100 Best Food Sources of Iron to Prevent Iron Deficiency in Women

100 Best Food Sources of Iron That Women Should Definitely Add to Their Diet

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Almost 25% of the world’s population suffers from low iron levels. Iron deficiency ranks 9th in the top 26 global health risks. The easiest way to tackle this health problem is by knowing what are the best food sources of iron.

In the US alone, 41% of pregnant and 30% of non-pregnant women have anemia, according to the last available statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Needless to say, iron is a necessary mineral for your body for many reasons, such as:

  • Normal menstrual cycles
  • Energizing your body
  • Fighting off infections
  • Ensuring smooth digestion
  • Regulating your body temperature
  • Improving cognitive functions such as focus
  • Promoting healthy baby development during pregnancy
  • Boosting hair growth and giving your cheeks a natural rosy tinge

Women are generally at higher risk of low iron levels than men, because of the monthly menstrual cycles and blood loss during pregnancy.

Age, diet, and lifestyle also affect nutrient content in your body. If you don’t often consume foods that contain iron in high amounts, you may experience severe anemia in the long run.

Additionally, with all the rampant going on about coronavirus, now is the best time to boost your immune system.

Make it a priority to include lots of food sources of iron in your meals. This blog includes a list of iron-rich foods sources to help you get started.

Iron deficiency is one of the main causes of extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, and skin paleness. If not treated, it can be fatal. Discover 100 best food sources of iron that women must add to their diet.

How to Check if You Have Iron Deficiency?

Here are some common symptoms of iron deficiency you can look out for:

  • Bruises on your skin. If you don’t recall bumping a specific body part anywhere but notice purplish-blue patches which aren’t painful, it could be because of lack of iron.
  • Unexplainable tiredness. After snoozing for 7 to 8 hours a night if you still feel super sleepy, this could be a symptom of iron shortage.
  • Difficulty in breathing. If you notice shortness of breath after performing simple tasks, such as a few minutes of house chores, you may have low iron levels.
  • Skin paleness. Naturally, low iron creates a shortage of red blood cells that give scarlet color to your blood. Skin paleness is a clear sign of anemia, which can be caused by long term iron deficit.

So far, I’ve discussed a couple of low iron level symptoms you can easily identify. For more details, here’s a list of 10 often-missed signs of iron deficiency in women.

If you’ve noticed any of the above-mentioned signs, then merely eating foods that are rich in iron won’t be enough.


I’d still recommend you visit a health professional to get supplements or injections for the deficit and avoid health risks.

How Much Iron Should You Take Daily?

The daily iron intake recommendations are different for men, women, and children. Also, if you’re pregnant, you’ll need to up your dose. 

This chart clearly explains how much iron you should take daily per your age.

Regular:

Daily iron intake recommendation for non pregnant women
Values Source: NIH

Pregnant or lactating:

Daily iron intake recommendation for pregnant and lactating women

Also, based on your dietary habits, you may have to adjust your daily iron consumption to meet the required amount.

Taylor Wolfram, a vegan registered dietitian says, “It’s suggested that plant-based eaters consume 1.8 times more iron.” 

Don’t worry! I’ll discuss iron-rich foods for vegetarians and vegans and tips on how to increase your intake.

Wolfram further adds, “Endurance athletes may have higher iron needs and should work with a sports dietitian to develop a nutritionally-adequate meal plan.”

So if you lead a physically active lifestyle, be sure to discuss the best food sources of iron and the optimal amount with a professional based on your body’s needs.

Health Risks of Iron Overdose

Exceeding the daily recommended dose will lead to negative effects on your body.

According to WebMD, consuming more than 18mg of iron frequently leads to mineral iron poisoning and it can have severe health consequences. This includes constipation, vomiting, dehydration, and in severe cases, death. 

So be mindful of how much iron you’re taking per day. Best to discuss with a health professional so they can help you balance iron intake based on supplements and foods.


Now let’s take a look at 100 best sources of mineral iron you should add to your grocery list.

