If you’re a meat lover, beef is a great way to get some iron. Grill 6 ounces of sirloin steak for a meal that serves up 3.2 grams of this important mineral.
How much iron do you need each day? It depends on your age and sex. Men need 8 milligrams (mg). Women should get 18 mg up to age 50, but only 8 after that. If you’re pregnant, you need as much as 27.
What if you don’t eat red meat? Don’t worry. Poultry is a good source of iron, too. Try turkey, chicken, or duck.
A 3-ounce serving of duck has 2.3 mg of iron. The same amount of chicken or turkey gives you 1 mg.
Dark, Leafy Greens
If you’re looking for a tasty side dish, spinach, kale, and collards can give you an iron boost. There are lots of ways to prepare them. Steam, sautée, or chop and add to your salad. You can even blend them into a smoothie.
It’s a high-protein, low-fat way to add iron to your diet. And it doesn’t matter if it’s from a farm or caught in the wild. Tuna, sardines, mackerel, and haddock are good sources of the mineral.
Shrimp and Oysters
Do you have a weakness for a big bowl of gumbo? You can satisfy your craving and get some iron, too. Shrimp and oysters are packed with it.
Toss in some brown or enriched rice and you’ll turn it into an iron-rich treat.
If you don’t eat meat, you can still get your iron. Tofu is a good choice. Or go for beans, like kidney, garbanzo, or white.
Food from plants has “non-heme" iron, which means your body doesn’t absorb it as well as the “heme" type found in meat.
Wash down your vegetarian meal with a drink that has vitamin C. It helps you take in iron better.
Breakfast is a great time to load up on iron. Cream of wheat or bran and oat cereals all are good ways to do it. Give yourself an extra boost by adding sliced strawberries.
Scrambled, boiled, or sunny-side up, whichever way you cook them, you’ll get a healthy dose of iron. Enriched white or wheat bread can add some more, so have a slice of toast on the side.
But if you drink coffee or hot tea with it, you may lose some of the benefit. They keep you from absorbing iron as well.
You’ll find iron in some unexpected places. You can give yourself an extra helping when you use molasses on your pancakes. Molasses are rich in iron.
Nuts and Dried Fruit
Make your own trail mix for an iron-rich snack. Start with cashews or pistachios. Add dried fruit like raisins, prunes, dates, or peaches.
Watermelon is more than a refreshing summertime treat. One small slice can give you .69 mg of iron. Five medium figs have 1 mg of iron while a banana is good for .36 mg.
Go ahead, indulge your sweet tooth! You can pick up some iron when you nibble on dark chocolate. A 3-ounce piece gives you 7 mg.
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: “Iron."
- USDA National Nutrient Database.
- American Red Cross: “Iron Rich Foods."
- CDC: “Iron and Iron Deficiency."
- American Academy of Pediatrics: “Vitamin and Iron Supplements."