Iron is an essential micronutrient that plays a significant role in maintaining several body functions. It is a major component of hemoglobin present in RBCs or Red Blood Cells.
Iron helps in carrying the oxygen from the lungs to the different parts of the body. It is crucial for the production of hormones, maintaining the normal functioning of the immune system along with ensuring proper cognitive function.
Lack of iron in the human body may result in anemia which further leads to fatigue and tiredness. Four to five million Americans are affected by iron-deficiency anemia yearly.
The deficiency of iron can easily be recovered by involving iron-rich foods in your daily diet. For adults (aged 19-50) the recommended amount of iron present in the daily diet for men is 8mg, 18mg for women, 27mg for pregnant women, and 7 mg for lactating mothers.
Heme, which is easily digestible and found in animal flesh, and Non-Heme, found in plants and whole grains are the two forms in which iron from food can be obtained.
Best Iron Rich Foods
Red meat is one of the best sources of Heme iron, which means that the iron would be easily absorbed by the body.
Data analysis indicates that 100 grams of consumption of meat contain 2.7 grams of iron which is 15 percent of DV (which refers to how much of a nutrient you should consume each day based on a 2,000 calorie diet).
As compared to foods containing non-heme iron, eating meat considerably increases iron levels in the blood. More details could be found in this systematic review.
It is easily available and in addition to iron, it also contains Vitamin-B, selenium, protein, and zinc. Research results depict that people eating meat are less likely to be prone to anemia.
Seafood like clams, oysters, scallops, crabs, shrimps, octopus, and mussels are rich in iron content.
Seafood also contains Heme iron. Mollusks like clams, oysters, and mussels are packed with important nutrients.
Studies suggest that 100 grams of clams contain up to 3 milligrams of iron which is 17 percent of DV.
Shellfish is another delicious source of iron. Seafood is regarded as better because it is low in calories and high in iron and other minerals like protein.
For example, 3 ounces of oysters includes 8 milligrams of iron and 10 grams of proteins with just 87 calories.
Seafood taken with green vegetables like spinach may boost iron intake. Spinach contains non-heme iron which is less easily absorbed as compared to foods having heme iron.
Consuming seafood like mollusks with spinach makes it easier for the body to absorb the iron contents present in vegetables thus, making them more bioavailable.
This study confirms that one cup of cooked or raw spinach delivers 3.72 milligrams of iron and other vitamins as well.
Although spinach has non-heme iron, even if consumed without combining seafood, the iron contents present in it can easily be absorbed by the human body as it is also high in Vitamin C which may significantly boost iron absorption.
In addition to iron, spinach also contains Vitamin A, Vitamin E, calcium, fibers, and proteins.
For those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, chickpeas or garbanzo beans are a good choice to meet their daily iron requirements. It is a type of legume that is not only nutritious but tasty as well.
As per this article, chickpeas could provide 3.7 milligrams of iron per cup which makes them an excellent source of iron.
Chickpeas are simple to include in salads and other foods, and adding lemon juice would not only improve the flavor but may also improve the absorption of the non-heme iron as it has Vitamin C.
Other legumes such as soybean, peas, beans like black beans, kidney beans, and lentils are loaded with nutrients and might significantly boost iron levels.
198 grams of boiled lentils contain 6.6 milligrams of iron which is 37 percent of the DV
This article shows that legumes may also help in weight loss as they are high in dietary fiber which creates a feeling of fullness thus, reducing calorie intake.
Adding Vitamin C-rich foods along with legumes may increase the absorption rate of iron.
No matter how small pumpkin seeds are, they are loaded with iron. As per this data, 28 grams of pumpkin seeds contain 2,5 milligrams of iron which is 14 percent of the DV.
They can be added to a variety of dishes like bread or muffin recipes. They can also be used as crunchy toppings on cereals, salad, and yogurt.
Pumpkin seeds also contain proteins, Vitamin K, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. Not only pumpkin seeds but sesame seeds are also packed with iron contents.
Like pumpkin seeds, they also may be sprinkled on salad.
A tablespoon of sesame seeds might retain 1.31 grams of iron. It also satisfies other nutrient requirements as it contains phosphorus, vitamin E, and zinc as well.
Fish is considered one of the best sources of iron. Some examples of iron-rich fish varieties include tuna, haddock, mackerel, and sardines.
As per studies, 100 grams of tuna holds around 1.67 milligrams of iron.
Fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids and minerals, which promote proper cognitive function and support overall growth and development. Sardines are easily available and serve as a good source of iron.
Besides iron, it also provides considerable amounts of phosphorus, niacin, vitamin B-12, and vitamin D. Since they contain hemp iron, they are easily absorbed in the human body.
Cereals are a great way to enrich your diet with iron. It contains non-heme iron. Just 30 grams of cereals contain about 3.5 milligrams of iron.
Supplementing cereals with walnuts, pistachios, roasted almonds, cashews, raisins, and sunflower seeds would not only make it delicious but also would enhance the number of nutrients present in a serving.
Cereals are one of the best sources of iron and nutrients for vegetarians. In addition to this, quinoa, also known as pseudocereal is another rich source of iron.
Additionally, 185 grams of cooked quinoa includes 2,8 milligrams of iron which is 16 percent of the DV. Quinoa also adds other nutrients to your diet such as magnesium, copper, manganese, and folate.
It is gluten-free and also contains antioxidants which makes it worthy of being included in your diet chart.
Organ meats including brain, liver, kidneys, and heart are highly nutritious and packed with the richness of iron.
Organ meats contain heme iron which is readily absorbed within the human body and therefore, may provide higher nutrients than iron obtained from plant-based foods.
Data shows that 100 grams of beef liver have 6.5 milligrams of iron which is 36 percent of the DV.
Organ meats are an excellent source of folate. They also have Vitamin B12, proteins, selenium, zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, and iron as well.
Apart from this, organ meats have several other benefits such as retaining muscle mass and helping in controlling appetite as it keeps you full for a longer period. It is also a great source of choline which is essential for good health.
Other Iron-Rich Foods
Other than these, edamame, black beans, eggs, giblets, and tofu are also great sources of iron.
On the other hand, one of the dark chocolate’s benefits include it being high in the iron content.
As per this study, a cup of edamame contains around 9 milligrams of iron and also includes minerals like copper, manganese, and fiber which helps in keeping the blood vessels healthy.
Similarly, black beans, in combination with vitamin C-rich foods, are an excellent source of iron. Black beans and even pinto and fava beans, rich in iron can also be included in your salad.
Tofu is popular among vegetarians and is also enriched with the goodness of iron. 126 grams of tofu comprises of 3.5 milligrams of iron which is 19 percent of the DV.
Dark chocolates are another tasty and rich source of iron. Besides iron, it also contains fiber and antioxidants.
Therefore, the daily requirements of iron in the human body can easily be met by adding the above foods to your diet.
There are a variety of foods available for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
Vegetarians could easily boost the absorption rate and bioavailability of iron in foods by supplementing them with vitamin C-rich foods.
Regular inclusion of these iron-rich foods in your diet may reduce the risk of anemia.