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Foods With Iron

Iron is a mineral found in every cell in your body. It helps your body produce a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin in red blood cells carries oxygen to the tissues in your body. Iron also gives you energy and helps your immune system be stronger.

Sources of iron 

The iron you get in your diet can come from two sources: meat and plant foods. The iron from meat is heme iron and the iron from plants is non-heme iron. Your body uses the heme iron from meat better than non-heme iron from plants. Some foods like bread and breakfast cereals have iron added in the manufacturing process. This process is called enriched or fortified

Woman and children often do not get enough iron in their diets. People with certain medical conditions may need to eat more iron-rich foods. In some cases, your care team may recommend an iron supplement. Too much iron can be harmful. Always check with your health care provider before taking any vitamin or supplement.  

Foods that are good sources of iron  

The following foods may help increase iron intake: 
Protein Beef, bison, canned tuna, lamb, liver, mackerel, oysters, pork, tahini, tempeh, tofu, turkey
Vegetables Artichokes, beans, broccoli, chickpeas, green peas, kale, leeks, potato, pumpkin seeds, spinach, squash, sweet potato, turnip greens
Fruit Dates, dried apricots, figs, mango, prunes, raisins, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon
Grains Amaranth, cream of wheat cereal, enriched bread, fortified breakfast cereal, instant grits, oats, quinoa, tortillas, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pita
Other Blackstrap molasses, cake prepared from box mix, cocoa powder, peanut butter, seaweed

Foods that increase the absorption of iron 

Vitamin C can help your body absorb iron. When eating food high in iron, try to also eat food that has vitamin C.

Foods that are high in vitamin C include: 
Fruits Cantaloupe, durian, guava, kiwi, lemons, lychee, mango, oranges, papaya, persimmons, pineapple, strawberries, tangerines, watermelon
Vegetables Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cassava, cauliflower, jicama, kale, parsley, peppers, potatoes, rutabaga, sorrel, spinach, tomatoes
Grains Fortified breakfast cereals
Beverages Fruit juices, fruit flavored powered drink mixes, powdered instant breakfast drink mixes

Foods that limit the absorption of iron 

Some food can interfere with how your body from absorbs iron. Foods to avoid include: 
Grains Bran
Nutrients Calcium
Beverages Black tea, chamomile tea, coffee, green tea, peppermint tea, red wine

Find more information 

Read food labels and watch serving sizes to help control the amount of iron in your child’s diet.  

Nutrition facts

Find more information on food sources of iron.

Key Points

  • Iron is found in every cell of our body 
  • Iron helps produce hemoglobin and hemoglobin carries oxygen 
  • Iron comes from two sources: meat and plants 

Reviewed: August 2022