Top 10 Foods Highest in Iron


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Iron is an essential mineral used to transport oxygen to all parts of the body. A slight deficiency in iron causes anemia (fatigue/weakness), and a chronic deficiency can lead to organ failure. Conversely, too much iron leads to production of harmful free radicals, and interferes with metabolism, causing damage to organs like the heart and liver. The body is able to regulate uptake of iron, so overdose is rare and usually only occurs when people take supplements. Iron from natural food sources, like the ones listed below, are considered safe and healthy. While iron is better absorbed from heme (meat) sources, non-heme (plant) iron is better regulated causing less damage to the body. The current percent daily value (%DV) for iron is 18 milligrams (mg). Below is a list of high iron foods. For more high iron foods see the lists of high iron foods by nutrient density, iron rich foods (heme and non-heme), and the list of fruits and vegetables high in iron.

#1: Mollusks (Clams, Mussels, Oysters)
Iron in 100g3oz (85g)20 Small Clams (190g)
28mg (155% DV)24mg (132% DV)53mg (295% DV)
Similar Foods High in Iron (%DV per 3oz (85g)): Oysters (57%), Cuttlefish (51%), Whelk(48%), Octopus (45%), Mussels (32%), Abalone (18%), and Scallops (14%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.


#2: Liver (Pork, Chicken, Turkey, Lamb, Beef)
Iron in 100g4oz Serving (113g)1 ounce (28g)
23mg (129% DV)26mg (146% DV)7mg (36% DV)
Click to see complete nutrition facts.


#3: Squash and Pumpkin Seeds
Iron in 100g1 cup (227g)1 ounce (142 seeds) (28g)
15mg (83% DV)34mg (188% DV)4mg (23% DV)
Other Seeds High in Iron (%DV per ounce (28g)): Sesame (23%), Sunflower (11%), and Flax (9%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.


#4: Nuts (Cashew, Pine, Hazelnut, Peanut, Almond)
Iron in 100g1 cup (129g)1 ounce (18 cashews) (28g)
6.1mg (34% DV)7.8mg (43% DV)1.7mg (9% DV)
Other Nuts High in Iron (%DV per ounce (28g)): Pine nuts(9%), Hazelnuts (7%), Peanuts (7%), Almonds (7%), Pistachios (7%), and Macadamia (6%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.


#5: Beef and Lamb (Lean Tenderloin)
Iron in 100gYield from 1lb roast (251g)3 ounce serving (85g)
3.7mg (21% DV)9.3mg (51% DV)3.1mg (17% DV)
13% DV Iron in 3oz (85g) of Lean Lamb Roast. Click to see complete nutrition facts.


#6: Beans and Pulses (White Beans, Lentils)
Iron in 100g1 cup cooked (179g)1 Tablespoon (11g)
3.7mg (21% DV)6.6mg (37% DV)0.5mg (2% DV)
Other Beans High in Iron (%DV per cup cooked): Soybeans (49%), Lentils (37%), Kidney beans (29%), Garbanzo beans (Chickpeas) (26%), and Lima beans (25%), Navy (24%), Black Beans (Frijoles Negros) (20%), Pinto (20%), and Black-eyed Peas (20%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.


#7: Whole Grains, Fortified Cereals, and Bran
Iron in 100g of Quinoa1 cup of Quinoa (185g)
1.5mg (8% DV)2.8mg (15% DV)
Other Grains High in Iron (%DV per cup cooked): Oatmeal (12%), Barley (12%), Rice (11%), Bulgur (10%), Buckwheat (7%), and Millet (6%). Fortified cereals provide up to 140% DV of iron per cup. Check nutrition facts, and also be careful of the high sugar level in commercial cereals. Bran from whole grains can harm absorption of iron supplements, while whole grains are a good source of iron, they should not be consumed with iron supplements. Click to see complete nutrition facts.


#8: Dark Leafy Greens (Spinach, Swiss Chard)
Iron in 100g1 cup of Cooked Spinach (180g)
3.6mg (20% DV)6mg (36% DV)
Other Greens High in Iron (%DV per cup): Cooked Swiss Chard (22%), Cooked Turnip Greens (16%), Raw Kale (6%), and Raw Beet Greens (5%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.


#9: Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder
Iron in 100g1 cup grated (132g)1 Square (29g)
17mg (97% DV)23mg (128% DV)5mg (28% DV)
1 cup of Cocoa Powder provides 66% DV. A 1.5oz (44g) candy chocolate bar provides 6% DV. Click to see complete nutrition facts.


