Iron is a mineral that fulfills several important functions, its main function is to transport oxygen throughout the body and produce red blood cells (1).
It is an essential nutrient, which means that you must obtain it from food. The recommended daily intake (RDI) is 18 mg.
Interestingly, the amount your body absorbs is based in part on the amount you have stored.
A deficiency can occur if your intake is too low to replace the amount you lose every day (2).
Iron deficiency can cause anemia and cause symptoms such as fatigue. Menstruating women who do not consume iron-rich foods have a particularly high risk of deficiency.
Fortunately, there are many good food options to help you meet your daily iron needs.
Here are 11 healthy foods that are high in iron.
Seafood is tasty and nutritious. All seafood is rich in iron, but clams, oysters and mussels are particularly good sources.
For example, a portion of 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of clams can contain up to 28 mg of iron, which is 155% of the RDI (3).
However, the iron content of clams is very variable, and some types may contain much lower amounts (4).
The iron in seafood is iron heme, which your body absorbs more easily than the non-heme iron found in plants.
A serving of clams also provides 26 grams of protein, 37% of the RDI for vitamin C and a whopping 1,648% of the RDI for vitamin B12.
In fact, all seafood is rich in nutrients and has been shown to increase the level of HDL cholesterol that is healthy for the heart (5).
Although there are legitimate concerns about mercury and toxins in certain types of fish and shellfish, the benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh the risks (6).
Summary A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of clams provides 155% of the RDI for iron. Shellfish are also rich in many other nutrients and can increase the levels of "good" HDL cholesterol in your blood.
Spinach provides many health benefits for very few calories.
3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cooked spinach contain 3.6 mg of iron, or 20% of the RDI (7).
Although it is non-heme iron, which is not very well absorbed, spinach is also rich in vitamin C.
This is important since vitamin C significantly increases iron absorption (8).
Spinach is also rich in antioxidants called carotenoids that can reduce your risk of cancer, decrease inflammation and protect your eyes from disease (9, 10, 11, 12).
Consuming spinach and other leafy greens with fat helps your body absorb carotenoids, so be sure to eat a healthy fat such as olive oil with your spinach (13).
Summary Spinach provides 20% of the RDI for iron per serving, along with several vitamins and minerals. It also contains important antioxidants.
3. Liver and other organ meats
Organ meats are extremely nutritious. Popular types include liver, kidneys, brain and heart, all of which are high in iron.
For example, a 3.5-ounce serving (100 grams) of beef liver contains 6.5 mg of iron, or 36% of the RDI (14).
Organ meats are also high in protein and rich in B vitamins, copper and selenium. The liver is especially rich in vitamin A, which provides an impressive 634% of the RDI per serving.
What's more, organ meats are among the best sources of choline, an important nutrient for brain and liver health that many people do not get (15).
Summary Organ meats are good sources of iron, and the liver contains 36% of the RDI per serving. Organ meats are also rich in many other nutrients, such as selenium, vitamin A and choline.
The vegetables are loaded with nutrients.
Some of the most common types of legumes are beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas and soybeans.
They are a great source of iron, especially for vegetarians. One cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils contains 6.6 mg, which is 37% of the IDR (16).
Legumes are also rich in folate, magnesium and potassium.
In addition, studies have shown that beans and other legumes can reduce inflammation in people with diabetes. Legumes can also decrease the risk of heart disease for people with metabolic syndrome (17, 18, 19, 20).
In addition, legumes can help you lose weight. They are very high in soluble fiber, which can increase the sensation of fullness and reduce caloric intake (21).
In one study, a high-fiber diet containing beans proved to be as effective as a low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss (22).
To maximize iron absorption, eat legumes with foods rich in vitamin C, such as tomatoes, vegetables or citrus fruits.
Summary One cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils provides 37% of the RDI for iron. Legumes also have a high content of folate, magnesium, potassium and fiber, and can even help you lose weight.
5. red meat
Red meat is satisfying and nutritious. A 3.5-ounce serving (100 grams) of ground beef contains 2.7 mg of iron, which is 15% of the IDR (23).
Meat is also rich in protein, zinc, selenium and several B vitamins (24).
Researchers have suggested that iron deficiency may be less likely in people who eat meat, poultry and fish on a regular basis (25).
In fact, red meat is probably the most accessible source of heme iron, which makes it an important food for people prone to anemia.
In a study that analyzed changes in iron stores after aerobic exercise, women who consumed meat retained iron better than those who took iron supplements (26).
Summary A serving of ground beef contains 15% of the RDI for iron and is one of the most accessible sources of heme iron. It is also rich in B vitamins, zinc, selenium and high quality proteins.
6. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a tasty, portable snack.
