Food & Diet

7 Best Food Sources of Iron

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We all need iron to be able to function well, because it is a mineral that helps oxygen travel throughout the body and get to all the parts it is necessary. When there is an iron deficiency, people can feel weakness and fatigue due to anemia, or if the deficiency is chronic it can lead to organ failure. However, this doesn’t mean that we should stuff ourselves with iron, because too much of it can be harmful as well. If you consume too much iron, your body can produce free radicals that can be harmful, slow down your metabolism and disrupt the function of your liver and heart. Fortunately, overdoses happen very rarely (almost never), and when they do happen it’s because people overdo it with iron supplements.

The Food and Nutrition Board at the institute of Medicine suggests an intake of 8mg per day for an adult male, and 18 mg per day for an adult female.

Eating foods rich in iron is considered safe and very healthy, so instead of taking supplements, take a look at these foods and choose the ones you like to meet your needs. You can find iron in meat (better absorbed) and vegetables (healthier).

1. Liver

Liver coming from pork, chicken, turkey, lamb or beef has a high amount of iron, amounting to 23 mg per 100 grams, which means that you should be careful with the consumption of liver, because only a portion of 100 grams contains much more of this mineral than the recommended daily dose. A safe amount of liver would be no more than 1 ounce (28g), which contains 7mg of iron.

2. Squash and Pumpkin Seeds

Both squash and pumpkin seeds contain a fairly high level of iron, around 15 mg per 100 grams, which is more than the recommended dose for men, and slightly below the limits for women. A safe amount to eat would be less than two ounces (around 50 grams), which would amount to around 7 mg of iron. Other seeds that are rich in iron are sesame seeds (23% of the daily recommended dose), sunflower (11%) and flax seeds (9%).


3. Nuts

Most nuts are high in iron, but cashew, hazelnuts, peanuts and almonds have the highest contents. In 100g these nuts contain around 6 mg of iron, so it is safe to eat them in this amount without worrying about stepping over the line when it comes to iron (but it wouldn’t be good to eat them in large amounts for other reasons, such as calories, fat, heaviness in the stomach, etc.).

4. Beef and Lamb

Basically, all red meat is rich in iron, but lean tenderloin from beef and lamb can be considered the best source, containing 3.7 mg of iron in 100g of meat, which is 21% of the daily recommended amount. However, since red meat in large amounts is thought to be able to cause cardiovascular problems, it would be good to limit your consumption to once or twice a week, not more.

5. Dark Leafy Greens

This group of veggies is among the best plant-based sources of iron. Spinach and Swiss chard contain 20% of the daily recommended dose in 100grams, which is 3.6 mg of iron. Other green veggies are also good sources of iron, but contain slightly smaller amounts.

6. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate and cocoa powder contain very high amounts of iron. In only 100g, there are 17 milligrams of iron, which is 97% of the recommended daily intake. So there is one good side of eating chocolate. However, this should also serve as a warning not to eat too much of it, because if you overeat on chocolate or cocoa, you will possibly overdose on iron.

7. Clams and Oysters

These are maybe the foods with the highest levels of iron, as in 100g there is 28mg of this mineral. This means that if you eat this amount, you will eat 155% of the daily healthy limit, so you should be careful about the quantities you eat. But if you are eating them in a restaurant, the cooks probably already know the facts and have taken them into consideration when preparing meals.

In order to increase your body’s ability to absorb iron, eat foods that are rich in vitamin C, avoid coffee and tea because these beverages contain polyphenols, which block the absorption of iron, and avoid eating foods that are rich in calcium at least half an hour prior to eating iron-rich foods (because calcium also disrupts the absorption of iron).

The abovementioned foods are the best sources of iron, but there are so many iron-rich foods to combine to your liking, all it takes is a little online searching and reading.