100 Foods That Contain Iron in High Amounts

Fruits:

Top Iron-Rich Fruits Sources for Women to Eliminate Iron Deficiency
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Pomegranates
  • Olives
  • Black currants
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries 
  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Avocado
  • Kiwi
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Grapes
  • Oranges
  • Tomatoes
  • Melons
  • Lemons

Tips to consume iron-rich fruits:

Since summer is upon us, now is the perfect time to begin eating more fruits. Most fresh fruits are filled with Vitamin C which facilitates high iron absorption

Here are some ways you can increase your iron levels with fruits:

  • Eat more citrus food juices such as orange juice
  • Use lemon juice as a garnish in your salads
  • Cut up small fruit pieces and add them to desserts such as custard and ice cream
  • Drink detox water made with fresh fruits
  • Make a habit of drinking fruit smoothies
  • Eat raw fruits at breakfast such as berries or apple
  • Cut small slices of fruits as an on-the-go snack
100 iron-rich superfoods women should definitely add to their diet (includes more than just fruits and veggies!) 🥩🥖

Vegetables:

Top Iron-Rich Vegetable Sources for Women to Eliminate Iron Deficiency
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Asparagus
  • Beet green
  • Spring onions
  • Artichokes
  • Arugula
  • Squash 
  • Peas
  • Mushrooms
  • Leeks
  • Potatoes
  • Red bell pepper
  • Cucumber
  • Beetroot
  • Carrots
  • Parsnip
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini

Tips to consume iron-rich vegetables:

Vegetables are one of the most popular food sources of iron to beat deficiency. 

Almost all the veggies mentioned above are rich in iron. However, this type of mineral iron is not as easily absorbed compared to meat. My suggestion is to be mindful of what you’re eating and how much.

Here are some iron-rich vegetables for anemia or iron deficiency:

  • Drink detox water with fresh veggie slices mixed in with cool water
  • Prepare delicious raw veggie smoothies
  • Eat salads with fresh vegetables and lots of greens
  • Prepare at least one vegetable side dish for dinner daily
  • Go for baked vegetables for significant iron boost rather than fried or cooked
  • Complement veggies with fruits, herbs, or grains to increase absorption

Herbs & Spices:

Top Iron-Rich Herbs and Spices for Women to Eliminate Iron Deficiency
  • Mint leaves
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Thyme 
  • Rosemary
  • Cinnamon
  • Fenugreek 
  • Cumin 
  • Black pepper

Tips to consume iron-rich spices:

Spices add flavor to your foods. Amazingly, many herbs and aromatic spices have high iron content. These herbs can be used in many ways to enrich your dishes with iron.

Here’s how:

  • Sprinkle herbs like mint and parsley on salads
  • If you drink green tea, use basil or mint along with lemon juice for boosting iron
  • Cook meat and vegetable curries with lots of spices to enhance flavor and nutrition
  • Drinking warm fenugreek water or chewing its leaves also raises iron levels quickly

Meats:

Top Iron-Rich Meat Sources for Women to Eliminate Iron Deficiency
  • Lamb
  • Beef liver
  • Lean beef
  • Goat
  • Buffalo
  • Oysters
  • Mussels
  • Clams
  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies 
  • Crab
  • Shrimps 
  • Chicken
  • Dark turkey
  • Duck
  • Ostrich
  • Emu

Tips to consume iron-rich meats:

Experts say that red meats are the best food source of iron. However, in many cases, you may want to avoid eating meat.

For instance, if you have a history of cholesterol or heart diseases, you’re conscious about your weight, you’re a vegan or vegetarian. 

For others, here are some healthy tips to get the most from meats rich in iron:

  • Red meat once a week is an essential iron-rich food for pregnancy
  • Go for lean red meat because it has low fat
  • Use lots of spices and herbs while cooking meat to enhance mineral iron
  • Try to eat skinless chicken to avoid extra fat
  • Consume baked meat more often rather than deep-frying
Top 100 best food sources containing high mineral iron that women should eat every day or week.

List includes:
👉 Fruits
👉 Veggies
👉 Nuts
👉 Grains
(…and more + tips on how to consume them!)

