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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.
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.
|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|
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|
|Some food can interfere with how your body from absorbs iron. Foods to avoid include:|
|Beverages||Black tea, chamomile tea, coffee, green tea, peppermint tea, red wine|
Read food labels and watch serving sizes to help control the amount of iron in your child’s diet.
Find more information on food sources of iron.
Reviewed: August 2022