veggies or liquid to make sure that it’s soft enough for your baby.


1. Prevents Anemia

Anemia is caused by decreased production of red blood cells and hemoglobin, leading to a depletion of oxygen-rich blood. Anemia usually results in low energy levels but can also affect many parts of the body − from poor brain function to impaired immunity and beyond.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately half of the 1.62 billion cases of anemia worldwide are due to iron deficiency, while the other half are due to genetic factors.

According to the Department of Human Health at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, iron-deficiency anemia develops when:

… individuals have inadequate iron intake, impaired absorption or transport, physiologic losses associated with chronological or reproductive age, or chronic blood loss secondary to disease. In adults, IDA can result in a wide variety of adverse outcomes including diminished work or exercise capacity, impaired thermoregulation, immune dysfunction, GI disturbances, and neurocognitive impairment.

2. Supports Energy Levels

Iron supports ongoing energy by helping oxygen-rich blood reach the cells. Iron also helps with the metabolic enzyme processes that the body carries out to digest proteins and absorb nutrients from food. This is why an iron deficiency causes exhaustion, fatigue and many other symptoms of feeling sluggish.

Iron deficiency commonly shows up in symptoms like low concentration, mood changes and trouble with muscle coordination. Iron is needed for muscle movement because it helps store the oxygen in muscles that allows them to move and strengthen.

3. Helps Maintain Cognitive Function

Iron is a top brain food, as it’s needed to carry oxygen to the brain; in fact, about 20 percent of all of the oxygen in the body is used by the brain.

Therefore, an iron deficiency can impair memory or other mental functions. In infants and children, a deficiency can cause psychomotor and cognitive abnormalities that have the potential to lead to learning difficulties as well.

4. Supports Development and Growth

Iron deficiency can delay normal motor function — meaning the ability to connect thoughts with activities and movement — as well as mental functions like learning and processing new information.

5. Needed for a Healthy Pregnancy

Iron deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk for a premature birth and also for a low birth weight. Sadly, premature born babies are known to have more health-related problems during their first years of life and may experience delayed growth and cognitive development.

10 Healthy Foods That Are Great Sources of Iron

egg yolk, avocado toast, spinach

By opting for whole, nutritious foods in their diet, vegetarians can get enough iron.


If you’ve been told you’re not getting enough iron, you’re not alone. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency globally — especially among children and pregnant women — and the only nutrient deficiency that is widely prevalent in developed countries, according to the World Health Organization. That’s a problem because the mineral plays a number of critical roles in the body, says Sarah Gold Anzlovar, RDN, the Boston-based owner of Sarah Gold Nutrition. “Most well known is that it’s a key component of red blood cells and helps transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of the body,” says Anzlovar.

Iron deficiency, a condition called anemia, makes it difficult for your red blood cells to deliver oxygen, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of anemia may include fatigue, chest pain or shortness of breath, cold hands and feet, dizziness and headache, poor appetite, and unusual cravings for substances like ice, dirt, or starch.

How Much Iron Do You Need Per Day?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), here’s how much iron different groups of people need per day:

Nonpregnant Women ages 19 to 50 18 milligrams (mg)

Pregnant Women 27 mg

Women Age 51 and Older 8 mg

Men Age 19 and Older 8 mg

Infants and Children 7 to 16 mg, depending on age

Avoid Consuming Too Much Iron

The NIH cautions against taking in more than 45 mg of iron per day if you are a teenager or adult and more than 40 mg per day among those age 13 and younger.

Heme vs. Non-Heme Iron: What’s the Difference?

“There are two types of iron: heme iron from animal sources and non-heme iron from plant sources,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, author of Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family and a nutrition counselor in private practice in New York City. The NIH also notes that meat, poultry, and seafood contain both heme and non-heme iron.

Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body than plant-based non-heme iron according to the Cleveland Clinic, so it can be beneficial to get both types of the nutrient in your diet, Largeman-Roth adds. You’ll need to aim for nearly twice as much iron per day (about 1.8 times as much, per the NIH) if you don’t eat meat.

