Food With Iron And Protein


If you work out, you might have noticed that it’s hard to find food with iron and protein. The thing is… getting enough iron and protein in your diet is important for regular body functions – let alone training for a competition. What foods contain a lot of iron? Here is a list of foods that are good to include in a diet if you want lots of iron.

Foods High in Protein & Iron


Getting enough protein and iron can help you maintain lean muscle mass, prevent anemia and symptoms of fatigue and support a healthy immune system. Healthy adults should get at least 0.8 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or about 60 grams per day for a 132-pound adult. Men should get 8 milligrams of iron per day, and women should get 18 milligrams of iron per day. You can meet your requirements by including a few high-protein, high-iron foods in your regular diet.

Beef Up Your Diet

Grilled BBQ T-Bone Steak

grilled steak

A 3-ounce serving of grilled beef tenderloin has 26 grams of protein and 2.8 milligrams of iron, and a 3-ounce serving of 95-percent-lean ground beef has 22 grams of protein and 2.4 milligrams of iron. Choose lean cuts of beef and extra-lean ground beef to limit your intake of unhealthy saturated fat. Try strips of grilled steak on a salad with spinach leaves, which provide additional iron, or make a high-protein, iron-rich chili with extra-lean ground beef, beans, tomatoes, chili powder, celery, onions and garlic.

Shellfish Nutrition

Prepared Oysters

baked oysters

The University of Michigan lists shellfish as foods that are high in protein and iron. A 3-ounce serving of mussels has 10 grams of protein and 3.3 milligrams of iron, while a 3-ounce serving of oysters provides 18 grams of protein and 3.3 milligrams of iron. Bake shucked oysters topped with garlic, mustard, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese, or make a seafood paella with mussels, lobster, shrimp, clam juice, olive oil, rice, saffron, garlic, onions and tomatoes.

Beans, Peas and Lentils

Falafels with couscous

falafel plate with couscous

Legumes include lentils, split peas, chickpeas or garbanzo beans and kidney, pinto, black and white beans. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins in foods and in your body. The protein in beans is incomplete, meaning they do not supply all of the amino acids that you need to get from the diet. But you can get a complete protein to meet your amino acid requirements by eating beans with grains or a source of animal protein. Meals with complete protein include whole-wheat pita with hummus and grilled red peppers; black beans with eggs, onions and tomatoes; and falafel served with whole-grain couscous and a tomato salad. You do not need need to eat each amino acid at each meal; you can meet your amino acid requirements by eating a variety of protein sources throughout the day.

Other Considerations

Attractive woman eating vegetables

woman slicing red peppers

Meat and other animal products provide iron in its heme form, which is easier for your body to absorb. Plant-based foods, such as legumes and vegetables, provide nonheme iron, which is more difficult for your body to absorb than heme iron. You can increase absorption of nonheme iron by eating your beans with vitamin C-rich food, such as bell peppers, tomatoes and onion. You can further increase nonheme iron absorption by eating your beans with meat, fish or poultry, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.

5 Vegetarian Foods Rich in Protein and Iron

But where do you get your protein? How do you get iron?” Any vegetarian knows these questions all too well. It’s typically the first thing someone says to you when you tell him/her that you’re a vegetarian.

Many people have a false belief that meat and animal products are the only food sources rich in protein and iron. This is simply not the case. Luckily, a vegetarian diet, just as most other diets, can be chock-full of all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and proteins that your body needs without having to resort to taking supplements if you eat smartly and wisely.

The only catch as a vegetarian is that most plant-based sources of protein are not, in and of themselves, complete proteins as most meat products are. Therefore, vegetarians need to be smart in the food combinations they eat in order to fully absorb all of the benefits of the proteins they consume.

The following are just a select few of the many vegetarian foods rich in protein and iron:

1. Beans & Legumes

Beans and legumes are any vegetarian’s best friend. Rich in both protein and iron, these superfoods are essential ingredients in vegetarian cooking.

