Iron Rich Foods

Most iron rich foods are animal in origin. For this reason, it can be tricky for vegans, vegetarians and people who avoid red meats to get enough iron in a day. Luckily, there are plenty of supplements you can take, but if you’d rather get iron through your daily diet, you’ll want to incorporate some red meats and other foods rich in iron into your diet.

Iron is important for weight loss as your body needs iron to produce red blood cells, which are required to oxygenate and burn fat and calories. This is why starvation diets don’t work: if you don’t eat foods that are high in iron, you won’t effectively lose fat, only muscle and organ weight. You need to have food high in iron if you want to stay in shape.

If you don’t have any good sources of iron in food, you may feel lethargic and fatigued even when you’ve eaten and rested. People who get enough iron in a day tend to be more up and active throughout the day.

To be clear, overdosing on iron will not help you burn fat more quickly. Oxygenated blood is a necessity for any effective fat burning, but that doesn’t mean that an extra piece of liver will result in double-time fat burning. You can overdose on iron just as easily as you can overdose on sugar, so be reasonable while arranging your diet.

Iron Rich Foods List, by Serving

Iron Rich FoodIron Content (mg)RDA%Calories
Fish Paste950170
Boiled Mussels73990
Liver Pate739190
Liver Sausage6.436312
Sardines canned4.527180
Anchovies canned422310
Lean Beef2.516240
Egg Yolk (4)2.413216

If you really don’t want to bother with red meats for iron sources of food, here are some vegetarian-safe foods that are high in iron…

Other Iron Rich FoodsIron Content (mg)RDA%*Calories
Thyme ground124688*276
Curry Powder58321*233
Oat & Wheat Bran45250*330
Boiled Lentils3.519100
Cinnamon ground38210*n/a
Garam Masala33183*380
Sesame Seeds105511
Cashew Nuts6.234610
Blackcurrants canned52845
Figs dried4.223205
Soya Beans317140
Wholemeal Bread2.715215
Red Kidney Beans2.514100
Pumpkin Seeds (1 oz)4.223163
Spinach, boiled (1 cup)6.4337

See this iron rich foods report from Harvard University for more information.

*these ingredients are eaten in very small portions and are not really a high source of iron. RDA is based on 18mg per day, men may only need 10mg per day. High doses of iron are not recommended. Please read our Terms of Use!

24 Responses to Iron Rich Foods

  1. Betty Sheets says:

    My iron is very low. I am 56 and I am on a low income. I do like beef liver. I have deer liver and I like chicken liver. But I eat when I can catfish and Croppie and bass. But they are fer and in be trim. I don't know how to fix these foods very well. Is there any other foods that poor people eat? Like turkey meat. And how do I fix them in different ways. I am willing to learn new ways. Thank you

    • alexis f says:

      it is recommended that pregnant women stay away from liver, pates, and other deli meats.. liver products are high in vitamin A as well as iron, and this can be dangerous in high amounts for the baby.
      also pates, and deli meats, as well as soft cheeses and raw seafood, carry a risk of dangerous bacteria.
      so be careful where you get your foods from, and how much of this you choose to eat!

  2. Martha says:

    I am pregnant and have low iron. I do not like to eat liver. I have started eating liver pate (pronounced pa TAY). I spread it on crackers and I like it. I found it in the deli department of the grocery store. I chose the pate that had the highest iron content listed on the label. I hope this information helps others.

  3. Tyrone Vass says:

    Martha (April 13th 2011)
    Im concerned that you are eating liver pate for sources of Iron.
    Research tells us that liver products including pate and liver sausage contain alot of Vitamin A, too much of this can be harmful to your baby.
    Other sources of Iron that are better for you are spinach and broccoli
    take care all the best

    • Mae says:

      Spinach actually absorbs 90% of the iron in it, so only about 10% of the iron you consume.

      • Dave says:

        I just found out I am low in Iron. One of the things I did was switched from using brown brown sugar on my hot cereal (malt o meal) to using cinnamon. tastes great!

