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Iron is essential to your diet to make red blood cells and transport oxygen in the blood. The mineral also supports the development and maintenance of a healthy body and the immune system. Read through this article to learn about iron-rich foods to include them in your diet today because the only way to get this nutrient is from food – your body can't make it.
Iron-Rich Foods: What Food Is Highest In Iron?
Iron is needed to support many important functions in the body and is essential for life. However, since your body can only store it and not make it on its own, you should eat iron-rich fruits and vegetables to help maintain your iron levels.
If you don’t follow a diet without enough sources of iron, you may suffer from anaemia, which may lead to fatigue, irregular heartbeats, weakness, etc. Menstruating women who have an iron-deficient diet are at a particularly high risk of acquiring anaemia.
Furthermore, people going through a stage of fast body growth, such as infants, adolescents and pregnant people, must consume iron-rich foods to avoid being at risk of low iron levels. There are two types of iron in food:
- Haem Iron - is usually found in animal-based foods and is absorbed more effectively
- Non-Haem Iron - is found in eggs and plant-based foods
Best Iron Supplements: Supercharge Your Diet & Overall Nutrition
If you have an iron deficiency or are at risk of it, your doctor might recommend you consume iron supplements in addition to iron-rich foods. Here are the three best iron supplements available in the market right now:
1. Swisse Iron Supplement with Vitamin C & Vitamin B12 - Click here for Amazon deal
The Swisse iron supplement is available in tablet form and is vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan. These unflavoured tablets are also rich in vitamin C, B6 and B12 to enhance your overall well-being. The brand uses a premium quality formula based on scientific evidence and is free from harsh chemicals.
- Price: Rs. 649
- Reviews: 205
- Ratings: 4.3 out of 5 stars
- Item Form: Tablet
- Net Quantity: 30 tablets
- Target Audience: Adults (Males & Females)
- Colour: White
2. Wellbeing Nutrition Melts Plant-Based Nano Iron - Click here for Amazon deal
The Wellbeing Nutrition plant-based iron supplement is available in thin strips that melt into nano iron for fast action. Backed with patented nano-technology, these strips quickly dissolve into your body for better haemoglobin and red blood cell production. Easy on the stomach, these strips are also loaded with natural vitamin C and folic acid. 100% plant-based, these iron supplement strips are vegan, soy, gluten, gelatin & carrageenan free and made with no preservatives.
- Price: Rs. 629
- Reviews: 195
- Ratings: 4.1 out of 5 stars
- Item Form: Strips
- Net Quantity: 30 strips
- Flavour: Berry
3. Carbamide Forte Iron + Vitamin C + Folic Acid Supplement - Click here for Amazon deal
Carbamide Forte Chelated Iron supplements are enriched with Vitamin C, B12, Folic Acid & Zinc. These supplements come in a pack of 100 unflavoured vegetarian tablets. Gentle on the stomach, the natural iron chelate in these tablets is known to be highly absorbable and helps in red blood cell formation and helping people who may be low in iron or suffer from anaemia.
Furthermore, with Vitamin C, these tablets can also help improve iron absorption in the body and eventually contribute to higher energy, better cognitive function, a stronger immune system and better reproductive health. Last, the tablets are easy to swallow, GMP manufactured, ISO approved, gluten free, NON-GMO, dairy free, soy free & paraben free.
- Price: Rs. 499
- Reviews: 1018
- Ratings: 4.1 out of 5 stars
- Item Form: Tablet
- Net Quantity: 100 tablets
- Target Audience: Adults (Males & Females)
Animal-Based Sources of Iron
Animals are the best sources of iron, and some of the major ones are listed below. This is why many researchers believe that iron deficiency is likely to occur in people who eat meat, poultry, and fish regularly.
However, excessive red meat and other foods can lead to high heme iron in your body. Excess iron can lead to life-threatening conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, liver problems and diabetes.
1. Ground Beef
A 100-gram serving of ground beef delivers 2.7 mg of iron or 15% of the recommended Daily Value (DV). Ground beef is also abundant in B vitamins, zinc, selenium, and high-quality protein.
