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Which foods are rich in iron

Iron is an important mineral for the formation of blood cells and can help transport oxygen. Therefore, when there is a lack of iron you experience symptoms such as tiredness, weakness, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating.

This mineral is important in all phases of life and should be consumed frequently, but it is necessary to increase its consumption during pregnancy and when you become older, moments in which there is a greater need of iron in the body. Good examples of iron-rich foods are red meats, black beans, and barley bread, for example.

There are 2 types of iron, iron heme: present in red meat, and non-heme iron present in vegetables. The iron present in the meat is better absorbed, whereas the iron present in vegetables needs you to consume a source of vitamin C so that it is better absorbed.

Which foods are rich in iron

Iron rich food chart

Below there is a chart that indicates the iron present in animal or plant sources:

Amount of iron in foods of animal origin in each 100 g
Steamed shellfish22 mg
Cooked chicken liver8,5 mg
Cooked oysters8,5 mg
Cooked turkey liver7,8 mg
Grilled cow liver5,8 mg
Chicken egg yolk5,5 mg
Steak3,6 mg
Fresh grilled tuna2,3 mg
Whole chicken egg2,1 mg
Lamb1,8 mg
Grilled sardines1,3 mg
Canned tuna1,3 mg

The iron present in foods of animal sources may not be totally absorbed, it is estimated that only 20 to 30% of the total amount ingested is absorbed by the intestine.

Amount of iron in foods of plant origin in each 100 g
Pumpkin seeds14,9 mg
Pistachio6,8 mg
Cocoa powder5,8 mg
Tofu5,4 mg
Sunflower seeds5,1 mg
Grape raisin4,8 mg
Chestnuts2,6 mg
White cooked beans2,5 mg
Raw spinach2,4 mg
Peanut2,2 mg
Boiled chickpeas2,1 mg

Black cooked beans

1,5 mg
Cooked lentils1,5 mg
Green beans1,4 mg
Cooked pumpkin1,3 mg
Oats1,3 mg
Cooked peas1,1 mg
Raw beets0,8 mg
Cooked broccoli0,5 mg
Chard0,3 mg
Avocado0,3 mg

Only about 5% of the total amount of iron ingested in foods of plant origin  are absorbed by the intestine. Therefore, it is important to consume them along with foods rich in vitamin C, such as orange, pineapple, strawberries and peppers, because it favors the absorption of this mineral by the intestine.

Tips to help iron absorption 

Iron-rich foods are important and can help treat anemia, but it is also important to follow other dietary tips like:

  • Avoid eating calcium-rich foods with the main meals such as yogurts, pudding, milk or cheese because calcium is a natural inhibitor of iron absorption;
  • Avoid eating whole foods at lunch and dinner, because the phytates present in the cereals and fibers of whole foods, reduce the efficiency of iron absorption in food;
  • Avoid eating sweets, red wine, chocolate and some herbs to make tea, because they have polyphenols and phytates, which are inhibitors of iron absorption;
  • Cooking in an iron pot is a way to increase the amount of iron from poor foods, such as rice, for example.

Mixing fruits and vegetables in juices can also be a great way to enrich the diet in iron. Two great iron-rich recipes are pineapple juice whipped in a blender with fresh parsley and stewed liver steak.

Daily iron requirement

The daily requirement of iron, as can be seen in the table, varies according to your age and gender, women have a greater need for iron than men, especially during pregnancy.

Age groupDaily iron requirement
Babies: 7-12 months olds11 mg
Children: 1-3 years of age7 mg
Children: 4-8 years of age10 mg
Boys and girls: 9-13 years of age8 mg
Boys: 14-18 years of age11 mg
Girls: 14-18 years of age15 mg
Men: >19 years of age8 mg
Women: 19-50 years of age18 mg
Women: > 50 years of age8 mg
Pregnant women27 mg
Women who breastfeed: < 18 years of age10 mg
Women who breastfeed: > 19 years of age9 mg

Daily iron requirements increase in pregnancy because the amount of blood in the body increases, so iron is needed to produce more blood cells, just as iron is needed for the development of the baby and the placenta. Reaching iron needs in pregnancy is very important, but iron supplementation may be necessary during pregnancy and should always be recommended by your doctor.

Bibliography >

  • BORTOLINI, Gisele A.; FISBERG, Mauro. Orientação nutricional do paciente com deficiência de ferro. Rev. Bras. Hematol. Hemoter. vol.32(2) . 105-113,
  • COZZOLINO Silvia. Biodisponibilidade de nutrientes. 4º. Brasil: Manole Ltda, 2012. 645-669.
  • PLATAFORMA PORTUGUESA DE INFORMAÇÃO ALIMENTAR. Composição de Alimentos. Available on: <http://portfir.insa.pt/foodcomp/search>. Access in 21 Mar 2019
  • UNIVERSIDADE ESTADUAL DE CAMPINAS – UNICAMP . Tabela Brasileira de Composição de Alimentos. 2011. Available on: <http://www.nepa.unicamp.br/taco/contar/taco_4_edicao_ampliada_e_revisada.pdf?arquivo=taco_4_versao_ampliada_e_revisada.pdf>. Access in 21 Mar 2019
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