#10: Tofu
Iron in 100g1 cup of firm tofu (126g)1/4 Block (81g)
2.7mg (15% DV)3.4mg (19% DV)2.2mg (12% DV)
Calcium can interfere with non-heme iron absorption. Try to buy tofu without added calcium for greater iron absorption. Click to see complete nutrition facts.



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High Iron Foods by Nutrient Density (Iron per Gram)
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#1: Dried Herbs (Thyme, Parsley, Spearmint, Black Pepper, Marjoram) 124mg (687% DV) per 100 grams3.7mg (21% DV) per tablespoon (3 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Dried Herbs
#2: Fortified Cereals 68mg (376% DV) per 100 grams28mg (158% DV) per cup (42 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Enriched Bran Flakes
#3: Cocoa Powder 36mg (200% DV) per 100 grams1.8mg (10% DV) per tablespoon (5 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Cocoa Powder
#4: Spirulina (Dried Seaweed) 29mg (158% DV) per 100 grams2mg (11% DV) per tablespoon (7 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Spirulina
#5: Mollusks (Clams) 28mg (155% DV) per 100 grams24mg (132% DV) in a 3oz serving (85 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Clams
#6: Bran 19mg (103% DV) per 100 grams22mg (122% DV) per cup (118 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Rice Bran
#7: Liver 18mg (100% DV) per 100 grams15mg (85% DV) in a 3oz serving (85 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Pork Liver
#8: Squash and Pumpkin Seeds 15mg (83% DV) per 100 grams4mg (23% DV) per ounce (28 grams or 142 seeds)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Squash and Pumpkin Seeds
#9: Caviar (Fish Eggs) 12mg (66% DV) per 100 grams2mg (11% DV) per tablespoon (16 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Caviar (Fish Eggs)
#10: Sun-Dried Tomatoes 9mg (51% DV) per 100 grams0.2mg (1% DV) per piece (2 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Other Iron Rich Foods (Non-Heme)
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Artichokes3.4mg (19% DV) per 100 gram serving5.1mg (28% DV) in 1 cup of slices (119 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Jerusalem Artichokes
Molasses4.7mg (26% DV) per 100 gram serving15.9mg (88% DV) per cup (337 grams)1mg (5% DV) per tablespoon (20 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Molasses
Sorghum Syrup3.8mg (21% DV) per 100 gram serving12.5mg (70% DV) per cup (330 grams)0.8mg (4% DV) per tablespoon (21 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Molasses
Dried Apricots6.3mg (35% DV) per 100 gram serving7.5mg (42% DV) per cup (119 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Dried Apricots
Prunes3.5mg (20% DV) per 100 gram serving4.7mg (26% DV) per cup (132 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Prunes
Raisins (Seedless)1.9mg (10% DV) per 100 gram serving3.1mg (17% DV) per cup (packed) (165 grams)0.8mg (5% DV) in a small 1.5oz box (43 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Seedless Raisins
Tempeh2.7mg (15% DV) per 100 gram serving4.5mg (25% DV) per cup (166 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Tempeh
Vital Wheat Gluten5.2mg (29% DV) per 100 gram serving1.5mg (8% DV) per ounce (28 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Vital Wheat Gluten
Whole Wheat Bread2.4mg (14% DV) per 100 gram serving1.4mg (8% DV) in two slices (56 grams)0.7mg (4% DV) per 1oz slice (28 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Whole Wheat Bread

