Top 10 Foods Highest in Iron + Infographic

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN

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 the 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. Foods high in iron include fortified cereals, beef, shellfish, dried fruit, beans, lentils, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, quinoa, mushrooms, and squash seeds. The current 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, non-heme plant-based iron foods, meat based heme-iron sources, high iron foods for vegans and vegetarians, and the list of fruits and vegetables high in iron.

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List of High Iron Foods

1. Fortified Cereals
3/4 Cup (29g) 200 calories (65g) 100g
109% DV (19.6mg) 243% DV (43.7mg) 376% DV (67.7mg)
2. Beef (Skirt Steak)
1 steak (175g) 200 calories (75g) 100g
53% DV (9.6mg) 23% DV (4.1mg) 30% DV (5.5mg)
A 3oz (85g) serving of lamb provides up to 13% DV.
Complete Nutrition Facts.
3. Shellfish (Oysters, Mussels, Clams)
3oz serving (85g) 200 calories (123g) 100g
43% DV (7.8mg) 63% DV (11.3mg) 51% DV (9.2mg)

More Seafood High in Iron (%DV per 3oz)

Cuttlefish (51%), Whelk(48%), Octopus (45%), Mussels (32%), Abalone (18%), and Scallops (14%).
Complete Nutrition Facts.
4. Dried Fruit (Apricots)
1 cup (119g) 200 calories (63g) 100g
42% DV (7.5mg) 22% DV (3.9mg) 35% DV (6.3mg)

More Dried Fruit High in Iron (%DV per cup)

Peaches (36%), Prunes (26%), Figs (17%), Raisins (17%), and Apples (7%). Note: Dried fruit is high in sugar and calories.
Complete Nutrition Facts.
5. Beans and Lentils (White Beans)
1 cup (179g) 200 calories (144g) 100g
37% DV (6.6mg) 30% DV (5.3mg) 21% DV (3.7mg)

More 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%).
See more vegetarian and vegan foods high in iron.
Complete Nutrition Facts.
6. Dark Leafy Greens (Spinach)
1 cup (180g) 200 calories (870g) 100g
36% DV (6.4mg) 172% DV (31mg) 20% DV (3.6mg)

More Greens High in Iron (%DV per cup)

Cooked Swiss Chard (22%), Cooked Turnip Greens (16%), Raw Kale (6%), and Raw Beet Greens (5%).
See more fruits and vegetables high in iron.
Complete Nutrition Facts.
7. Dark Chocolate
1oz square (29g) 200 calories (31g) 100g
28% DV (5mg) 30% DV (5.4mg) 97% DV (17.4mg)
1 cup of cocoa powder provides 66% DV. A 1.5oz (44g) candy chocolate bar provides 6% DV.
Top 5 Benefits of Dark Chocolate.
Complete Nutrition Facts.
8. Quinoa (Cooked)
1 cup (185g) 200 calories (167g) 100g
15% DV (2.8mg) 14% DV (2.5mg) 8% DV (1.5mg)

Other Grains High in Iron (%DV per cup cooked)

Oatmeal (12%), Barley (12%), Rice (11%), Bulgur (10%), Buckwheat (7%), and Millet (6%). 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.
Complete Nutrition Facts.
9. White Button Mushrooms
1 cup (156g) 200 calories (714g) 100g
15% DV (2.7mg) 69% DV (12.4mg) 10% DV (1.7mg)

More Mushrooms High in Iron (%DV per cup sliced)

Morels (45% DV), Oyster (6% DV), Shiitake (3% DV).
Complete Nutrition Facts.
10. Squash and Pumpkin Seeds
1oz handful (28g) 200 calories (36g) 100g
14% DV (2.5mg) 18% DV (3.2mg) 49% DV (8.8mg)

More Nuts & Seeds High in Iron (%DV per oz)

Sesame (23%), Sunflower (11%), and Flax (9%), Cashews (9%), Pine nuts(9%), Hazelnuts (7%), Peanuts (7%), Almonds (7%), Pistachios (7%), and Macadamia (6%).
Complete Nutrition Facts.

