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Iron Levels in Whole Grains

author image Kathryn Gilhuly
Kathryn Gilhuly is a wellness coach based in San Diego. She helps doctors, nurses and other professionals implement lifestyle changes that focus on a healthy diet and exercise. Gilhuly holds a Master of Science in health, nutrition and exercise from North Dakota State University.
Iron Levels in Whole Grains
Whole grains provide small amounts of iron. Photo Credit morisfoto/iStock/Getty Images

Iron, an essential mineral in your diet, helps carry oxygen from your lungs to various cells throughout your body. A variety of foods, including whole grains, contain iron. Whole grains are more nutrient-dense than refined grains because they contain the entire grain – bran, germ and endosperm.

Recommended Intake

Your daily recommended intake of iron varies depending on your age and sex. Women of childbearing age require more iron than men, and pregnant women require more iron than other adult females. In general, males ages 19 and over should consume about 8 mg of iron daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Women ages 19 to 50 should consume 18 mg of iron per day; women over 50 should have 8 mg. Pregnant women should consume about 27 mg of iron per day. Lactating women require 9 mg daily.

Iron Content in Whole Grains

The amount of iron varies greatly between different types of whole grains. One slice of whole wheat bread contains 0.74 mg of iron; 1 cup of cooked bulgur contains 1.75 mg of iron; 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 2.76 mg of iron; 1 cup of cooked brown rice contains 0.82 mg of iron; 1 cup of cooked wild rice contains 0.98 mg of iron; 1 cup of cooked pearled barley contains 2.09 mg of iron. Some whole grain breakfast cereals contain added iron. One brand supplies 18 mg -- more than a full day's supply for most adults -- per 3/4 cup.

Alternate Iron Sources

With the exception of iron-fortified breakfast cereals, most whole grains are not particularly high in iron. Numerous animal-based and plant-based foods are better sources of iron. Examples include 3 oz. of clams, 23.8 mg of iron; 3 oz. of oysters, 10.2 mg of iron; 3 oz. of beef, 3 mg of iron. Plant-based foods that provide iron include 1/2 cup of cooked soybeans, 4.4 mg; 1 oz. of roasted pumpkin seeds, 4.2 mg; 1/2 cup of white beans, 3.9 mg; 1/2 cup of cooked lentils, 3.3 mg of iron; and 1/2 cup of cooked spinach, 3.2 mg of iron.

Nutritional Value of Whole Grains

While whole grains do not provide a rich source of iron, they provide high amounts of other nutrients. Whole grains make an excellent source of dietary fiber. Consuming whole grain foods can help you fulfill your daily recommended intake of fiber – about 25 g to 38 g. Whole grains also contain vitamin E, most of the B vitamins, essential fatty acids, magnesium, chromium and folate.

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