Foods such as soybeans (and soy products such as tofu, tempeh, etc.), chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, peanuts and lima beans all fall into the beans and legumes category.

Soy proteins are complete, but be sure to pair all other beans and legumes with whole grains to provide the full complement of complete amino acids for the body to absorb (think things like rice and beans, whole grain chips with hummus, peanut butter on whole grain bread, etc.).

2. Nuts & Seeds

Another must-have in a vegetarian kitchen, nuts and seeds are the perfect addition to any meal for a little extra sprinkle of protein and iron.

Foods such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, pistachios, almonds and cashews fall into the nuts and seeds category.

Again, be sure to pair nuts and seeds with whole grains to create complete proteins when you eat them (think things like sesame seeds over brown rice, almonds in tabbouleh salad, etc.).

3. Whole Grains

As noted, beans and legumes as well as nuts and seeds most often need to be paired with whole grains to produce complete proteins in a vegetarian diet. But, whole grains, in and of themselves, are also excellent sources of both protein and iron.

Foods like whole grain bread, whole grain brown rice, quinoa and bulgur wheat are all categorized as whole grains.

Quinoa, on its own, is actually a stand-alone, complete protein (thus why it’s considered a superfood!). Most other sources of whole grains should ideally be paired with nuts and seeds and/or beans and legumes to create complete amino acids.

4. Fruits & Vegetables

While not a rich source of protein, fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of needed iron.

Dark green vegetables are high sources of iron, and iron absorption can be aided by consuming iron sources with foods containing Vitamin C (such as lemon juice over kale, etc.). Dried fruits are also another excellent way to supply iron to your body.

5. Dairy & Eggs

Although not an option for a strict vegan diet, vegetarians who consume dairy and eggs can find these to be excellent sources of protein to add to their diets.

Eggs, milk, yogurt and cheese are all rich sources of stand-alone, complete proteins.

Whether you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian or you already are one, using the aforementioned plant-based sources of protein and iron are more-than-sufficient ways to absorb these necessary portions of your diet.

So, the next time someone tries to convince you that being vegetarian is unhealthy because you’re “missing essential elements in your diet,” you’ll have a whole arsenal of facts to counter that argument…because, yes, it is completely possible to consume all of your needed protein and iron purely from plant-based sources. 🙂

Iron-Packed Foods That You Should Def Be Eating On The Reg


Just think: Iron Man. Iron clad. Iron fist. It’s no coincidence the mineral conjures images of strength and energy—because that’s what it does for your body when you eat it.

“Iron is essential for our bodies to function because it helps blood cells carry oxygen to where it’s needed,” says Margie Saidel, R.D. at Chartwells K12. That’s especially important if you’re working out on the reg, since your muscles need a regular supply of oxygen, especially if they’re under a lot of strain (ahem, that killer HIIT class).

“Since our bodies don’t make iron, we need to consume it as part of our diet every day,” says Saidel. The average woman between 19 to 50 years old needs about 18 milligrams of iron per day, she says—ideally from foods.


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While people traditionally associate iron with red meat, the nutrient also crops up in plant-based foods, too. But the iron in plants is a tad different—it’s called non-heme iron, says Kelly Schmidt, R.D., and it “isn’t as well absorbed, so you will need far more of it.” According to the National Institues of Health, vegetarians require about 32 milligrams of iron per day to meet their needs.

Looking for other sources of iron in your diet? Try any one of these delicious options:



Iron: 7 mg per serving

Lentils are so versatile—the high-protein pulses are delicious as a side-dish ingredient or part of a heartier, meat-free meal. They’re also packed with fiber and vitamin A.

Per 1 cup serving (cooked): 230 calories, 0.8 g fat (0 g sat fat), 4 mg sodium, 40 g carbohydrates, 4 g of sugar, 16 g fiber, 18 g protein.


spinach leaves

Iron: 6 mg per serving

Popeye had the right idea—spinach has tons of vitamin A, calcium, and potassium to help strengthen your muscles.