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Pinnable infographic

Factors which Affect Iron Absorption and Retention

High-Risk Groups for an Iron Deficiency

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Click each heading below for more information from

#1 Dried Herbs (Thyme, Parsley, Spearmint, Black Pepper, Marjoram)687% DV (123.6mg) in 100grams7% DV (1.2mg) in 1 tsp (1g)
#2 Fortified Cereals376% DV (67.7mg) in 100grams109% DV (19.6mg) in 3/4 Cup (29g)
#3 Spirulina (Dried Seaweed)158% DV (28.5mg) in 100grams11% DV (2mg) in 1 tbsp (7g)
#4 Rice Bran103% DV (18.5mg) in 100grams122% DV (21.9mg) in 1 cup (118g)
#5 Cocoa Powder86% DV (15.5mg) in 100grams5% DV (0.8mg) in 1 tbsp (5g)
#6 Liver (Chicken Liver)72% DV (12.9mg) in 100grams31% DV (5.7mg) in 1 liver (44g)
#7 Caviar (Fish Roe)66% DV (11.9mg) in 100grams19% DV (3.4mg) in 1 oz (28g)
#8 Shellfish (Oysters, Mussels, Clams)51% DV (9.2mg) in 100grams43% DV (7.8mg) in 3oz serving (85g)
#9 Wheat Germ35% DV (6.3mg) in 100grams40% DV (7.2mg) in 1 cup (115g)
#10 Squash and Pumpkin Seeds33% DV (6mg) in 100grams9% DV (1.7mg) in 1oz handful (28g)

#1 Vital Wheat Gluten29% DV (5.2mg) in 100 grams (100g)16% DV (2.8mg) in 200 calories (54g)
#2 Artichokes28% DV (5.1mg) in 1 cup (150g)52% DV (9.3mg) in 200 calories (274g)
#3 Green Peas14% DV (2.5mg) in 1 cup (160g)20% DV (3.7mg) in 200 calories (238g)
#4 Tempeh12% DV (2.1mg) in 100 grams (100g)12% DV (2.2mg) in 200 calories (103g)
#5 Acorn Squash11% DV (1.9mg) in 1 cup (205g)18% DV (3.3mg) in 200 calories (357g)
#6 Dried Gogi Berries11% DV (1.9mg) in 5 tbsp (28g)22% DV (3.9mg) in 200 calories (57g)
#7 Tofu10% DV (1.9mg) in 1/5 Block (91g)27% DV (4.9mg) in 200 calories (241g)
#8 Whole Wheat Bread6% DV (1.1mg) in 1 slice (43g)11% DV (2mg) in 200 calories (76g)
#9 Molasses5% DV (0.9mg) in 1 tbsp (20g)18% DV (3.3mg) in 200 calories (69g)
#10 Sorghum Syrup4% DV (0.8mg) in 1 tbsp (21g)15% DV (2.6mg) in 200 calories (69g)

#1 Lean Chuck Pot Roast (Beef)18% DV (3.2mg) in 3oz (85g)21% DV (3.8mg) in 200 calories (100g)
#2 Canned Tuna15% DV (2.7mg) in 1 can (165g)21% DV (3.8mg) in 200 calories (233g)
#3 Lamb Stew Meat13% DV (2.4mg) in 3oz (85g)14% DV (2.5mg) in 200 calories (90g)
#4 Mackerel8% DV (1.4mg) in 3oz fillet (88g)7% DV (1.2mg) in 200 calories (76g)
#5 Turkey Meat (Dark)7% DV (1.3mg) in 3oz (85g)9% DV (1.6mg) in 200 calories (102g)
#6 Trout7% DV (1.2mg) in 3oz fillet (62g)11% DV (2mg) in 200 calories (105g)
#7 Bass7% DV (1.2mg) in 1 fillet (62g)15% DV (2.6mg) in 200 calories (137g)
#8 Chicken Breast6% DV (1mg) in 1/2 Breast (98g)6% DV (1.1mg) in 200 calories (102g)
#9 Pork Chops5% DV (0.9mg) in 1 chop (85g)7% DV (1.2mg) in 200 calories (115g)
#10 Chicken Drumstick4% DV (0.6mg) in 1 leg (46g)9% DV (1.6mg) in 200 calories (118g)

  • 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 protectagainst toxic effects

  • People with high levels of iron in their body may have Hemochromatosis. They should avoid the high iron foods listed in this article. Hemochromatosis can lead to organ damage. Symptoms include joint pain, fatigue, general weakness, weight loss, and stomach pain.
  • Liver is a high cholesterol food 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 beeaten in moderate amounts by people with a high body mass index.

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Data Sources and References

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.
  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-heme iron absorption in man by polyphenolic-containing beverages. British Journal of Nutrition (1999), 81, 289-295
  5. National Library of Medicine Fact Sheet on Taking Iron Supplements.