Grains & Legumes:

Top Iron-Rich Grains and Legumes for Women to Eliminate Iron Deficiency
  • Whole wheat
  • Pink lentils
  • Black lentils
  • Tofu
  • Red kidney beans
  • Black beans
  • Soybeans
  • Chickpeas
  • Barkey
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Raisin bran
  • Corn flakes
  • Frosted flakes

Tips to consume iron-rich grains:

You can eat grains and legumes in a variety of ways during different meal times. Some of these foods even work as an energizing snack or mid-day brunch meal.


Following are some ways you can increase your legume or grains intake:

  • Try South Asian style chapati/roti made with whole wheat for dinner
  • Add beans to salads or curries
  • Eat whole-wheat cereals for breakfast for smooth digestion
  • Make a chickpea salsa salad for brunch or evening snack
  • Boil lentils to make a delicious Indian-style curry

Nuts & Dried Foods:

Top Iron-Rich Nuts and Dried Foods for Women to Eliminate Iron Deficiency
  • Coconuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Apricots 
  • Almonds
  • Raisins
  • Peaches
  • Figs
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Macadamia
  • Peanuts
  • Black grams
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

Tips to consume iron-rich dried foods and nuts:

Here are some tips to increase your iron intake with dried foods, seeds, and nuts:

  • Add seeds and nuts to your snack jar and place it in your workspace
  • Sprinkle roasted seeds or nuts in your salad
  • Make your own iron-boosting trail mix for outdoor trips

Iron Intake Tips for Vegetarians and Vegans

Experts say the best source of iron is red meat. Leafy greens do contain high iron but it’s difficult to absorb. 

According to the nutritionist Dr. Toni Steer, vegetarians can enhance their iron intake without going against their beliefs.

“Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron from vegetables and pulses, so drinking a glass of orange juice with your meal would do the trick,” says Steer.

As a vegan or vegetarian, you can’t eat meat 🥩❌ – the BEST source of iron, a/c to experts.

So here are some tips for plant-based eaters 🥬❤️️ to increase iron absorption in your body 💪


Here are some other ways vegetarians and vegans can increase iron-rich foods intake:

  • Eat whole-wheat cereals for breakfast
  • Consume whole wheat bread for lunch or dinner
  • Don’t drink tea after meals because it reduces iron absorption
  • Use fermented sauces as they enhance absorption of iron
  • Add seeds to your salads
  • Combine various types of food to boost the iron content
  • Make curries or lentils with iron-rich spices to add flavor and nutrition
Being a vegan and vegetarian means you have to give up on one of the most important iron sources - meat. So here are some ways plant-based eaters can use alternative iron-rich food sources to prevent iron deficit.

Which Foods Inhibit Iron Absorption?

Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, ice creams, or yogurt decrease the absorption of iron. Researchers also recommend avoiding coffee or tea right after meals, as they’re known to reduce iron processing.

Hopefully, this blog gives you a clear idea of which foods are rich in mineral iron. Go ahead and add these amazing food sources of iron to your grocery list!

References:

  • https://aaptiv.com/magazine/boost-iron-on-a-vegan-diet
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3999603/
  • https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/

Sabika

Hey hey!

I'm the creator of Women Health Hub. After graduating as a biomedical engineer, I decided to pursue health writing because of my deep passion for writing & health. In 2019, I started Women Health Hub with an aim to empower and educate women to improve their wellbeing. Besides blogging, I love playing word games, Netflix & cooking.

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8 Comments

  1. Wow, this list is super helpful as I have anemia and tend to be low in iron/

    1. Sabika Hassan says:

      Every other woman I’m talking to nowadays tells me about iron deficiency problem. Glad to help!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to write all of this! This is great. I basically love everything you wrote. Fruits are so refreshing!

    1. Sabika Hassan says:

      They sure are! Plus they can be consumed in so many ways. Thanks, Amanda, and glad to help! 🙂

  3. Iron deficiency in women is pretty common. This is such an important article I am certainly pinning this one.

    1. Sabika Hassan says:

      Thanks so much, I appreciate it! 🙂

  4. Love the graphics and charts! I definitely didn’t know all this information about iron before, so I’ll definitely pay more attention to my iron intake now!

    1. Sabika Hassan says:

      Thanks, glad you found the article informative 🙂

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