Iron and vitamin C are essential nutrients that your body needs to ensure proper wound healing, prevent anemia, maintain energy levels and support immune function. Your body is unable to synthesize these nutrients, so they must come from your diet. Very few foods provide a good source of both. However, eating foods that contain iron along with foods that contain vitamin C improves your body's ability to absorb iron.
Vegetables are the only foods that contain significant amounts of the mineral iron and vitamin C naturally. Dark-green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, collard greens, chard, beet greens, turnip greens and mustard greens, contain 1 to 4 milligrams of iron and 35 to 53 milligrams of vitamin C per serving. Women over the age of 50 and all adult men need at least 8 milligrams of iron per day, while women under 50 need at least 18 milligrams per day. Adult men need at least 90 milligrams of vitamin C daily, and women need at least 75 milligrams, according to the Institute of Medicine. You'll also get varying amounts of both iron and vitamin C from eating broccoli, bell peppers, asparagus, tomatoes, bok choy and potatoes.
Many protein-rich foods are good sources of iron, even though they don't contain significant amounts of vitamin C. Animal proteins contain a form of iron called heme iron, which is easily absorbed by your body. Organ meats, such as liver, provide the most iron, with 5 to 11 milligrams per serving. Oysters, beef, turkey, tuna and chicken are good sources of iron as well. You'll also get smaller amounts of the mineral from eating seafood, pork and eggs.
Vegetarian Iron Sources
Vegetarian sources of iron contain nonheme iron, which your body can absorb more easily when it's paired with vitamin C. Soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, black beans and pinto beans contain between 4 and 9 milligrams of iron per serving. Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, all contain iron. Many foods are fortified with iron as well. You can buy ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, bread products and flours that are fortified with iron.
Other Sources of Vitamin C
In addition to vegetables, many fruits are good sources of vitamin C. Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits, and their juices provide between 40 and 70 milligrams of vitamin C per serving. Kiwis, guavas, strawberries, currants and cantaloupe are good sources of the vitamin as well. Additional vegetable sources of vitamin C include Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. Many other fruit juices and frozen juice concentrates are also fortified with vitamin C.