Iron-Rich Diet

An iron-rich diet contains foods that are good sources of iron. Iron is an important mineral that helps your body produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body's tissues. Sometimes, the iron level in your blood can be low. This may be caused by:

  • A lack of iron in your diet.

  • Blood loss.

  • Times of growth, such as during pregnancy or during a child's growth and development.

Low levels of iron can cause a decrease in the number of red blood cells. This can result in iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency anemia symptoms include:

  • Tiredness.

  • Weakness.

  • Irritability.

  • Increased chance of infection.

Here are some recommendations for daily iron intake:

  • Males older than 19 years of age need 8 mg of iron per day.

  • Women ages 19 to 50 need 18 mg of iron per day.

  • Pregnant women need 27 mg of iron per day, and women who are over 19 years of age and breastfeeding need 9 mg of iron per day.

  • Women over the age of 50 need 8 mg of iron per day.

SOURCES OF IRON

There are 2 types of iron that are found in food: heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme iron is absorbed by the body better than nonheme iron. Heme iron is found in meat, poultry, and fish. Nonheme iron is found in grains, beans, and vegetables.

Heme Iron Sources

Food / Iron (mg)

  • Chicken liver, 3 oz (85 g)/ 10 mg

  • Beef liver, 3 oz (85 g)/ 5.5 mg

  • Oysters, 3 oz (85 g)/ 8 mg

  • Beef, 3 oz (85 g)/ 2 to 3 mg

  • Shrimp, 3 oz (85 g)/ 2.8 mg

  • Turkey, 3 oz (85 g)/ 2 mg

  • Chicken, 3 oz (85 g) / 1 mg

  • Fish (tuna, halibut), 3 oz (85 g)/ 1 mg

  • Pork, 3 oz (85 g)/ 0.9 mg

Nonheme Iron Sources

Food / Iron (mg)

  • Ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, iron-fortified / 3.9 to 7 mg

  • Tofu, ½ cup / 3.4 mg

  • Kidney beans, ½ cup / 2.6 mg

  • Baked potato with skin / 2.7 mg

  • Asparagus, ½ cup / 2.2 mg

  • Avocado / 2 mg

  • Dried peaches, ½ cup / 1.6 mg

  • Raisins, ½ cup / 1.5 mg

  • Soy milk, 1 cup / 1.5 mg

  • Whole-wheat bread, 1 slice / 1.2 mg

  • Spinach, 1 cup / 0.8 mg

  • Broccoli, ½ cup / 0.6 mg

IRON ABSORPTION

Certain foods can decrease the body's absorption of iron. Try to avoid these foods and beverages while eating meals with iron-containing foods:

  • Coffee.

  • Tea.

  • Fiber.

  • Soy.

Foods containing vitamin C can help increase the amount of iron your body absorbs from iron sources, especially from nonheme sources. Eat foods with vitamin C along with iron-containing foods to increase your iron absorption. Foods that are high in vitamin C include many fruits and vegetables. Some good sources are:

  • Fresh orange juice.

  • Oranges.

  • Strawberries.

  • Mangoes.

  • Grapefruit.

  • Red bell peppers.

  • Green bell peppers.

  • Broccoli.

  • Potatoes with skin.

  • Tomato juice.