A Guide to Healthy Foods That Are Rich in Iron

You can enjoy a variety of foods from either plant or animal sources to get the dietary iron you need. The average adult male requires about 8 milligrams (mg) of iron per day. A woman who is still having her period needs about 18 mg per day.

Iron is essential for the production of hemoglobin, a protein that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen to every part of your body. It's also a component of myoglobin, which is similar to hemoglobin, but found in muscle cells. If you don't get enough iron, you may feel fatigued and you may end up with iron-deficiency anemia. To boost iron intake, try adding these 13 foods to your diet.

Oysters

Oysters

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Oysters are an excellent source of iron. Depending on where they are from, a serving of six raw oysters can have between 4 mg and 16 mg iron. It also has between 5 and 28 grams protein.

Beef Liver

Beef liver

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Beef liver is well-known as a source of iron—and for good reason. One 4-ounce serving has 5.5 mg iron. It also provides 23 grams of protein and is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, folate, and other nutrients. A single serving contains about 153 calories, according to USDA data.

Spinach

Spinach

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Iron must have been the reason Popeye wolfed down all those cans of spinach. Depending on the source, one cup of cooked spinach has from 4 mg to 6.5mg iron. It also has almost 250 mg calcium and more than 800 mg potassium, plus vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber.

Dark Chocolate

Chocolate

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Dark chocolate is an excellent source of iron as well as antioxidants. A one-ounce serving of dark chocolate (70% to 85% cacao solids) has almost 3.4 mg iron. It also has 170 calories, so don't overdo it. 

White Beans

Navy beans

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

White beans are a good plant-based source of iron. One half-cup serving has more than 3 mg iron. That half-cup serving has 6 mg fiber and almost 600 mg potassium, plus plenty of protein, calcium, B vitamins, and antioxidants.

Lentils

Lentils

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Lentils are another plant source of iron. A 100-gram serving of cooked lentils provides more than 3 mg iron. Lentils are also high in fiber, providing about 8 mg per serving. In addition, lentils are high in protein, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc.

Baked Potato

Baked potato

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

 

Potatoes don't get the credit they deserve, nutritionally speaking. Not only are they a good source of vitamin C and B vitamins, but they're also an excellent source of potassium and are high in iron. In fact, one large baked potato with the skin has more than 3 mg iron.

Beef Steak

Steak

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Beef is an excellent source of animal-sourced iron. One 6-ounce tenderloin steak has more than 3 mg iron. It's also a good source of zinc, potassium, and other minerals, plus vitamin B-12. However, it has about 5 grams of saturated fat, so portion control is a good idea.

Canned Tuna

Tuna

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Canned tuna is a rich source of iron. A 6-ounce can of tuna has 2.7 mg iron, along with plenty of potassium and B vitamins and a little vitamin D. It also has 400 mg sodium, which is a little on the high side. But canned tuna has less than 150 calories per serving, as long as you choose the kind packed in water, not oil.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are rich in iron. One-half cup of cooked chickpeas has about 2 mg iron, along with several other minerals. It also has 141 micrograms (mcg) folate, which is one of the B-complex vitamins, and 6 grams of fiber—all for less than 150 calories.

Cashews

Cashews

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Here's another plant-based source of iron. Cashews are perfect as an iron-rich snack. One ounce has close to 2 mg iron, along with vitamins, minerals, and beneficial monounsaturated fats.

Tomato Juice

Tomato juice

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Tomato juice doesn't have as much iron as our other selections, but it's good for a beverage. One cup of tomato juice has 1 mg iron. It also contains lycopene, a potent antioxidant, and vitamin A. It's also a good source of minerals, but look out for brands that are too high in sodium. 

Raisins

Raisins

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Raisins, along with most dehydrated fruits, are high in iron. One little box (about 1/3 cup) has almost 1 mg iron—not bad for a mid-afternoon snack. Raisins are also high in potassium and an excellent source of B vitamins.

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  1. Mollusks, oyster, Pacific, raw. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  2. Beef, variety meats and by-products, liver, raw. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  3. Chocolate, dark, 70-85% cacao solids. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  4. Beans, white, mature seeds, canned. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  5. Lentils, dry, cooked, fat not added in cooking. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  6. Tuna, canned, water pack. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  7. Chickpeas, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.