Fish, especially Tuna, is one of the best sources of iron that is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and several other essential nutrients such as niacin, selenium, and vitamin B12. Iron in a 3-ounce (85-gram) canned tuna is roughly 1.4 mg or about 8% of the DV. Salmon and sardines are also rich sources of iron.
Compared to white turkey meat, which has a lower iron content per 100 grams (0.7 mg), dark turkey meat has 1.4 mg of iron or 8% of the DV.
Though not all parts of chicken provide the same iron content, poultry, in general, is still a good source of iron. Chicken breasts and light meat broilers supply 1 milligram of iron each per 3.5-ounce serving, which makes up 6% of the DV. Dark meat broilers deliver about 7% of the DV per 3.5-ounce serving.
Chicken is also an excellent source of protein, niacin and selenium.
A large, whole, raw chicken egg provides 0.9 mg of non-heme iron content, helping boost your energy levels and support your immune system while providing high protein to your body. Though iron in eggs is less than in meat, it is still a good source if you don’t eat meat.
Plant-Based Sources of Iron
Although plants contain non-heme iron, which isn’t absorbed very well, you can still consume many iron-rich vegetables to reap their benefits. However, to boost absorption when eating plant sources of iron, you can add a source of vitamin C to your diet.
Some of the best plant-based sources of iron include:
Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse, 100 grams of which packs 2.7 mg of iron or 15% of the recommended Daily Value (DV). In addition to having extremely few calories, spinach is high in vitamin C and carotenoids, which help prevent disease and lower your risk of cancer.
Since it is recommended to eat iron-rich vegetables daily, especially if you don’t consume meat or other animal-based sources of iron, broccoli is an excellent iron source and also high in folate, fibre, and vitamin K. A 1 cup (156-gram) cup of cooked broccoli contains approximately 1 mg or iron, or 6% of the DV.
Peas are an excellent source of iron, along with complex carbs, fibre, folate, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. One cooked cup of peas can provide about 4.2–4.7 mg of iron content.
Raw tomato has very little iron, but their dried, concentrated or paste form contains more iron. Let's have a look at the iron content of tomatoes in various forms:
- Tomato Paste: 2 mg of iron in 1/4 cup (66 grams)
- Canned Tomato Sauce: 2.4 mg of iron per cup (245 grams)
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes: 5 mg of iron per cup
Potatoes are rich in iron, most of which is stored in their skins. A large unpeeled potato of about 300 grams can provide your body with 1.9 mg of iron.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes, without skins, have nearly 2.2 mg of iron per 300 grams.
7. White Mushrooms
White mushrooms are the best source of iron, containing around 2.7 mg of iron per cup (cooked).
Iron-Rich Legumes & Seeds
After green vegetables, legumes and seeds are loaded with iron. Here are some of the best iron-rich legumes and seeds you can consume:
1. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are excellent iron sources and are rich in vitamin K, zinc, and manganese. They supply 2.5 mg of iron or 14% of the recommended Daily Value (DV) in a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving.
As compared to many other grains, quinoa is among the highest in iron, folate, magnesium, copper, manganese, and many other nutrients. Just one cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa delivers 16% of the DV, which is 2.8 mg of iron.
Chickpeas are the best legume you can eat to fulfil your body's iron requirement. One cup of cooked chickpeas provides about 3.7 mg of iron.
4. Black Beans
A cup of boiled black beans delivers around 3.61 mg of iron and is also rich in vitamin C.
One cup of cooked lentils can provide about 6.59 mg of iron and fibre.
6. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds contain 1.31 mg of iron per tablespoon and are also rich in phosphorus, vitamin E, and zinc.
Flaxseeds are not just a fantastic source of fibre but also contain 5.6 mg of iron per 100 grams.
Iron-Rich Bread and Cereal
Here are some food options you can add to your breakfast to include more iron in your diet.
1. Whole Grains
Whole grains such as wheat, millet, oats, brown rice, etc., are all good sources of iron that are also good in fibre, proteins, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. A 100 gms of wheat contains 3.9 mg of iron, whereas the same amount of oats has 4.7 mg of iron and millets have 3 mg of iron.
