40 Iron-Rich Foods to Help Boost Your Iron Intake

Clinical review: Tatiana Zanin
Registered Dietitian
July 2022

Iron is a mineral that is important for the formation of red blood cells and for the transport of oxygen. Low iron levels in the blood can cause symptoms like fatigue, weakness, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating.  

This mineral is important during all phases of life, but increased intake of iron is especially required during pregnancy and during older age. Foods that are rich in iron that can be incorporated into a healthy diet are red meat, black beans and rye bread. 

There are 2 types of iron: heme iron (which is found in red meat) and non-heme (which is found in vegetables). Heme iron is better absorbed, while non-heme iron should be consumed with a vitamin C source to improve absorption. 

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Iron sources and nutritional facts

The following table outlines the amount of iron in 100 g of each animal-based food item: 

FoodAmount of iron (in 100 g)
Steamed seafood22 mg
Cooked chicken liver8.5 mg
Cooked oysters8.5 mg
Cooked turkey liver 7.8 mg
Grilled cow liver 5.8 mg
Chicken egg yolk5.5 mg
Beef3.6 mg
Fresh tuna, grilled2.3 mg
Entire chicken egg2.1 mg
Lamb1.8 mg
Grilled sardine1.3 mg
Canned tuna1.3 mg

Iron in animal-based food sources is absorbed at a rate of 20 to 30% of the total iron ingested. In comparison, plant-based iron is absorbed at a rate of 5% of the total iron ingested. This is why you are advised to eat iron rich foods with a vitamin C source, like oranges, pineapple, strawberries or peppers, as this promotes absorption in the intestines. 

The following table outlines the amount of iron in 100 g of each plant-based food item: 

FoodAmount of iron (in 100 g)
Pumpkin seeds 14.9 mg
Pistachio6.8 mg
Cacao powder5.8 mg
Dried apricot5.8 mg
Tofu5.4 mg
Sunflower seeds 5.1 mg
Raisins4.8 mg
Dried coconut3.6 mg
Walnuts2.6 mg
Cooked white beans2.5 mg
Raw spinach2.4 mg
Peanuts2.2 mg
Cooked chickpeas2.1 mg

Cooked black beans

1.5 mg
Cooked lentils1.5 mg
Green beans1.4 mg
Cooked pumpkin1.3 mg
Oat flakes1.3 mg
Cooked peas1.1 mg
Raw beets0.8 mg
Strawberries0.8 mg
Cooked broccoli 0.5 mg
Blackberries0.6 mg
Banana0.4 mg
Chards0.3 mg
Avocado0.3 mg
Cherries0.3 mg
Figs0.3 mg

How to improve iron absorption 

When eating iron rich foods, you may want to consider the following tips to ensure optimal absorption:

  • Avoid eating calcium-rich foods during your main meals, like yogurt, pudding, milk or cheese, as calcium naturally inhibits the absorption of iron 
  • Avoid eating whole grain foods at lunch or dinner, as the phytates present in these grains and fibers decrease the absorption of iron 
  • Avoid consuming sweets, red wine, chocolate and some teas, as some phytates and polyphenols can inhibit iron absorption 
  • Cooking in iron pots is a way of increasing iron content in low iron foods, like rice

Mixing fruits with vegetables in smoothies can also be a great way to increase the iron in your diet. Pineapple blended with parsley is an excellent iron source. 

Daily recommended amount 

The daily recommended dose of iron varies with age and gender, as seen in the table below. Women have a higher need for iron, especially during pregnancy.  

Life stageDaily recommended dose
Babies: 7-12 months11 mg
Children: 1-3 years old7 mg
Children: 4-8 years old10 mg
Boys and girls: 9-13 years old8 mg
Boys: 14-18 years old11 mg
Girls: 14-18 years old15 mg
Men: >19 years old8 mg
Women: 19-50 years old18 mg
Women: > 50 years old8 mg
Pregnant women27 mg
Breastfeeding women: > 19 years old9 mg

Daily iron needs increase during pregnancy due to an increase in the volume of blood in the body. More red blood cells are needed for the development of the baby and the placenta, which is why more iron is required. Ensuring daily iron doses are met during pregnancy is very important, and supplementation may be advised by a doctor.

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Written and updated by Daisy Oliveira - Registered Nurse on July of 2022. Clinical review by Tatiana Zanin - Registered Dietitian, on July of 2022.


  • 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.
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  • 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
Clinical review:
Tatiana Zanin
Registered Dietitian
Graduated in Clinical Nutrition in 2001 and has a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition. Licensed to practice under the CRN-3 in Brazil and the ON in Portugal