A 1-ounce serving (28 grams) of pumpkin seeds contains 4.2 mg of iron, which is 23% of the IDR (27).
In addition, pumpkin seeds are a good source of vitamin K, zinc and manganese. They are also among the best sources of magnesium, in which many people are deficient (28).
A 1-ounce serving contains 37% of the RDI for magnesium, which helps reduce the risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, and depression (29, 30, 31).
Summary Pumpkin seeds provide 26% of the RDI for iron per serving. They are also a good source of other nutrients, especially magnesium.
Quinoa is a popular grain known as a pseudocereal. One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa provides 2.8 mg of iron, which is 15% of the RDI (32).
In addition, quinoa does not contain gluten, so it is a good option for people with celiac disease or other forms of gluten intolerance.
Quinoa is also higher in protein than many other grains, as well as rich in folate, magnesium, copper, manganese and many other nutrients.
In addition, quinoa has more antioxidant activity than many other grains. Antioxidants help protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals, which form during metabolism and in response to stress (33, 34).
Summary Quinoa provides 15% of the RDI for iron per serving. It also does not contain gluten and is high in protein, folic acid, minerals and antioxidants.
Turkey meat is a healthy and delicious food. It is also a good source of iron, especially dark turkey meat.
A 3.5-ounce serving (100 grams) of dark turkey meat has 2.3 mg of iron, which is 13% of the RDI (35).
In comparison, the same amount of white turkey meat contains only 1.3 mg (36).
Turkey also contains an impressive 29 grams of protein per serving and several B vitamins and minerals, including 30% of the RDI for zinc and 58% of the RDI for selenium.
Eating protein-rich foods such as turkey can help you lose weight, since proteins make you feel full and increase your metabolic rate after a meal (37, 38, 39).
High protein intake can also help prevent muscle loss that occurs during weight loss and as part of the aging process (40, 41).
Summary Turkey provides 13% of the RDI for iron and is a good source of several vitamins and minerals. Its high protein content promotes fullness, increases metabolism and prevents muscle loss.
Broccoli is incredibly nutritious. A 1-cup serving (156 grams) of cooked broccoli contains 1 mg of iron, which is 6% of the IDR, making it a fairly good source (42).
In addition, a serving of broccoli also contains 168% of the RDI of vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron better (8, 43).
The same serving size is also high in folate and provides 6 grams of fiber, as well as some vitamin K.
Broccoli is a member of the family of cruciferous vegetables, which also includes cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage.
Cruciferous vegetables contain indole, sulforaphane, and glucosinolates, which are plant compounds thought to protect against cancer (44, 45, 46, 47).
Summary A serving of broccoli provides 6% of the RDI for iron and is very high in vitamins C, K and folic acid. It can also help reduce the risk of cancer.
Tofu is a soy-based food that is popular with vegetarians and in some Asian countries.
A half-cup serving (126 grams) provides 3.6 mg of iron, which is 19% of the RDI (48).
Tofu is also a good source of thiamin and various minerals, such as calcium, magnesium and selenium. In addition, it provides 20 grams of protein per serving.
Tofu also contains unique compounds called isoflavones, which have been linked to better insulin sensitivity, lower risk of heart disease, and relief of menopausal symptoms (49, 50).
Summary Tofu provides 19% of the RDI for iron per serving and is rich in protein and minerals. Your isoflavones can improve the health of the heart and relieve the symptoms of menopause.
11. dark chocolate
The dark chocolate is incredibly delicious and nutritious.
A portion of 1 ounce (28 grams) contains 3.3 mg of iron, which is 19% of the RDI (51).
This small portion also contains 25% and 16% of the RDI for copper and magnesium, respectively.
In addition, it contains prebiotic fiber, which nourishes friendly bacteria in the intestine (52).
One study found that cocoa powder and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity than powders and juices made from acai berries and blueberries (53).
Studies have also shown that chocolate has beneficial effects on cholesterol and can reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes (54, 55, 56).
However, not all chocolate is created equal. It is believed that the compounds called flavanols are responsible for the benefits of chocolate, and the flavanol content of dark chocolate is much higher than that of milk chocolate (57).
Therefore, it is better to consume chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa to obtain the maximum benefits.
Summary A small serving of dark chocolate contains 19% of the RDI for iron, along with various minerals and prebiotic fiber that promotes intestinal health.
The bottom line
Iron is an important mineral that should be consumed regularly since your body can not produce it on its own.
However, it should be kept in mind that some people need to limit their consumption of red meat and other foods with high heme iron content.
However, most people can easily regulate the amount they absorb from food.
Remember that if you do not eat meat or fish, you can increase your absorption by including a source of vitamin C when you eat vegetable sources of iron.
Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-healthy-iron-rich-foods