  4. bonnie albury says:

    hello, i am a 51 year old woman that just found out that my iron level is low. i do not want to take iron pills because i have a problem with constipation too often as it is. how many times a week should i eat red meat, and how many ounces at a time? i noticed that cinnamon is a good source of iron. how would i go about eating cinnamon and how much should i eat at one time? i know that some baked items have cinnamon. are beets and dark grape juice a good source of irom? thanks for your help, bonnie

  5. inga lilja says:

    you can also eat Cheerios like a snack i.e. without the is rather high in iron. If you take milk it will reduce the body's capability to process the iron. Basically avoid dairy, coffe and tea with food that are rich in iron and focus on taking vitamin C products with the iron stuff. F.ex. snacking on cheerios and drinking a glass of OJ helps the body process and utilize the iron.

  6. Mariah says:

    Hello! I am a nutritionist, and if your iron level is low I would recommend you eating no more that 2-3 portions of read meat a week. One of them should be a liver (the best option). Instead of getting iron from animal foods I recommend you eating this products: brown rice, broccoli, dried figs and apricots, all sorts of seeds, nuts, and what is very important - drink nettle tea, 1-2 cups a day. It is a great great source of iron. By doing all that you will definitely get better.
    What concerns cinnamon, you can't really eat a lot of it. But you can mix it with honey and add to a glass of milk. Tastes good:)
    Wish you all the best!

    • Charandeep says:

      Hello, I see your a nutritionist and I was thinking about doing it when I'm older, I just want to ask you what a levels and grades you got, what the course was like and whether you enjoyed it ? Thank you x

  7. Preeti says:

    Thank you for the advice Mariah.

  8. Dianne says:

    Thank you. I also found out my iron is low and trying to find foods that will help increase my iron intake. Thanks for all the ideas.

  9. ofelia chapa says:

    What are the symtoms of low iron?

  10. Catherine says:

    I am a chinese, and also a vegetarian, I know some chinese furits are rich in iron and very delicious. They are chinese date and medlar, which called "hongzao" and "gouqi" in chinese.They are widely planted in China. I do hope vegetarians who need iron to try chinese date and medlar. Believe me, you can benefit from the two kinds of food!

  11. carole dawson says:

    my problem is that my iron level is too high so I am trying to find out which foods to avoid apart from the obvious ones liver etc.
    however I am confused by spinich as this is high in iron content but is also an iron absorption inhibitor so is it ok to eat in small amounts??

    • ReneeR says:

      Hi Carole,
      I am not sure what you mean by your iron level being too high but if you are talking about hemochromatosis, an iron storage disease check out the Centers for Disease Control for some helpful information:

      Vegetable sources of iron are non-heme iron sources. Unlike heme sources of iron found in animal products, non-heme sources are not as bioavailable by the body. Spinach also contains oxalic acid, which binds to the iron and inhibits its absorption. Whole grains such as buckwheat and certain vegetables such as chard along with certain nuts and beans are also high in oxalic acid. Cooking spinach to remove the oxalic acid and eating it with a vitamin C rich food, such as bell pepper, will increase the absorption of iron. I hope that helps!

  12. michael m tesaluna says:

    hello! my problem is i always have colds.....they said that i lack of iron. maybe because i always sleep late at night because of my insomnia. is that true? what is your best suggestion to get rid of my colds? it is lack of iron? thanks....looking forward for your response.

  13. Elle says:

    Hi I have really low iron content, and am allergic to frutose. This poses a problem for me as when I get low in iron, it brings about the ross river virus which I got a few years ago. Now what I am asking is, can I just dose my self up on pate, caviar, oysters and semi dried tomatos for a quick fix or will i have to do it slowly - I am unable to digest red meat also. Thanks
    P.S I am not pregnant, or over weight and am an active person.

  14. r v nageswararao says:

    i am a 57 years old male pure vegetarian just found out that my iron level is low. when i checked blood test it is 12. i do not want to take iron pills because i have a problem with constipation too often as it is. I am in Andhra Pradesh, India. Please advise me which food is rich iron.

    r v nageswararao

  15. Hi im a 35 yr old female ,just been diagnosed with low iron deficiency i my blood ...The doctor then treated me with chemopher to increase my iron level.Besides having more than 1,5 lt dose of this iron level is still 2 low ,so im worried about my diet. What do you suggest i take ?

  16. lawrence nthiwa says:

    i have a friend who has low blood levels and attempts to get her donors on B+ were futile.what foods would be best for her quick recovery for she appears very weak and the medication seems too strong for her!

  17. zippy says:

    excellent search of iron source,but do greens contain iron

  18. bambi says:

    hi,i have a lot of varicous veins,is it because i need more i not taking enough food suplements tablets good for me.thanks..

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