How Much Iron Is Needed Every Day

You may be wondering, “how much iron is needed every day?” In this article, you’ll find out what the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of this essential nutrient is. Keep reading to learn more about the best sources of iron and how to get enough.
How much iron do you need every day? Well, the recommended daily allowance of iron is 18mg for men and 8mg for women. This may not sound like a lot but it’s actually a lot more than most of us get each day. There are plenty of sources to get this mineral. Use this article to help you get enough iron in your diet and keep yourself healthy.

How Much Iron Is Needed Every Day

Iron is important in making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body.A lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.

Iron is a key nutrient that ensures proper growth and functioning of the body and promotes the production of proteins that transport oxygen and regulate cell development.

It is necessary to consume adequate amounts of iron in your diet to preserve the bodily functions. If you fail to do so, you may develop an iron deficiency, which can result in a condition called anemia. Hence, consider adding the following food sources in your daily diet to keep your iron levels in check.

  • Red meat
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and cabbage
  • Cereals
  • Pulses, such as lentils, beans, and peas

Here are 6 reasons you should include iron in your diet;

1.   Improved energy levels

Iron is responsible for carrying oxygen to your muscles and brain. If you do not consume enough iron in your diet, the energy-using efficiency of your body will be affected. Iron helps improve focus and concentration level, reduces irritability, and enhances stamina.

2.   Enhanced athletic performance

Proper iron intake is particularly important for individuals who lead an active lifestyle, as it boosts athletic performance.

Since iron produces red blood cells that contain hemoglobin, which transfers oxygen to the tissues, its deficiency may lead to poor performance during physical strain.

3.   Healthy pregnancy

During pregnancy, your blood volume and red blood cells production increase to make sure that the fetus gets all the necessary nutrients. Thus, the need for iron also increases.

Adequate iron intake lowers the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, low iron stores, and cognitive and behavioral deficits in infants. A pregnant woman who consumes iron in her daily diet is less likely to be attacked by a virus and suffer from infections.

4.   Boosts the immune system

Iron plays a major role in strengthening your immune system. It is capable of preventing and treating various health conditions. The red blood cells that it produces are essential for repairing tissue and cell damage and thus, preventing any further issues. Hemoglobin in the red blood cells also boosts your immune system and ensures that it works at optimal levels.

5.   Improves cognitive function

Your brain demands iron for functioning properly, as it requires oxygenated blood for improved cognitive functions. Iron promotes the blood flow in the brain, helps it create new neural pathways to prevent cognitive complications, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Hence, a diet rich in iron is beneficial for quick cognitive functions and overall health of the brain.

6.   Promotes peaceful sleep

Do you often find yourself unable to fall asleep at night despite being tired to your core after a long day at work? Well, you might be iron deficient. Before the condition gets out of your hands and becomes harmful for your wellbeing, start incorporating iron-rich foods into your regular diet to not only fall asleep easily but also enjoy a deep restorative sleep every night.

The importance of iron in your diet cannot be overlooked – a healthy diet is not healthy if it does not contain iron in the right proportions. So, to keep your body functioning at its optimal level, you need to make sure you are eating enough iron-packed foods daily.

Good sources of iron

Good sources of iron include:

  • liver (but avoid this during pregnancy)
  • red meat
  • beans, such as red kidney beans, edamame beans and chickpeas
  • nuts
  • dried fruit – such as dried apricots
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • soy bean flour

What happens if I take too much iron?

Side effects of taking high doses (over 20mg) of iron include:

  • constipation
  • feeling sick
  • being sick
  • stomach pain

Very high doses of iron can be fatal, particularly if taken by children, so always keep iron supplements out of the reach of children.

Constipation and bowel retraining
Fecal incontinence in children is when a toilet-trained child has bowel movements in the wrong place. Constipation is the most common cause. The above diagram shows how constipation can make bowel movements build up and how treatment works.

List of High Iron Foods

A bowl of bran flakes

#1: Fortified Cereals

per 3/4 Cup
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(109% DV)
(376% DV)
(193% DV)

A steak on a plate

#2: Beef (Skirt Steak)

per 6oz Steak
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(52% DV)
(30% DV)
(23% DV)

More Red Meat High in Iron

  • 28% DV in a 3oz slice of beef liver
  • 16% DV in a 3oz buffalo steak
  • 14% DV in a 3oz beef chuck roast
  • 14% DV in a 3oz lean ground beef patty (burger)
  • 13% DV in a 3oz lamb shoulder roast
  • 11% DV per 3oz of beef short ribs

See all meats high in iron.

Oysters on a plate

#3: Shellfish (Oysters)

per 3oz Serving
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(43% DV)
(51% DV)
(63% DV)

More Seafood High in Iron (%DV per 3oz)

  • 51% DV per 3oz of cuttlefish
  • 48% DV per 3oz of whelk
  • 45% DV per 3oz of octopus
  • 32% DV per 3oz of mussels
  • 18% DV per 3oz of abalone
  • 14% DV per 3oz of scallops

See all fish high in iron.

Dried Apricots

#4: Dried Fruit (Apricots)

per Cup
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(42% DV)
(35% DV)
(22% DV)

More Dried Fruit High in Iron

  • 36% DV per cup of dried peaches
  • 26% DV per cup of dried prunes
  • 17% DV per cup of dried figs
  • 17% DV per cup of dried raisins
  • 7% DV per cup of dried apples

Note: Dried fruit is high in natural sugars and calories, so portion sizes should be limited to about one handful per day.

See the list of high iron fruits and vegetables.