Common Foods Can Help You Get Enough Iron

The good news is that a lot of common foods contain iron — from oysters and pumpkin seeds to fortified cereals and red meat.

Here are 10 foods high in iron that can help you get all of the mineral you need.


Eggs, Red Meat, Liver, and Giblets Are Top Sources of Heme Iron

eggs in cartons

Kirsty Begg/Stocksy

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in addition to some non-heme iron, lots of animal proteins have heme iron, including ground beef (4 ounces of 93 percent lean ground meat provides 2.63 mg, meaning it’s a good source), eggs (1.68 mg in two large eggs), turkey (1.23 mg per 3 ounces of dark-meat turkey), and pork loin (just over 0.5 mg per 3 ounces).

Organ meats like liver and giblets are especially rich in iron. For example, 113 grams of chicken giblets has 6.1 mg of iron, making it an excellent source. Meanwhile, liver serves up an impressive amount of iron. One ounce of pork liver comes packed with 6.61 mg of iron, another excellent source. If your cholesterol is high, or if you are pregnant, avoid liver. MedlinePlus notes that liver is high in cholesterol (1 ounce contains 85.3 mg of cholesterol), and research links eating liver to possible birth defects.


Oysters, Mussels, and Clams Are Rich Sources of Iron


Claudia Casal/Getty Images

Go ahead and splurge on the seafood appetizer — it comes with a generous side of iron! Bivalve mollusks like clams, mussels, and oysters are loaded with the important nutrient, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Per the USDA, five raw oysters deliver 3.23 mg of iron, making it a good source. They are also an excellent source of zinc, with 27.5 mg, as well as vitamin B12, with 6.1 micrograms.

As the NIH points out, zinc helps the immune system fend off viruses and bacteria, and vitamin B12 helps keep nerve and blood cells healthy.

If oysters, mussels, and clams aren’t on your regular menu, common seafood choices have some iron as well, according to the Mayo Clinic. For example, 3 ounces of chinook salmon has 0.2 mg of iron, per the USDA.


Chickpeas Are a Vegetarian-Friendly Iron Powerhouse

chickpea hummus


Animal products are known for being sources of iron, but that doesn’t mean plant-based staples can’t help you meet your goal, too. Chickpeas, a type of legume, provide 3.7 mg of iron per cup, per the USDA, making them an excellent source. They also deliver lean, plant-based protein — 14.6 g per cup, to be exact.

Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are a tasty addition to salads and pasta dishes, and they can be an unexpected way to mix up salsa. If you’re not a fan of the texture, puree chickpeas to create homemade iron-rich hummus. Adding lemon juice to your hummus will increase the vitamin C in the snack and help your body more easily absorb the non-heme iron in the legumes, because according to the Mayo Clinic, when you eat an iron-rich food at the same time as a vitamin C–rich food, you enhance your body’s ability to absorb the iron.


Fortified Breakfast Cereals Can Be Packed With Iron

raisin bran cereal


Is a bowl of cereal your breakfast of choice? Opt for a fortified version to start off your day with a dose of iron — Mayo Clinic recommends it as a way to up your iron total. Check the nutrition label for the amount of iron per serving. (And be sure to opt for the box with the least amount of added sugar.)

Per the USDA, raisin bran has 9.39 mg of iron per cup, and that makes it an excellent source. It is also an excellent source of fiber, a common characteristic of fortified cereals. The Mayo Clinic notes that dietary fiber can help relieve constipation and lower your odds of developing diabetes and heart disease.


Pumpkin Seeds May Be Small, But They Have Lots of Iron

pumpkin seeds

Harald Walker/Stocksy

Don’t underestimate these crunchy seeds that you start seeing around Halloween. A 1-ounce serving of raw pumpkin seeds without shells has 2.7 mg of iron, per the USDA, providing a good iron source in a variety of dishes. Add the seeds to homemade trail mix or bread or muffin recipes, or use them as a crunchy topping for yogurt, cereal, or salad. You may also try them alone for a quick and healthy snack — 1 ounce packs 7 grams of protein. Win-win!