2. Fortified Raisin Bran Cereal
If you choose to have a cereal bowl for breakfast, raisin bran is an excellent source of iron and fibre. It can provide 9.39 mg of iron per cup.
Iron-Rich Fruits & Dry Fruits
If you’re looking for iron-rich fruits and nuts, here are some of the best ones you can consume:
Most dieticians recommend including almonds in your diet, especially in the morning, due to their wide range of benefits. Did you know that 100 grams of almonds contain around 5.4 mg of iron?
Cashews are another excellent source of iron, containing 6.7 mg content per 100 grams.
Pistachios rank number 3 on our list of iron-rich fruits. This is because consuming 100 grams of pistachios will get nearly 3.9 mg of iron.
Avocados are tremendously beneficial to health and rich in Omega 3, Vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Half an avocado has about 0.6 milligrams of iron.
5. Dried Apricots
Five dried apricots, which make nearly 30 grams, deliver around 0.93 mg of iron content.
Technically, olives contain around 6.3 mg of iron per 100 grams in the fruit category. They're also rich in good fats and fat-soluble vitamins A and E.
One cup of mulberries has around 2.6 mg of iron.
Iron-Rich Protein Sources
If you’re looking for some iron-rich protein sources precisely, you have eggs, poultry, fish and soy-based foods to consider. Tofu is a soy-based food that is a good source of iron, thiamine, and several minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and selenium. Half a cup of tofu contains 3.4 mg of iron or 19% of the DV.
Some Other Iron Rich Foods
- Dark Chocolate: Provides 6.32 mg of iron per 100 grams
- Coconut Milk: Contains 7.5 mg of iron per cup (226 grams)
How To Get More Iron From Your Food?
Consuming iron-rich foods is not just enough because eating them raw, half cooked, or well-cooked can also have a significant impact on the overall iron content. Hence, how you prepare food and what other foods and ingredients you combine with them can affect the amount of iron absorption in your body.
So, to get more iron from your food, it is good to eat them along with vitamin C-rich foods (eaten raw), such as tomatoes, melons, kiwis, green leafy vegetables and capsicum.
Moreover, beverages and liquids such as coffee, tea and red wine (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) can essentially reduce iron absorption in your body. Eating calcium-rich foods along with iron-rich foods can also inhibit iron absorption. So, it is better to pair them with other foods.
Can You Have Too Much Iron?
It's challenging to consume "too much" iron because the body controls how much iron is absorbed from food and supplements in healthy individuals.
However, if you have a genetic condition called haemochromatosis, your body may absorb excess iron, but this condition is scarce, affecting 1 in 300 persons approximately. The body typically has 3 to 4 grams of iron, whereas haemochromatosis patients may have levels as high as 20 grams. If you are worried about your iron levels, kindly do not self-medicate and consult your doctor.
How Much Iron Does One Need?
The amount of iron your body needs primarily depends on your gender. Here’s a quick roundup of recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron depending on age and sex:
Frequently Asked Questions About What Food Is Highest In Iron
If you still have doubts about including iron in your diet or consuming iron supplements, here are our answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
1. Why do you need iron in your diet?
If you don’t have enough iron in your diet, you might suffer from iron deficiency, which may cause symptoms like low energy, fatigue and sensitivity to cold weather in the body.
2. Is it better to get iron from a supplement?
Though you must naturally try to boost your iron levels through iron-rich foods, if you are anaemic or on the verge of it, you'll need to consume iron supplements to get your required iron intake.
3. What drinks are high in iron?
Soy and coconut milk are the two best options for you if you’re wondering what drinks are high in iron.
4. What are some of the best foods with iron for kids?
If you’re looking for some of the best foods with iron for kids, you can indulge them in eggs, fruits, nuts, seeds, chocolate, tomatoes, etc.
The Bottom Line
Iron is an essential mineral necessary for the body's vital functioning, supports optimal immune function, provides energy and stores oxygen in our muscles. Young children, vegetarians, vegans, women in reproductive years and pregnant women are at the highest risk of iron deficiency.
If you want to lead a healthy life, it is important to include iron-rich fruits and vegetables, seeds and lentils, and, if possible, animal-based sources in your diet.
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