15 Healthy Foods That Are Very High in Iron

Health and Nutrition
13.01.2020

Iron is one of the most important minerals found in the body. Though there is less than 5 grams which is as much as a tea spoon of iron present in the whole body, the role it plays is very important.  Most of it is found in haemoglobin in the form of heme which is found only in animals and not in plants (1).

 Role of iron in the body

Iron plays an important role in aerobic energy production of ATP molecules. Iron also exhibits the property of antioxidant apart from being an essential part of the immune system.

 Dietary sources of iron

Dietary iron occurs in two forms in foods, heme and non-heme iron (2). The primary sources of heme iron are haemoglobin and myoglobin from animal sources such as of meat, poultry, and fish. Heme is a part of haemoglobin in red blood cells and in muscles, it is part of myoglobin.

Animal foods contain both heme and non-heme iron and are good sources of heme iron (1).

 

15 healthy foods that are very high in iron:

  1. Oysters

They contain 5.8 mg of iron per 100 grams of oysters (3). Seafood is a good source of protein and it also provides iron.

  1. Organ meat

Organ meat is a good source of iron. 100 grams of chicken liver provides almost 9 mg of iron and 100 grams of lamb liver gives about 7.4 mg of iron (3). Since it is heme iron it will be absorbed well.

  1. Meat

Chicken and lamb meat provide 1.1 mg of iron per 100 grams of meat. Meat provides complete protein that is it contains all the essential amino acids and at the same time provides a good amount of iron.

  1. Oats

Oats are grouped under cereals and are known to be a good dietary fiber source. They also provide about 4.72 mg of iron per 100 grams (3).  Since they are eaten in reasonable amounts per serving, they can be considered as a fair source of iron.

  1. Amaranth grain

Amaranth grain is clubbed under pseudo-cereal group. They are used both as grain and flour. They contain about 7.6 mg of iron per 100 grams of grain (3).

  1. Quinoa

Quinoa also is a pseudocereal which is one of the few sources of complete protein for vegetarians and it is gluten-free. It also is a good source of iron, 4.57 mg in 100 grams of quinoa (3).

  1. Soybeans

Not only are soybeans one of the best sources of complete protein for vegetarians they also provide a good amount of iron. Soybeans contain 15.7 mg of iron in 100 grams (3), which makes them one of the best sources of iron at least for vegetarians. Tofu made out of soybeans also is a good source of iron, 100 grams of tofu gives 2.7 mg iron.

  1. Mushrooms

Though mushrooms are considered to be vegetarian foods not many vegetarians like their texture. But for those who eat mushrooms, they are a good source of iron, providing 12.18 mg of iron per 100 grams of mushrooms (3).

  1. Peanuts

Peanuts are used in several recipes such as bars, chutneys, powders and so on. 100 grams of peanuts contain 4.58 mg of iron (3). Keep your kitchen stocked with peanuts as they can be used in innumerable recipes and are also a good source of several nutrients.

  1. Beans

On average, different types of beans like kidney beans, red beans, mung beans etc have 6.7 mg to 9.35 mg of iron per 100 grams of beans (3). Since they are eaten in a substantial amount as they are the primary source of protein for vegetarians, they can be considered as a good source of iron.

  1. Nuts

Nuts, in general, are fair sources of iron, 100 grams of nuts provide about 4.2 mg of iron. They are also a good source of protein and healthy fat. Cashew nuts contain 6.6 mg of iron in 100 grams (3).

  1. Berries

There are many types of berries available, from goji berries which contain 6.8 mg iron per 100 grams to mulberries which contain 1.85 mg per 100 grams. Raspberries and blackberries contain about 0.6 mg iron per 100 grams (3). Berries are good sources of antioxidants too.

  1. Spices

Cumin seeds are loaded with iron, 66.36 mg iron per 100 grams (3). Since cumin is used as a spice it is used in small quantities. Make sure you have cumin seeds and also roasted, ground cumin powder in your kitchen.

Turmeric contains curcumin which has several health benefits when consumed. It also provides 55 mg of iron per 100 grams (3). Therefore, make sure you use it regularly in cooking as well as while making beverages such as turmeric latte.

Pepper to coriander seeds, cardamom to mace contain anywhere between 13 mg to 16 mg of iron per 100 grams (3). And they are good sources of phytochemicals which exhibit several health benefits. Keep your spice rack always filled and use them regularly.

  1. Dry fruits

These are very commonly found in almost all kitchens. Raisins contain 2.6 mg of iron per 100 grams (3). They can be easily incorporated into desserts, added to breakfast muesli and even recipes which are savoury in nature. They can be eaten as such too.

Figs are also good source of iron, 2.03 mg per 100 grams (3). It is common knowledge that anaemic people are asked to eat dried figs regularly.

  1. Spinach

Being a green leafy vegetable, it is an excellent source of micronutrients and dietary fiber. Spinach 100 gm also provides 2.7 mg iron

 

Final word:

Though animal sources provide iron which is absorbed better than plant foods non-heme iron is the primary source of dietary iron for humans (1, 4). Deficiency of iron leads to anemia and weakened immune system. Make sure you add foods that provide iron t your balanced diet.

 

References:

  1. Wildman, R. (2009) The Nutritionist-Food, Nutrition, and Optimal Health, Second Edition; The Minerals of Our Body 233; Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, New York and London.
  2. Abbaspour, N., Hurrell, R. and Kelishadi, R. (2014) Review on iron and its importance for human health, Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences.19 (2).
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3999603/
  1. United States Department of Agriculture, USDA Food Composition Databases.
    https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list
  1. Yeung, D. and Laquarta, I. (2003) Copper.132. Heinz Handbook of Nutrition, Ninth Edition. Distributed by J. HeinzCompany

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