Top 15 Iron-Rich Foods + The Important Benefits Of Iron

Medically reviewed by Erin Kenney, MS, RD, LDN Erin Kenney Erin KenneyMS, RD, LDN facebook_icontwitter_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Experience: 8 years
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A trace mineral found in our body cells, iron is a primary component of two proteins (hemoglobin and myoglobin). Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies, and what bothers us is most of us choose to do nothing about it. But not anymore. This post will tell you why you can combat iron deficiency. And how. Read on to know what the top iron-rich foods are.

What Are The Foods Rich In Iron?


1. Dark Green Vegetables

Spinach and Swiss chard top the list here. The two have leaves with bold colors and are quite rich in iron. They are also rich in vitamins A, C, and K – which boost eye and bone health as well. The iron in these vegetables plays a role in transporting oxygen to the blood.

One cup (30 grams) of spinach contains 0.8 milligrams of iron, and Swiss chard, in the same amounts, contains 0.6 milligrams of the nutrient.

Another powerful veggie is broccoli, one cup (91 grams) of which contains 0.7 milligrams of iron. Broccoli is also quite rich in vitamin C. All these veggies meet about 5% of your daily iron requirements.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can include the leaves in salads.

2. Potatoes

One medium potato contains 1.9 milligrams of iron, which meets 10% of the daily requirement of the nutrient. And since they are low in sodium, they also help maintain healthy blood pressure. They are quite rich in vitamin C, and hence fight inflammation and boost immunity.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can have mashed potatoes as a side dish for your breakfast.

As per an American, iron supplementation right from childhood can help in the growth and development of the child. But since iron also poses a risk of getting accumulated in the child’s body, additional care is required (1).

3. Mushrooms

One cup of sliced mushrooms (72 grams) contains 0.3 milligrams of iron, which meets 2% of your daily iron needs. The anti-inflammatory properties of mushrooms also help fight some grave diseases like cancer. They also contain phytonutrients that boost heart health.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can simply include slices of mushrooms in your evening soup.

Fruits And Dry Fruits

4. Olives

A hundred grams of olives contain 0.5 milligrams of iron, which meets 3% of the daily iron requirement. Olives are also rich in antioxidants, which can prevent heart attack and cancer. They also prevent the growth of unwanted microorganisms. Olives also contain other plant compounds that can boost bone health, as per studies.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can toss a handful of olives in your evening salad.

5. Mulberries

One cup of mulberries (140 grams) contains 2.6 milligrams of iron, which accounts for 14% of the daily requirement. Mulberries are also rich in fiber, a nutrient that promotes digestive health and prevents colorectal cancer. The fruit is also known to stabilize blood sugar levels – and hence can benefit diabetics as well.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can add mulberries to your breakfast smoothie or even toss a few in your evening salad.

6. Dried Fruits

These include raisins, apricots, prunes, and pistachios. One cup of raisins (165 grams) contains 3.1 milligrams of iron, which meets 17% of your daily iron needs. One cup of apricots (130 grams) meets 19% of RDA of iron, while the values are 9% for one cup of prunes (174 grams), and 28% for a cup of pistachios (123 grams).

Dried fruits are quite high in fiber, which keeps your digestive system running smoothly. Fiber also fills you up and promotes weight loss. Another essential component of dried fruits are antioxidants – which fight heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can have dry fruits as they are – as an evening snack. Adding them to your morning or evening smoothie is a good idea.

Meat, Sea Food, And Poultry

7. Organ Meat And Other Forms Of Meat

This includes chicken liver and even meat from turkey and grass-fed beef. While one ounce of chicken liver (28 grams) contains 3.3 milligrams of iron (18% of the daily value), one unit of turkey (150 grams) contributes 10% of the daily value of iron, and one ounce of grass-fed beef offers 3% of the daily value of iron.

Meat is known as a complete protein – meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs. It is also quite rich in zinc, another nutrient that boosts immunity and supports thyroid function and insulin production.

How To Include In Your Diet

You might want to add chopped pieces of meat to your evening vegetable salad.

8. Fish

Amongst the various fish, sardine stands out as one rich in iron. One cup of drained sardines (149 grams) contains 4.4 milligrams of iron, which meets 24% of your daily iron requirements.

Sardines are also replete with omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation and work absolute wonders for your health. They prevent heart attacks, aid arthritis treatment, boost vision health, and even enhance hair growth and skin health.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can consume canned sardines as a healthy evening snack or even as part of your dinner.

9. Eggs

Iron-Rich Foods - Eggs
Image: Shutterstock

One large egg (50 grams) contains 0.9 milligrams of iron and meets 5% of your daily iron needs. More importantly, eggs are probably the most nutritious food on the planet.

They also raise good cholesterol levels and protect the heart. They are also good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that are beneficial for the eyes. And the best part – they are amazing sources of complete protein.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can have boiled eggs for breakfast.

10. Shellfish

This includes oysters and clams. One cup of oysters (248 grams) contains 16.5 milligrams of iron, which meets 92% of your regular iron needs. And one cup of clams (227 grams) contains 31.7 milligrams of iron, which meets a whopping 176% of the iron needs.

Shellfish are also quite rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to boost heart health and prevent brain disease.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can have them as they are by making them a part of your dinner.

Legumes, Grains, Nuts, And Seeds

11. Legumes

Legumes include beans, chickpeas, lentils, and soybeans. One cup (198 grams) of lentils contains 6.6 milligrams of iron, which meets 37% of the daily needs.

Studies show that legumes also reduce inflammation and can be especially beneficial for diabetics. They also cut heart disease risk in people with metabolic syndrome. And given they have soluble fiber, they also help reduce weight.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can toss cooked lentils into a leafy green salad. Or add beans to an omelet.

