What Foods Are the Highest in Iron?

Reviewed on 2/18/2021

What is Iron?

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Meat, eggs and seafood are high-iron foods. Specific fruits and vegetables -- kale and strawberries, for example -- are also high in iron.

Iron is a mineral the body uses to make a protein in red blood cells called hemoglobin which transports oxygen throughout the body.  

Iron also helps remove carbon dioxide, and functions to aid in physical growth, neurological development, cellular functioning, and production of some hormones.

What Are Symptoms of Iron Deficiency?

Low levels of iron are called iron deficiency anemia. Many people with iron deficiency anemia have no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include: 

  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness/fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Memory problems
  • Reduced ability to fight infection
  • Difficulty exercising (due to shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat)
  • Difficulty controlling body temperature
  • Learning difficulties (in infants and children)
  • Irritability 
  • Headache
  • Chest pain or trouble breathing
  • Brittle nails
  • Sore tongue
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Abnormal cravings for non-food items, such as clay or dirt, paper products, or cornstarch (pica)
  • Abnormal craving to eat ice (pagophagia)

What Foods Are the Highest in Iron?

There are two types of iron found in foods: heme and non-heme

Animal foods such as meat, poultry, and seafood provide both heme and non-heme iron and are better absorbed by the body. 

Non-heme iron is found in plant foods, enriched grains, and some fortified breakfast cereals. 

Good food sources of iron include: 

  • Meat and eggs
    • Beef
    • Lamb
    • Ham
    • Turkey
    • Chicken
    • Veal
    • Pork
    • Dried beef
    • Liver
    • Liverwurst
    • Eggs 
  • Seafood
    • Shrimp
    • Clams
    • Scallops
    • Oysters
    • Tuna
    • Sardines
    • Haddock
    • Mackerel
  • Vegetables 
    • Spinach
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Peas
    • Broccoli
    • String beans
    • Beet greens
    • Dandelion greens
    • Collards
    • Kale
    • Chard
  • Fruits
    • Strawberries
    • Watermelon
    • Raisins
    • Dates
    • Figs
    • Prunes
    • Prune juice
    • Dried apricots
    • Dried peaches
  • Breads and cereals
    • White bread (enriched)
    • Whole wheat bread
    • Enriched pasta
    • Wheat products
    • Bran cereals
    • Corn meal
    • Oat cereal
    • Cream of Wheat
    • Rye bread
    • Enriched rice
  • Beans and other foods
    • Tofu
    • Beans (kidney, garbanzo, or white, canned)
    • Tomato products (e.g., paste)
    • Dried peas
    • Dried beans
    • Lentils
    • Instant breakfast
    • Corn syrup
    • Maple syrup
    • Molasses

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Reviewed on 2/18/2021
References
https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/blood-donation-process/before-during-after/iron-blood-donation/iron-rich-foods.html

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/anemia-caused-by-low-iron-in-adults-beyond-the-basics