Iron deficiency is the most common form of nutritional deficiency – especially among children and pregnant women – according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Not getting enough can cause anemia and make you more susceptible to illness and infections; it can even cause premature delivery in pregnant women. So how much should you be getting? Women ages 19 to 50 should be consuming 18 milligrams of iron per day – and a whopping 27 milligrams if they’re pregnant – while men at this age only need 8 milligrams. There are two types of iron: Heme iron from animal sources and non-heme iron from plant sources, It’s important to get both types from your diet.
Organ meats like liver and giblets are some of the best sources of heme iron, with the added bonus of other minerals, vitamins, and protein. Beef liver is incredibly high in iron at 5 milligrams per slice, over a quarter of an adult woman's daily requirement. Pork liver is an even smarter option, as it’s slightly leaner and has higher iron and vitamin C levels. But note that liver should be eaten in moderation because it's high in cholesterol; pregnant women may also want to limit their intake because the high vitamin A levels in liver have been associated with birth defects.
If you're not a fan of liver, other animal proteins like egg yolks (3 milligrams per half cup) and red meat (2 to 3 milligrams per 3 ounces) are also high in iron.
Go ahead and splurge on the seafood appetizer – it comes with a generous side of iron! Bivalve mollusks like clams, mussels, oysters, and squid are loaded with the important nutrient (plus zinc and vitamin B12). One single medium oyster delivers 3 to 5 milligrams of iron – enjoy a plate of them and you've surpassed the daily requirement!
These legumes provide your body with almost 5 milligrams of iron per cup, plus a hearty dose of protein, which makes them a smart option for vegetarians. Chickpeas are a tasty addition to salads and pasta dishes and can be an unexpected way to mix up salsa. If you're not a fan of the texture, blend chickpeas to create your own homemade, iron-rich hummus!
Is a bowl of cereal your breakfast of choice? Opt for a fortified version to start your day off with a dose of iron. Check the nutritional label for the amount of iron per serving: Many varieties offer 90 to 100 percent of the daily recommended value, along with other important vitamins and minerals like fiber, zinc, calcium, and B vitamins.
Beans of all varieties are a wonderful source of iron, offering up anywhere from 3 to 7 milligrams per cup. Looking for ways to incorporate beans into meals? Pair them with foods like kale, bell pepper, broccoli, and cauliflowers, which are all high in vitamin C – a nutrient that helps with the absorption of non-heme iron in the body. Add beans to a salad, puree them into a dip and eat with raw veggies, or toss into a stir-fry. The possibilities are endless!
Did you know that the popular fall snack is packed with iron? One cup of whole seeds contains over 2 milligrams, while a cup of the kernels alone packs in a whopping 10 milligrams, making them an easy way to add an iron boost to a variety of dishes. The seeds taste great in homemade trail mix, added to bread or muffin recipes, or as a crunchy salad topping. Or pick up roasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds at your grocery store and keep them on hand for a quick and healthy snack.
One half cup of these legumes contains over 4 milligrams of iron, plus they're an excellent source of important minerals like copper, which helps keep our blood vessels and immune systems healthy, and manganese, an essential nutrient involved in many chemical processes in the body. In addition, soybeans are high in protein and fiber as well as many vitamins and amino acids.
Another legume worth an honorable mention in the iron department, cooked lentils offer up over 6 milligrams of the mineral per cup and are loaded with fiber that fills you up, lowers cholesterol, and helps keep blood sugar levels stable. Lentils are also an extremely versatile ingredient in the kitchen, making a great addition in everything from soups and salads to burgers and chili.
Both raw and cooked spinach are excellent sources of iron, though cooking spinach helps your body absorb its nutrients more easily. Just one cup of cooked spinach delivers more than 6 milligrams of iron as well as protein, fiber, calcium, and vitamins A and E.
Sesame seeds have a wonderful nutty taste and are a rich source of iron. These oil seeds, which contain 20 milligrams of iron per cup, are also packed with a slew of essential nutrients like copper, phosphorus, vitamin E, and zinc. An easy way to incorporate the seed into your diet is to add them to a salad: Each tablespoon sprinkled on will add over a milligram of iron to your daily count.
Source: everyday Health