12. Whole Grains

These include amaranth (29% DV), spelt (18% DV), oats (19% DV), and quinoa (16% DV). This is what they offer in medium bowl servings.

These whole grains also offer increased longevity and a reduced risk of obesity and heart disease.

How To Include In Your Diet

Including whole grain bread in your breakfast is one simple way. You can also use brown rice in your rice preparations in the place of white rice.

13. Nuts And Seeds

Iron-Rich Foods - Nuts And Seeds
Image: Shutterstock

Iron-rich nuts include almonds, cashews, and pine nuts – all of which contain about 1.5 milligrams of iron per ounce, which meets about 7% of the recommended daily intake.

Seeds include pumpkin seeds, sesame, and flaxseeds – two tablespoons of each contains 1.2 to 4 milligrams of iron, and they meet 7% to 23% of the daily iron needs.

These nuts and seeds are also great sources of protein, fiber, zinc, and magnesium – all of which support various bodily functions – right from cardiovascular activity to brain health.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can snack on nuts every evening. You can also toss a few seeds and nuts in your smoothie or evening salad.

Other Foods

14. Tofu

Half a cup of tofu (126 grams) contains 3.4 milligrams of iron, which meets 19% of the daily requirement of the nutrient.

The soy isoflavones in tofu are known to lower bad cholesterol. They can help reduce bone loss and increase bone mineral density.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can mix creamy tofu in your smoothie for an additional dose of protein.

15. Dark Chocolate

One bar of dark chocolate (101 grams) contains 12 milligrams of iron that accounts for 67% of the daily iron requirement.

Dark chocolate is also a great source of antioxidants – they fight free radicals and prevent deadly diseases like cancer. It also contains flavanols that protect the heart from disease.

Those are some of the richest sources of iron you can find. But why do you even need them? Because iron is important.

What Are The Benefits Of Iron?

1. Boosts Energy Levels

An iron deficiency means you can’t produce enough red blood cells that carry oxygen to the brain and other parts of the body. This can lead to fatigue, which is one of the symptoms of anemia. Anemia can cause shortness of breath, pale skin, headache, dizziness, and weakness (2). Consuming more of iron-rich foods can help you deal with tiredness.

2. Improves Muscle Function

Iron helps store oxygen in the muscles, thereby aiding their movement and functioning. Without it, the cells in the muscles won’t be able to hold oxygen. And this leads to muscle weakness (3).

3. Is Vital During Pregnancy

Iron is important not only for the pregnant mother but also for the fetus and the placenta. Iron deficiency during pregnancy can elevate the risk of premature birth and low birthweight (4).

4. Enhances Brain Health

Our brain is very dependent on oxygen. As iron helps the red blood cells transport oxygen to various parts of the body, including the brain, its deficiency can lead to memory loss and loss of productivity (5).

As per a report by the Harvard Medical School, iron deficiency becomes prevalent with age (6). Which is why proper iron supplementation can often counter the ill effects of the aging process.

5. Treats Restless Leg Syndrome

Studies suggest that low iron levels can often lead to restless leg syndrome (7). In case an iron deficiency is responsible for your issue, increasing your iron intake can give some relief.

These are the few reasons you need to ensure your iron levels are adequate. And now, we have an important question – how is iron used?

How Does Your Body Use Iron?

Quite simple. Iron helps produce red blood cells in the body – these cells carry blood across the body. When you consume foods containing iron, it is absorbed into your body primarily through the upper part of your small intestine.

And there are two forms of iron – heme iron and non-heme iron. The iron found in meat, fish, and poultry is heme iron. And that found in fortified breakfast cereals, nuts, and vegetables is non-heme iron.

Men need 8.7 milligrams of iron a day, while women need 14.8 milligrams of iron a day (until menopause). Post menopause, their iron needs are the same as men.

There are ways you can make the most of the iron you eat.

How To Get More Iron From Your Food

Some foods can promote iron absorption while others can hinder it. The following tips can help you:

  • Avoid taking coffee or tea or other calcium-rich foods along with meals that contain iron.
  • Taking iron along with a good source of vitamin C aids better absorption. So, you can take orange juice or broccoli along with iron-rich foods.
  • In case you feel the iron you get from your food is inadequate, you can go for supplements. Take advice from your nutritionist, though.

Also, how do you know if you are not getting enough iron? These symptoms can tell you:

  • You are tired most of the time.
  • You suffer from frequent headaches.
  • You have pale skin.
  • You find it difficult going through a workout.


Being one of the most important trace minerals, iron has a role to play in your health and well being. Include the foods in your diet today. You sure will see your lifestyle improve.

Tell us how this post has helped you. Simply leave a comment below.


Articles on thebridalbox are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

1. “Iron supplementation in early childhood…”. US National Library of Medicine.
2. “Iron-deficiency anemia”. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
3. “Hemoglobin and functions of iron”. University of California San Francisco.
4. “Iron deficiency anemia”. World Health Organization.
5. “The role of iron in learning and memory”. Oxford Academic Journal.
6. “Iron and your health”. Harvard Medical School.
7. “Treatment for restless leg syndrome”. Johns Hopkins Medicine.

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Erin Kenney
Erin KenneyMS, RD, LDN
My name is Erin Kenney and I am a Registered Dietitan living in the beautiful city of Boston. I am overly passionate about helping individuals achieve their healthiest self through food, nutrition, and self-care. With the conflicting messages about health that are constantly flooding our daily lives, I am here to provide you with tools to help you make better choices.

Read full bio of Erin Kenney
Ravi Teja Tadimalla
Ravi Teja TadimallaSenior Editor
Ravi Teja Tadimalla is a senior editor and a published author. He has been in the digital media field for over eight years. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has a Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition & Research from Wageningen University.

Read full bio of Ravi Teja Tadimalla
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