▼ Even More Iron Rich Foods (Heme)
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Beef Lean Chuck Pot Roast2.9mg (16% DV) per 100 gram serving31.7mg (176% DV) per roast (1095 grams)2.5mg (14% DV) per 3oz serving (85 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Beef Lean Chuck Pot Roast
Turkey Meat (Dark)2.3mg (13% DV) per 100 gram serving2.1mg (12% DV) per pound of turkey (~91 grams)3.3mg (18% DV) per cup (140 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Turkey Meat (Dark)
Chicken Leg (Roasted)1.3mg (7% DV) per 100 gram serving1.2mg (7% DV) per leg (99 grams)1.8mg (10% DV) per cup (140 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Roasted Chicken Leg
Chicken Breast (Roasted)1mg (6% DV) per 100 gram serving0.5mg (3% DV) per breast (52 grams)1.46mg (8% DV) per cup (140 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Roasted Chicken Breast
Tuna (Bluefin)1.3mg (7% DV) per 100 gram serving1.1mg (6% DV) in a 3oz serving (85 grams)0.36mg (2% DV) per ounce (28 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Bluefin Tuna
Halibut1mg (6% DV) per 100 gram serving0.9mg (5% DV) in a 3oz serving (85 grams)1.7mg (9% DV) in half a fillet (159 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Halubut (Atlantic and Pacific)
Pork Chops (Loin)0.9mg (5% DV) per 100 gram serving0.8mg (4% DV) in a 3oz serving (85 grams)0.7mg (4% DV) per pork chop (79 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Pork Loin (Chops)
White Tuna (Canned)1mg (5% DV) per 100 gram serving0.8mg (5% DV) in a 3oz serving (85 grams)1.7mg (9% DV) per can (172 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Canned White Tuna
Shrimp (Prawns/Camarones)3.1mg (17% DV) per 100 gram serving2.6mg (15% DV) in a 3oz serving (85 grams)0.7mg (4% DV) in four large shrimp (22 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Shrimp (Prawns/Camarones)
To find even more high iron foods, use the nutrient ranking tool.

Heme Iron vs. Non-Heme Iron
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  • Non-heme iron comes from plant foods, heme iron comes from animal foods
  • Heme iron can be absorbed more effciently by the body
  • The body can better regulate absorption of non-heme iron, helping to protect against toxic effects

▼ Factors which Affect Iron Absorption and Retention
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  • The most important factor is your existing iron level. A low iron level will increase absorption, while a high iron level will decrease absorption. In general, you absorb 10-15% of the iron from foods.2
  • Meat proteins will increase the absorption of nonheme iron.2
  • Vitamin C will increase the absorption of nonheme iron by as much as 85%.2,3
  • Tannins, oxalates, polyphenols, and phytates found in tea and coffee can reduce the absorption of non-heme iron by up to 65%. Black tea reduces absorption more than green tea and coffee.2,3,4
  • The following teas and beverages also inhibit iron absorption: Peppermint tea, cocoa, vervain, lime flower, chamomile, and most other herbal teas with polyphenols.4
  • Calcium, polyphenols, and phytates found in legumes, whole grains, and chocolate can reduce absorption of nonheme iron.
  • Some protein from soy products may inhibit nonheme iron absorption.2
  • Calcium, milk, and antacids can inhibit absorption of iron supplements.5
  • High fiber foods, such as whole grains, raw vegetables, and bran can inhibit absorption of iron supplements.5
  • Foods or drinks with caffeine can inhibit absorption of iron supplements.5

▼ High Risk Groups for an Iron Deficiency
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  • Menstruating Women - Due to blood loss during menstruation women of child bearing age are at risk of iron deficiency, the greater the blood loss the greater the risk.
  • Individuals with Kidney Failure - People with kidney failure, and especially those on dialysis, are at high risk of iron deficiency anemia. This is due to an inability of the kidney to create adequate amounts of the hormone erythropoietin which is necessary for red blood cell creation, and therefore, retaining iron.
  • Pregnant and lactating women - A developing fetus requires a high amount of iron, likewise, there is a high amount of iron lost through breast milk after birth.
  • Older infants and toddlers
  • People with low levels of Vitamin A - Vitamin A greatly helps move iron from storage in the body, without adequate amounts of vitamin A the body cannot regulate iron properly leading to an iron deficiency.
  • People with gastrointestinal disorders - Diarrhea, ulcers, and other gastrointestinal disorders and diseases can lead to an inadequate iron absorption.

▼ Recipes High in Iron
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▼ Warnings
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  • Liver, clams, oysters, mussels, caviar, and shrimp are high cholesterol foods which should be eaten in moderate amounts and avoided by people at risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • Dark Chocolate, Pumpkin Seeds, Squash Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Dried Apricots, and Molasses are high calorie foods and should be eaten in moderate amounts by people with a high body mass index.

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▼ References
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  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25.
  2. Office of Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet: Iron
  3. Hallberg L, Rossander L. Effect of different drinks on the absorption of non-heme iron from composite meals. Hum Nutr Appl Nutr. 1982 Apr;36(2):116-23.
  4. Richard F. Hurrell, Manju Reddy, and James D. Cook. Inhibition of non-haem iron absorption in man by polyphenolic-containing beverages. British Journal of Nutrition (1999), 81, 289295
  5. National Library of Medicine Fact Sheet on Taking Iron Supplements.