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Get excited about nutrition, and learn as you go with these information-packed resources on a wide variety of nutrition-centric topics! Our bistroMD experts review the importance of the macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as how to make them work most efficiently for you.

Low Iron? Eat These Foods

Low iron and iron deficiency anemia are not conditions that should be self-diagnosed. Supplementing with iron tablets without any sort of guidance can be extremely dangerous. However you can maintain adequate iron by taking a bite out of these high iron foods!

Low Iron? Eat These Foods

Iron is an extremely vital mineral. When the lungs inhale fresh oxygen, a substance known as hemoglobin, found in red blood cells (RBCs), transports it throughout the body. Furthermore, iron is an important component of hemoglobin and without it, the body cannot produce enough oxygen-carrying RBCs. In turn, the body cannot get sufficient oxygen and the body's organs and cells are compromised.

Iron Needs

Iron needs vary between each individual. Age, gender, and health conditions and diseases affect the suggested amount of iron needed. Overall, recommendations vary between 8 to 27 milligrams, with the greatest needs occurring childhood and in women during puberty, pregnancy, and while breastfeeding.

Infants and Toddlers

In general, younger children require more iron than adults due to their rapidly growing bodies. The intake of iron is needed most during months 7 to 12 and ages 4 to 8.


Unlike childhood, a girl's daily iron needs will increase in comparison to boys, related to their menstruation cycles. Like rapid growth in months 7 to 12 and ages 4 to 8, puberty results in an increased iron need.


Iron recommendations start to decrease after age 18. However, women need considerably more iron in adulthood, too, related to childbearing years and maintaining their menstruation cycles. Iron needs in women decrease at the age of 51 and when undergoing menopause.

Other Considerations

Iron may need increased from high iron foods or supplements if you: exercise a lot due to destroyed RBCs, are pregnant and/or breastfeeding, dealing with kidney failure and undergoing dialysis, have an ulcer with blood loss, an absorption disorder, or had bariatric surgery.

Signs of Low Iron

Before getting into foods with iron, it is important to understand potential symptoms when iron is low. Low iron and iron deficiency anemia is certainly not a condition that should be self-diagnosed. Supplementing with iron tablets without any sort of guidance can be extremely dangerous. If you notice or experience any of the following signs or symptoms, seeing a healthcare professional would be in your best interest. Those indicators include: pale skin, fatigue and weakness, brittle nails, frequent headaches, dizziness, sore or inflamed tongue, loss of appetite, a tingling sensation in legs, and fast heartbeat.

High Iron Foods

Maintain adequate iron by taking a bite out of these high iron foods!


This red meat is a tremendous source of iron, containing approximately 34 mg for one 3-ounce serving. Although red meats can in fact fit into a healthy diet, their intake should be moderated after the World Health Organized claimed high consumption could lead to cancer. Reduce its intake to one to two servings per week.


Like beef, lamb is still considered a red meat, and should be consumed in selective amounts. A 3-ounce serving of lamb is nearly identical to beef, falling just one milligram shy at 33 mg.


Although seaweed is not exactly consumed alone, the sushi it is typically found in has gained extreme popularity over the past few years. Despite it's naturally low calorie composition, it is high in fiber and iron. One cup of seaweed contains 32 mg of iron, almost equivalent to a beef serving!


Soybeans are a valuable protein source, especially for individuals who practice vegetarianism and veganism or simply trying to reduce meat intake. Soybeans create a wide variety of products such as soymilk and tofu. The bland taste of tofu allows for extreme versatility, as it is able to take on any flavor. Just one cup of soybeans contains almost 30 grams of iron.

Quick Oats

Just one half cup of dry oats, or one cup cooked, contains 20 mg of iron. In addition, whole grain cereals are excellent iron sources. On average, 15 to 20 grams of iron are found in one cup of dry cereal.

Kidney Beans

Not only are beans high in fiber, they are loaded with iron. A bowl of chili filled with kidney beans and other desired beans provides ample amounts of fiber and approximately 17 mg of iron.


Apart of the legume family, lentils are similar to beans. They are versatile and can be added to a wide variety of dishes. In general, lentils provide an average of 12 mg or iron per one cup. Red and pink lentils offer a little more iron with 14 mg.


One serving of clams, or about a 4 ounces of actual clam meat, provides 16 mg of iron. These coastal mollusks are low in fat, high in protein, and contain a healthy handful of minerals.

Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds are a valuable snack as they are convenient, create feelings of satiety, and provide a satisfying crunch. Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of healthy fat and offers about 7 mg of iron per handful.

Wheat Flour

To get the most out of baked products, replace white flour with wheat flour. One cup of wheat flour contains 10 mg of iron. Additionally, wheat products are rich in fiber and B vitamins.


Iron. Linus Pauling Institute. Available at:

National Nutrient Database. United States Department of Agriculture. Available at:

Sydney Lappe's Photo
Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on April 11, 2016. Updated on May 18, 2016.


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