Edamame Is Filled With Iron and Other Essential Nutrients, Too



A common sushi sidekick, a cup of these raw green soybeans contains about 9 mg of iron, per the USDA, making them an excellent source of the nutrient. Not to mention, they’re a good source of minerals such as copper, which helps keep blood vessels and the immune system healthy, according to the NIH. A cup of soybeans is also a good source of copper and an excellent source of manganese and fiber, as well as provides plant-based protein.

Largeman-Roth recommends including soybeans in stir-fries or making an edamame dip. Soy beans make a tasty addition to pasta dishes, too, or you can simply enjoy them on their own, steamed and sprinkled with a little sea salt.


Prepare Black Beans With Vitamin C–Rich Veggies for an Iron Win

black beans

Gina Gorny/iStock

Boiled black beans serve up 3.61 mg of iron per cup, per the USDA, for an excellent source. To rev iron absorption, pair them with healthy fare such as kale, bell peppers, broccoli, or cauliflower. As MedlinePlus notes, those foods are high in vitamin C, which is a nutrient that aids the absorption of non-heme iron. Add beans to a salad, puree them into a dip to eat with raw veggies, or toss them into a stir-fry. The recipe possibilities for a can of black beans are endless! And if you’re looking for more variety, kidney, pinto, and fava beans all have iron, too, according to the USDA.


Lentils Are Another Legume With Lots of Iron


Silvia Elena Castañeda Puchetta/Getty Images

Another legume worth an honorable mention in the iron department is lentils. Cooked lentils offer an excellent source of the mineral with about 6.59 mg per cup, per the USDA. And they offer 15.6 g of fiber per cup, too, making them a rich source. Fiber may help lower cholesterol and stabilize your blood sugar, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Lentils are also an extremely versatile ingredient in the kitchen — they’re a great addition to everything from soups and salads to burgers and chili.


Spinach, Eaten Either Cooked or Raw, Offers Iron


Cameron Whitman/Stocksy

No matter how you prepare it, spinach is an excellent source of iron. Per the USDA, 1 cup of this healthy green (frozen and then boiled) delivers 3.72 mg of iron, as well as some protein, fiber, calcium, and vitamins A and E.

Calcium is necessary to keep your bones strong, according to the Mayo Clinic; vitamin A is beneficial for your vision and immunity, the Mayo Clinic notes; and vitamin E helps your vision, as well as your blood, brain and skin, per the Mayo Clinic.

The same serving size of raw spinach, which is more loosely packed than when prepared cooked, gives you almost 1 mg of iron, offering some of the mineral, according to the USDA.

While the leafy green often gets a bad rap in the taste department, especially among kids, it’s an easy ingredient to sneak into recipes undetected for a secret iron-boost (and as a non-heme iron source, it’s especially beneficial when paired with foods high in vitamin C, like some veggies, suggests Anzlovar, and as research shows). “I love using sautéed spinach in vegetable lasagna,” says Largeman-Roth. “It also works well in mini frittatas, which my kids love.” If eating spinach in a dish doesn’t sound appealing, try this green mixed into a naturally sweet fruit smoothie.


Sesame Seeds Taste Nutty — and Have a Kick of Iron

sesame seeds

Martin Hospach/Getty Images

“Sesame seeds have a wonderful nutty taste and are a rich source of iron,” says Largeman-Roth. The seeds contain some iron — 1.31 mg per tablespoon, per the USDA — and offer a slew of other essential nutrients, like copper. Not to mention, they contain phosphorus, vitamin E, and zinc.

An easy way to incorporate the seeds into your diet is to sprinkle them on a salad: Each tablespoon will add over a milligram of iron to your daily count — and when you’re aiming for 18 mg a day, every bit counts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

TheSuperHealthyFood © Copyright 2022. All rights reserved.