Iron is an essential vitamin that shockingly, a lot of us don’t get enough of in our diets. Check out our guide on the best foods that contain iron.
Iron is an essential vitamin that helps your body make red blood cells. A lack of iron in your system can lead to iron deficiency anaemia, which is where there’s a decrease to the number of red blood cells, leading to your body not making enough haemoglobin, a substance that makes it possible for red blood cells to carry oxygen to your body’s tissues.
The best way to ensure you’re getting enough iron each day is to make sure you’re including foods high in iron in your diet. We’ve put together this guide with our top foods containing iron to help you give your daily dishes a boost.
Amazingly, Web MD reports around 20% of women, 50% of pregnant women and 3% of men all don’t get enough iron. So, with that being said, how much iron per day should you really be aiming for?
The NHS currently recommends the following daily values for iron:
|Men over 18||8.7mg|
|Women between 19 – 50||14.8mg|
|Women over 50||8.7mg|
There are two forms of dietary iron, heme and nonheme. Heme comes from haemoglobin which is mainly found in animal sources that once contained haemoglobin such as red meats, fish and poultry. Your body gets the most iron through heme sources and is more easily absorbed. Nonheme on the other hand is from plant-based sources such as leafy greens and legumes.
It’s a common misconception that you can only get enough iron from red meat. It’s true that this is a great source, but there’s tonnes of other options such as fish, white meats and vegetarian friendly options. Here’s some of the top foods high in iron:
Most shellfish are high in iron but clams, oysters and mussels are particularly rich. 100g of clams can contain as much as 3mg of iron and also benefit from being high in protein, vitamin C and vitamin B12. Interestingly, shellfish contain both heme and nonheme iron.
There’s a reason Popeye loved spinach so much, it’s packed full of health benefits! This food high in iron has around 2.7mg per 100g. It’s an excellent source for vegetarians as it’s also rich in vitamin C which can significantly boost iron absorption.
Organ meats such as liver, kidney, brain and heart are all foods that contain iron. Around 100g of beef liver has about 6.5mg of iron. These types of meat tend to also be high in protein, B vitamins and selenium and liver in particular is high in vitamin A.
Red meat is one of the best and most easily accessible sources of iron and due to this, iron deficiency is generally more common in vegetarians or those that don’t eat meat, poultry or fish regularly. Around 100g of ground beef contains 2.7mg of iron and is also an excellent source of protein, zinc, selenium and B vitamins.
Legumes are super nutrient rich and chickpeas, beans, lentils and peas are all foods high in iron. 200g of cooked lentils has an impressive 6.6mg and around 86g of black beans contains about 1.8g of iron. On top of this, legumes are a good source of folate, magnesium and potassium.
Pumpkin seeds are great for snacking and they’re also an excellent way to get more iron into your diet. Just a 28g serving has 2.5mg of iron and they’re also loaded with vitamin K, zinc and manganese.
Quinoa is a fantastic source of iron for those with celiac disease as it contains no gluten. 185g of quinoa has 2.8mg of iron and it’s also high in protein, folate, manganese and magnesium too.
Turkey is widely considered as a healthier, lean meat and dark turkey meat is an especially good source of iron. Around 100g of dark turkey meat has 1.4mg of iron, with white turkey meat having much less at about 0.7mg. Turkey is high in protein, B vitamins and other minerals too.
Broccoli is an excellent food containing iron and 156g of the vegetable when cooked could have up to 1mg of iron. Additionally, broccoli is high in vitamin C to help your body absorb the iron and is a great source of fibre and vitamin K too.
Veggies, rejoice! Tofu is a food that’s high in iron and 126g of the stuff contains about 3.4mg of iron. The versatile ingredient is also high in thiamine, calcium, magnesium and selenium.
This one may surprise you but dark chocolate is a food that’s high in iron. Just 28g of dark chocolate has an impressive 3.4mg of iron and on top of this, it also contains prebiotic fibre which can help with digestion. Look for chocolate that contains a minimum of 70% cocoa as this contains more beneficial flavanols.
Fish is a great source of iron in your diet. Tuna is especially high in iron and 95g has 1.4mg. Fish in general are also full of omega-3 fatty acids and loaded with health benefits that can help to improve immune function, brain health and aid with healthy growth and development. Haddock, mackerel and sardines are all good foods that contain iron too.
Those are the top 12 foods that are high in iron! Want to find out more about how to get more vitamins in your diet? Read our article on the best foods for vitamin c, next.