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Sources of Iron

What Does Your RDI Look Like: Iron

Back in my vegetarian phase during college, my mom always said, "If you don't eat beef, you won't get enough iron." While it is a great source of this valuable mineral, red meat is not the only meat that contains iron. Chicken, turkey, and seafood such as oysters, tuna, and salmon are also high in iron. When it comes to vegetarian sources, beans, leafy greens, nuts, egg yolks, potatoes with the skin, and dried fruits can help you reach your recommended daily intake (RDI). The human body needs iron to make hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body, and an adult woman should get 18 milligrams of iron daily. Check out the chart below to make sure you're meeting the RDI of iron.

Food Amount Amount of Iron (mg)
Fortified cereal 1 oz 4.5-7
Dried apricot 1/4 cup 1.5
Raisins 1/4 cup 1.1
Molasses 1 tbsp 3.3
Garbanzo beans 1/2 cup, cooked 3.4
Pinto beans 1/2 cup 2.2

Continue reading to see what other foods contain iron and signs of iron deficiency.

Food Amount Amount of Iron (mg)
Lima beans 1/2 cup 2.2
Lentils 1/2 cup 3.2
Soybeans 1/2 cup 7
Tofu 1/2 cup 6.2
Sun-dried tomatoes 1/2 cup 9
Spinach 1/2 cup, raw 2.7
Kale 1/2 cup, steamed 2
Broccoli 1/2 cup, raw 1
Asparagus 1/2 cup, steamed 1
Potatoes, with the skin 1/2 cup 3.2
Pine nuts 1/2 cup 9
Peanuts 1/2 cup 3.9
Pumpkin seeds 1/2 cup 14
Sunflower seeds 1/2 cup 6.7
Flaxseed 1/2 cup 6.2
Ground beef 1 patty 4
Steak 3 oz 4
Turkey (dark meat) 3 oz 4
Oysters 3 oz, steamed 7.4
Trout 3 oz 4
Shrimp 3 oz 4

If after reading this list you're worried that you're not getting enough iron, here are the symptoms of anemia: feeling unusually tired, pale skin, shortness of breath during exercise, cold hands and feet, brittle nails, hair loss, and headaches. Another sign of low iron levels is red-tinged pee after eating beets, which in some cases is a sign of iron deficiency. If you're concerned, all it takes is a simple blood test to confirm your iron levels.

If you are diagnosed with anemia, try to eat more foods high in iron, pairing them with foods high in vitamin C, which helps your body absorb the mineral. Taking iron supplements can also help, but they may cause an upset stomach, heartburn, or constipation. Although it's rare, you can also get too much iron. Extra amounts of iron in the body eventually build up to dangerous levels and can cause severe damage to organs trying to store the extra iron. So be careful not to regularly exceed your daily requirement.

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
LittleMzFit LittleMzFit 7 years
I didn't realize sun-dried tomatoes were a decent source of iron. Thanks, Sugar! :)
ticamorena ticamorena 7 years
i am anaemic - despite the fact that from my diet alone, i should be getting enough - and for around 9yrs i didn't want to take my iron tablets because they messed up my digestive flow but i started again last week and it had an immediate positive impact on energy levels, dizzyness (i also have v low blood pressure) and general wellbeing
wackdoodle wackdoodle 7 years
Unfortunately I cannot absorb enough iron or zinc because of a bleed and obstruction in my intestinal tract. once the bleeding area and obstructed area are removed its hoped that my body will absorb iron and zinc again. This current anemia is very very fatiguing. I have found though that surprisingly Prunes aka dried plums are high in Iron too.
danakscully64 danakscully64 7 years
Meat is not the best source of iron, I hate hearing people say that veggies have to be careful. I know a higher percentage of omnis who have an iron deficiency than veggies (everyone has to look out for it). My iron levels improved when I made the switch. :) I eat a balanced diet, don't try to focus on any 1 vitamin or mineral and my blood work is always perfect. I eat a variety of healthy foods, haven't been sick in years.
chequettex chequettex 7 years
My mom gave me some iron supplements that I've been taking for a few months now. I probably wouldn't get enough iron otherwise. I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat much meat. I can't keep track of all the X, Y, Z that I'm supposed to get every day! I just try to eat as healthy as possible.
jenintx jenintx 9 years
when i was a sophomore i college i had a stomach ulcer and took pepcid and its counterparts often. then i became anemic. i was told that drugs like pepcid can actually cause iron deficienies. i don't remember if i followed that up by asking a doctor, but i've always been cautious about taking those kinds of drugs just in case...
The-Italian-Jem The-Italian-Jem 9 years
Pumpkin seeds again! They are super high on the protein list too. And I actually happen to have some in my pantry...
Feesje Feesje 9 years
If you take iron supplements, make sure you also take a vitamine C supplement, as vitamine C helps your body to absorb the iron. Working out also helps for me (I am anemic). However, it's véry hard to begin with, since you're tired all the time. So start by taking it slowly, and increase your workouts gradually. 'Slowly but steady' does the trick.
ShedItandGetIt ShedItandGetIt 9 years
I went vegetarian and wasn't getting enough at first. I was drinking so much coffee to stay awake, it was unbelievable. Taking a supplement felt like getting 8 hours of sleep as opposed to 4. I feel SO much better now.
Pinkgirl88 Pinkgirl88 9 years
i don't think i get enough
nikolem2 nikolem2 9 years
As a vegetarian, I need to pay more attention to iron than I do...thanks for this post! I did want to add another tip however--cooking in cast iron cookware can add iron to your meals. I've never seen a source that estimates how much, but every source I look at has confirmed the fact that the pots will add iron to your food!
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