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Iron-Rich Foods for Iron Deficiency and Anemia

author image Alia Butler
Alia Butler holds a Master of Social Work from Washington University, St. Louis, concentrating in mental health, and a Master of Arts in social-organizational psychology from Columbia University. Currently, Butler is a freelance writer, penning articles focusing on mental health, healthy living and issues surrounding work-life balance. She is the principle/owner of ALIA Living, LLC, providing residential interior design services, professional organizing and life coaching.
Iron-Rich Foods for Iron Deficiency and Anemia
Green, leafy vegetables like spinach can provide quality sources of iron. Photo Credit: rez-art/iStock/Getty Images

Iron helps the body produce enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. Therefore, people who are deficient in iron often feel unwarranted fatigue. If iron deficiency is suspected, it is important to ensure that iron-rich foods are a part of the diet and to consult a doctor; low iron can be a symptom of other health problems. Eat foods rich in vitamin C to increase iron absorption, reports "Vegetarian Times."

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Fish and Seafood

Some fish and seafood can provide rich sources of iron. Clams, oysters and fish contain high amounts of heme iron. According to the National Institutes of Health, oysters contain 4.5mg of iron per serving and halibut contains 0.9mg of iron per serving.

Heme iron is the form of iron that is more easily absorbed and maintained in the body. A person with an iron deficiency or anemia will have to eat less fish or seafood than other iron-rich foods because these contain the best type of iron in high amounts.

Organ Meats

Meats that come from the livers of chickens, pigs and cows offer significant sources of heme iron, notes the Cleveland Clinic. For example, a serving of chicken liver contains 12.8mg of iron, reports the NIH.

Although these organ meats are rich sources of iron, consume them in moderation because of the high amounts of saturated fat and calories. Therefore, these meats are rich in iron and can help a person overcome an iron deficiency, but if the person is at risk for heart disease, organ meats may not be the best option.

Nuts, Seeds and Beans

Plant-based proteins, such as nuts, seeds and beans all offer significant amounts of iron. According to the NIH, per serving black beans contain 3.6mg of iron, kidney beans contain 5.2mg of iron and boiled soybeans contain 8.8mg of iron.

These plant-based, iron-rich foods contain significant amounts of non heme iron. According to "Vegetarian Times," non heme iron, while good for iron, needs to be consumed in higher amounts because it is not as easily absorbed or retained in the body. People can consume a variety of different nuts, seeds and beans such as peanut butter, canned beans, lentils and pumpkin seeds to get high iron. Also, plant-based sources of iron contain fewer calories and healthy fats. Therefore, they may be a healthy option for a person struggling with weight or at risk for heart disease.

Fortified Products

Due to the high risk of iron deficiency that occurs during pregnancy, many cereals, breads and pastas have been enriched with significant amounts of iron. NIH reports that 100 percent iron-fortified cereal contains 18mg of iron.

In addition to rich amounts of iron, people can choose whole-grain cereals, breads and pastas that have been fortified; this will also provide a significant amount of fiber, which is important to overall health.

Green Leafy Vegetables

Vegetables, such as spinach and kale, which are dark green in color and have large leaves, can provide quality sources of iron. NIM reports that a serving of boiled spinach provides 3.2mg of iron. These vegetables contain the vegetable-based non heme iron, but these vegetables also provide valuable vitamins and minerals that help maintain overall healthy functioning.


Beef products contain high amounts of heme iron. According to the NIH, beef tenderloin contains 3mg of iron per serving. When considering beef as a rich source of iron, it is important to remember that beef is high in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories. Therefore, beef may not be the best source of iron for people who are overweight or at risk for heart disease.

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