Per 1-cup serving (cooked): 42 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 6 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 126 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 6 g protein.

White rice


Iron: 4 mg per serving

Another reason to love sushi: its outside layer is loaded with iron.

Per 1/2 serving (uncooked): 338 calories, 0.6 g fat (0 g saturated), 74 g carbs, 0.1 g sugar, 5 mg sodium, 1.2 g fiber, 6 g protein.



Iron: 2 mg per serving

Not only is beef packed with iron, its high levels of protein can help you shed pounds.

Per 4-ounce serving (uncooked): 182 calories, 8 g fat (3 g saturated), 0 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 63 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 25 g protein.

Kidney Beans

Kidney Beans

Iron: 4 mg per serving

What kidney beans lack in size, they make up for in nutrients—they’re a great source of fiber, vitamin C, and protein.

Per can (drained): 330 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated), 57 g carbs, 10 g sugar, 614 mg sodium, 15 g fiber, 21 g protein.



Iron: 4.4 mg of iron

Ah, oysters—dubbed the aphrodisiacs of the sea, legend has it they rev up your libido. Plus, as we approach sniffle season, their high levels of zinc are crucial in boosting immunity.

Per 3-ounce serving: 69 cal, 2 g fat (0.5g sat), 4 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 90 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 8 g protein



Iron: 3 mg per serving

Chickpeas are also good source of fiber, which can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. As a complex carb, they help keep you full and keep your blood sugar stable too.

Per 1-cup serving: 270 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated), 45 g carbs, 8 g sugar, 11 mg sodium, 13 g fiber, 15 g protein.



Iron: 2 mg per potato

French fries aren’t the only way to eat potatoes. Steam or bake the veggie for great taste without the extra fat or oil.

Per medium potato (raw): 168 cal, 0.2 g fat (0 g sat), 38 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 11 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 5 g protein.


tofu cubed

Iron: 3 mg per serving

The protein in soybeans, a.k.a. tofu, is easier to absorb than those of other legumes, meaning more protein bang for your buck to go with that iron.

Per ½-cup serving: 181 cal, 11 g fat (1.6g sat), 4 g carbs, 7 g sugar, 4 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 22 g protein.


canned sardines 

Iron: 2.2 mg per serving

Sardines have a pretty impressive amount of iron in them—and like other fish, they’re also packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. So…maybe you should actually try it on a pizza one of these days. (Or just really embrace Caesar salad.)

Per 1/2-cup serving: 155 cal, 9 g fat (6g sat), 0 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 229 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 18 g protein.



Iron: 6 mg per serving

The moules et frites at that cute French bistro down the street are calling your name. Mussels contain over three times your recommended daily value of B12, a mineral proven to reduce symptoms of depression (when paired with appropriate pharmacological treatments) and help prevent neural tube defects. Compared to other seafood, they’re super affordable, too.

Per 3-ounce serving: 146 cal, 4 g fat (1g sat), 6 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 314 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 20 g protein

Fortified oats

rolled oats

Iron: 14 mg per serving

Oats are an especially stellar option for gluten-free folks looking for a high-fiber source of carbohydrates and iron.

Per 1-cup cooked serving: 159 cal, 3 g fat (6g sat), 27 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 115 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 6 g protein.

White beans

White beans

Iron: 5 mg per serving

The unsung heroes of the legume family make a mean chickpea hummus alternative when mashed with a little olive oil, salt, and garlic (and a little paprika if you’re feeling fancy).

Per 1-cup serving: 254 cal, 1 g fat (0 g sat), 46 g carbs, 4 g sugar, 13 mg sodium, 19 g fiber, 16 g protein.

Chia seeds

chia seeds

Iron: 2 mg per serving

Chia has long been a hot commodity in the healthy living world, thanks to its high content of omega-3s. Now you can add another reason to love the ancient seed—it’s a good source of iron.

Per 1-ounce serving: 138 cal, 8 g fat (1 g sat), 12 g carbs, 5 mg sodium, 10 g fiber, 5 g protein.

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