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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.
Quick Navigation Hide
- How to Check if You Have Iron Deficiency?
- How Much Iron Should You Take Daily?
- What Are The Dangers of High Iron Levels?
- What Foods Block Iron Absorption?
- List of Foods That Contain Iron in High Amounts
- How Can Vegans & Vegetarians Increase Iron Levels Quickly?
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.
Related: 8 Scary Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Women
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.
|Woman’s Age||Daily Requirement|
|Less than 6 months||0.27 mg|
|7-12 months||11 mg|
|1-3 years||7 mg|
|4-8 years||10 mg|
|9-13 years||8 mg|
|14-18 years||15 mg|
|19-50 years||18 mg|
|50+ years||8 mg|
|Woman’s Age||Daily Requirement|
|14-18 years||27 mg|
|19-50 years||27 mg|
|Woman’s Age||Daily Requirement|
|14-18 years||10 mg|
|19-50 years||9 mg|
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.
What Are The Dangers of High Iron Levels?
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.
What Foods Block 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!
Now let’s take a look at the 100 best sources of mineral iron you should add to your grocery list.
List of Foods That Contain Iron in High Amounts
Group 1: Fruits
- Black currants
How to eat more iron-rich fruits:
Summer is the perfect time to eat 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
Group 2: Vegetables
- Beet green
- Spring onions
- Red bell pepper
How to eat more 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 a significant iron boost rather than fried or cooked
- Complement veggies with fruits, herbs, or grains to increase absorption
Group 3: Herbs & Spices
- Mint leaves
- Black pepper
How to eat more 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.
- 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
Group 4: Meats
- Beef liver
- Lean beef
- Dark turkey
How to eat more iron-rich meat:
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
(…and more + tips on how to consume them!)
Group 5: Grains & Legumes
- Whole wheat
- Pink lentils
- Black lentils
- Red kidney beans
- Black beans
- Raisin bran
- Corn flakes
- Frosted flakes
How to eat more 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
Group 6: Nuts & Dried Foods
- Pine nuts
- Black grams
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Flax seeds
- Sunflower seeds
How to eat more 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
How Can Vegans & Vegetarians Increase Iron Levels Quickly?
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.
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
Wow, this list is super helpful as I have anemia and tend to be low in iron/
Every other woman I’m talking to nowadays tells me about iron deficiency problem. Glad to help!
Thanks for taking the time to write all of this! This is great. I basically love everything you wrote. Fruits are so refreshing!
They sure are! Plus they can be consumed in so many ways. Thanks, Amanda, and glad to help! 🙂
Iron deficiency in women is pretty common. This is such an important article I am certainly pinning this one.
Thanks so much, I appreciate it! 🙂
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!
Thanks, glad you found the article informative 🙂
This is very interesting. I had no idea that herbs and spices can contain iron. My brother and I both experience iron deficiency anemia and I am looking for ways to increase our iron intake through food rather than supplements. I often use cinnamon in cooking, even adding it when cooking red meat and putting it in my coffee.
Those are some excellent uses of cinnamon, Jeri-Ann! Thank you for sharing with us. And I hope you found this list helpful and have various options now. 🙂