White Beans

#5: Large White Beans

per Cup
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(37% DV)
(21% DV)
(30% DV)

More Beans High in Iron

  • 49% DV per up of soybeans
  • 37% DV per cup of lentils
  • 29% DV per cup of kidney beans
  • 26% DV per cup of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • 25% DV per cup of lima beans
  • 24% DV per cup of navy beans
  • 20% DV per cup of black beans
  • 20% DV per cup of pinto beans
  • 20% DV per cup of black-eyed peas

See more high iron vegetarian and vegan foods.

A Bowl of Spinach

#6: Spinach

per Cup Cooked
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(36% DV)
(20% DV)
(172% DV)

More Green Leafy Vegetables High in Iron

  • 22% DV per cup of cooked Swiss chard
  • 16% DV per cup of cooked turnip greens
  • 15% DV per cup of cooked beet greens
  • 14% DV per cup of cooked Scotch (curly) kale
  • 14% DV per cup of raw mustard spinach
  • 6% DV per cup of raw kale
  • 5% DV per cup of raw beet greens

See more fruits and vegetables high in iron.

Thick dark chocolate squares melting

#7: Baking Chocolate (Unsweetened)

per 1oz Square
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(28% DV)
(97% DV)
(30% DV)

More Chocolate High in Iron

  • 66% DV in 1 cup of cocoa powder
  • 19% DV in 1oz of dark chocolate (70%-85% cocoa)
  • 13% DV in 1oz of semi-dark chocolate (45%-59% cocoa)
  • 6% DV per 1.5oz candy bar
  • 6% DV per 1/2 cup of chocolate mousse

A bowl of quinoa

#8: Quinoa

per Cup
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(15% DV)
(8% DV)
(14% DV)

More Wholegrains High in Iron

  • 12% DV per cup of oatmeal
  • 12% DV per cup of barley
  • 11% DV per cup of rice
  • 10% DV per cup of bulgur
  • 7% DV per cup of buckwheat
  • 6% DV per cup of millet

Bran from whole grains can harm absorption of iron supplements, while whole grains are a good source of iron, they should not be consumed with iron supplements. (6)


#9: White Button Mushrooms

per Cup Cooked
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(15% DV)
(10% DV)
(69% DV)

More Mushrooms High in Iron

  • 45% DV per cup of sliced morels
  • 14% DV per cup of straw mushrooms
  • 10% DV per cup of chanterelles
  • 6% DV per cup of slices oyster mushrooms
  • 4% DV per cup of sliced shiitake mushrooms

Squash and Pumpkin Seeds

#10: Squash and Pumpkin Seeds

per 1oz Handful
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(14% DV)
(49% DV)
(18% DV)
  • 23% DV per oz of sesame seeds
  • 13% DV per oz of hemp seeds
  • 12% DV per oz of chia seeds
  • 9% DV per oz of dry-roasted cashews
  • 9% DV per oz of flax seeds
  • 8% DV per oz of sunflower seeds
  • 6% DV per oz of almonds

See all nuts and seeds high in iron.

See All 200 Foods High in Iron

Printable One Page Sheet

Printable one-page list of iron rich foods including: fortified cereals, beef, shellfish, dried fruit, beans, lentils, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, quinoa, mushrooms, and squash seeds.

Iron Rich Foods by Nutrient Density (Most Iron per 100 grams)

Food Serving Iron
#1 Dried Herbs (Thyme, Parsley, Spearmint, Black Pepper, Marjoram)

100 grams 687% DV
#2 Fortified Cereals

100 grams 376% DV
#3 Spirulina (Dried Seaweed)

100 grams 158% DV
#4 Bran

100 grams 103% DV
#5 Cocoa Powder

100 grams 86% DV
#6 Liver (Chicken Liver)

100 grams 72% DV
#7 Caviar (Fish Roe)

100 grams 66% DV
#8 Shellfish (Oysters)

100 grams 51% DV
#9 Wheat Germ

100 grams 35% DV
#10 Cashews (Dry Roasted)

100 grams 33% DV

Non-Heme (Plant Based) Iron Foods

Food Serving Iron
#1 Vital Wheat Gluten

100 grams 29% DV
#2 Artichokes

1 cup 28% DV
#3 Green Peas

1 cup 14% DV
#4 Tempeh

100 grams 12% DV
#5 Acorn Squash

per cup cooked 11% DV
#6 Dried Goji Berries

5 tbsp 11% DV
#7 Tofu

1/5 Block 10% DV
#8 Whole Wheat Bread

1 slice 6% DV
#9 Molasses

1 tbsp 5% DV
#10 Sorghum Syrup

1 tbsp 4% DV

Heme (Meat Based) Iron Foods

Food Serving Iron
#1 Lean Chuck Pot Roast (Beef)

3oz 18% DV
#2 Fish (Mackerel)

per 6oz fillet 15% DV
#3 Canned Tuna

1 can (drained) 14% DV
#4 Lamb Stew Meat

3oz 13% DV
#5 Turkey Meat (Dark)

3oz 7% DV
#6 Trout

3oz fillet 7% DV
#7 Bass

1 fillet 7% DV
#8 Chicken Breast

1/2 Breast 6% DV
#9 Pork Chops

1 chop 5% DV
#10 Chicken Drumstick

1 leg 4% DV

Heme Iron vs. Non-Heme Iron

  • Non-heme iron comes from plant foods, heme iron comes from animal foods.
  • Heme iron can be absorbed more efficiently by the body.
  • The body can better regulate absorption of non-heme iron, helping to protect against toxic effects.

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