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Foods With Iron & Zinc

author image Natalie Stein
Natalie Stein specializes in weight loss and sports nutrition. She is based in Los Angeles and is an assistant professor with the Program for Public Health at Michigan State University. Stein holds a master of science degree in nutrition and a master of public health degree from Michigan State University.
Foods With Iron & Zinc
sliced pork tenderloin Photo Credit: AlexPro9500/iStock/Getty Images

Iron and zinc are essential minerals in your diet. Iron is a component of healthy red blood cells, and zinc is necessary for a strong immune system. Eating a variety of foods can help you meet your daily requirements for both minerals. The daily value for iron is 18 milligrams, and the daily value for zinc is 15 milligrams.

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Meat Group

sliced beef tenderloin
sliced beef tenderloin Photo Credit: pilipphoto/iStock/Getty Images

Beef and pork are sources of iron and zinc. A 3-ounce portion of lean beef tenderloin provides 2.6 milligrams of iron and 3.2 milligrams of zinc, and a 3-ounce portion of pork tenderloin supplies 3.1 milligrams of iron and 4 milligrams of zinc. Meat and other animal-derived food products contain heme iron, which is highly absorbable. Choose lean meats and trim away visible fat to limit your intake of saturated fat, which raises your unhealthy low-density lipoprotein, or "bad" cholesterol, levels and increases your risk for heart disease.

Soy Products and Beans

small bowl of garbanzo beans
small bowl of garbanzo beans Photo Credit: Wiktory/iStock/Getty Images

Soy products, such as tofu and roasted soybeans, and beans, such as navy, black, pinto, garbanzo, kidney and white beans, provide iron and zinc. A half-cup of cooked navy beans has 2.2 milligrams of iron and 1.9 milligrams of zinc. The iron in beans is in its nonheme form, which is more difficult for your body to absorb than heme iron. Increase absorption by consuming a source of vitamin C, such as bell peppers, tomatoes or oranges, at the same time that you consume nonheme iron, such as from beans, spinach and raisins.

Healthy Shellfish

seared scallops on bed of spinach
seared scallops on bed of spinach Photo Credit: -lvinst-/iStock/Getty Images

Shellfish are among the top sources of zinc, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, and they also provide heme iron. A 3-ounce portion of oysters supplies 7.8 milligrams of iron and 28.3 milligrams of zinc. Seafood is a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your risk for heart disease and reduce your blood pressure, according to the University of Michigan. Try scallops tossed with spinach and whole-wheat pasta for a high-iron, high-zinc dinner.

Whole Grains

bowl and scoop of pearl barley
bowl and scoop of pearl barley Photo Credit: YelenaYemchuk/iStock/Getty Images

Whole grains contain the bran, germ and endosperm components of the entire grain kernel, making them higher than refined grains in natural nutrients such as iron. A cup of cooked barley provides 2.1 milligrams of iron and 1.3 milligrams of zinc, and a cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti supplies 1.5 milligrams of iron and 1.1 milligrams of zinc. The zinc in whole grains is less absorbable than the zinc in meat and other animal-based foods due to the high content of a plant compound called phytate. Enriched grains contain extra iron.

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