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Top 10 Iron Rich Foods

See our list of the top 10 foods rich in iron, and discover which of these foods is highest in iron content.

Iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in many important bodily functions. Therefore, keeping our iron levels topped up by consuming an adequate intake of iron-rich foods is critical for maintaining optimal health and preventing dietary iron deficiency and low iron levels in the body.

Fortunately, a wide variety of foods contain significant amounts of iron, making it accessible for people of all dietary preferences.

From organ meats like liver and seafood delicacies such as oysters, to plant-based staples like spinach and lentils, the options are plentiful. Tofu, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, and beans also rank among the top contenders for iron-rich foods.

But can you guess what food takes the crown for the highest iron content?

Why Is Iron Important?

Perhaps most notably, iron is a key component of haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to tissues throughout the body.

Additionally, iron is necessary for the production of myoglobin, a protein that helps store and transport oxygen within muscle cells, as well as for the synthesis of certain enzymes involved in energy metabolism.

Iron also plays a vital role in supporting immune function, maintaining blood cell health, cognitive development, and maintaining energy levels.

See our dedicated article on why iron is important for more information.

How To Increase Iron Levels

Dietary choices play a significant role in supporting healthy iron levels.

Incorporating iron-rich foods into one's diet, such as lean meats, poultry, seafood, beans, lentils, tofu, dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and fortified cereals, can provide additional sources of this essential mineral. If you’re experiencing low iron levels, it can be helpful to eat these foods in conjunction with vitamin C rich foods like citrus fruit or tomatoes to increase dietary iron absorption.

Also, you could consider adding daily iron supplements like Fe-Iron + Vitamin C Gummies and Fefol Daily Iron and Folic Acid. Remember to always read the label and follow the directions for use.

For Breakfast

Fortified Cereals

Iron-fortified cereals can be a convenient and effective choice for increasing iron levels, especially for anyone that struggles to meet their iron needs through regular dietary sources. These cereals are fortified with iron in a form that is easily absorbed by the body, providing a concentrated source of this essential mineral.

For Meat, Poultry, and Seafood Lovers

Liver (Beef & Chicken)

Beef and chicken liver are exceptional food choices for increasing iron levels due to their high iron content and bioavailability. These organ meats are among the most concentrated sources of haem iron, the type of iron found in animal products that is readily absorbed by the body.

Oysters

Oysters are a fantastic choice for increasing iron levels as they are rich in haem iron. Just a few oysters can provide a significant portion of the recommended daily intake of iron, making them an excellent addition to a balanced diet.

For Vegetarians & Vegans

Spinach

Spinach is an excellent choice for increasing iron levels, especially for those following plant-based diets or seeking alternative sources of iron. This leafy green vegetable is packed with non-haem iron, the type of iron found in plant-based foods. While non-haem iron is not as easily absorbed by the body as haem iron from animal sources, pairing spinach with vitamin C-rich foods can help increase absorption.

Lentils

Lentils are a fantastic food choice for increasing iron levels, particularly for those following vegetarian or vegan diets. These legumes are rich in non-haem iron, the type of iron found in plant-based foods. Lentils are also packed with fibre, protein, and other essential nutrients, making them a nutritious addition to any diet.

Tofu

This versatile soy-based protein is a rich source of non-haem iron. While non-haem iron is not as easily absorbed by the body as haem iron from animal sources, pairing tofu with vitamin C-rich foods can enhance iron absorption.

For Dessert

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate can be a surprising yet tasty choice for increasing iron levels. While it's primarily known for its indulgent flavour, dark chocolate also contains notable amounts of non-haem iron. Additionally, dark chocolate boasts other health benefits, such as being rich in antioxidants and flavonoids.

For Grain Lovers

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are an excellent food choice for increasing iron levels due to their impressive nutritional profile. These seeds are packed with non-haem iron, providing a significant portion of the recommended daily intake in just a small serving.

Quinoa

Quinoa is a fantastic food choice for increasing iron levels, particularly for those following vegetarian or vegan diets. This ancient grain is not only rich in iron but also contains a variety of essential nutrients such as protein, fibre, magnesium, and manganese.

Beans

Beans and legumes are excellent food choices for increasing iron levels, especially for those following vegetarian or vegan diets. These plant-based protein sources are rich sources of non-haem iron.

What Foods Lack Iron?

Several popular types of foods are notably lacking in iron, which can pose challenges for people trying to boost their iron intake or maintain adequate iron levels.

Highly processed foods, such as refined grains (like white bread and pasta) and sugary snacks (like lollies and soft drinks), tend to be low in iron.

Additionally, certain fruits and vegetables, like citrus fruits and berries, contain iron but in relatively small amounts compared to other sources.

While dairy products like milk and cheese are rich in calcium and other nutrients, they typically do not provide significant amounts of iron.

What Food Is Highest in Iron?

While all the foods mentioned in the article are excellent sources of iron, one stands out as the highest in iron content: liver.

Whether it's beef or chicken liver, these organ meats contain incredibly high levels of haem iron, which is easily absorbed by the body.

Just a small serving of liver can provide a significant portion of the recommended daily intake of iron, making it a powerhouse food for preventing or addressing low iron levels.

However, it's important to note that individual dietary preferences and restrictions may influence food choices. Therefore, incorporating a variety of iron-rich foods into one's diet, such as oysters, spinach, lentils, tofu, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, and beans, alongside liver, ensures a well-rounded approach to maintaining optimal iron levels and overall health.