When thinking of iron, one can assume that they’re getting enough in their daily dose of vitamins. And while daily supplements can provide an adequate amount of the nutrition we need, we can always use more iron in our diets. In fact, researchers have found that women have varying degrees of iron needs throughout their “reproductive lifespans.” It’s also worth noting that iron deficiencies are the most common cause of anemia in the United States.
To learn more about iron, we tapped Brooklyn-based dietitian Maya Feller, MS, RD. Feller told us that iron not only transports oxygen through our bloodstream but also aids in the normal growth and development of some of our hormones. “All women need to maintain adequate iron stores,” says Feller. Women especially need sufficient amounts of iron, as deficiencies can lead to pregnancy complications. Worried you’re not getting enough iron in your diet? Keep reading to see the iron-packed foods you should eat for a healthy, strong body.
We’ve listed the 21 iron-rich foods Feller recommends to her clients.
“This protein powerhouse provides 12% of the daily value (DV) for iron along with 36% of your needed B12,” says Feller. Just make sure to keep it lean.
Turkey is both low in fat and a good source of B vitamins. Just one serving provides 6% of your daily value of iron. “It’s a flavorful alternative for sauces, soups, and stews—especially for those who do not eat beef,” says Feller.
“Chicken is considered a lean animal protein since it’s lower in fat when compared to other meats,” says Feller. Just one three-ounce serving can give you about 6% of your DV for iron.
CHICKEN OR BEEF LIVER
“When I recommend liver to my patients, I suggest that they get it from an organic source,” notes Feller. She says that liver is an excellent source of iron, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
“Either you love them or you don’t,” Feller says. “And if you do, you are in luck because they are a fantastic source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, including potassium, vitamin B12, magnesium, and iron.” In fact, just six oysters will supply 33% of your DV for iron.
Like oysters, this type of shellfish is also great for iron. One serving provides 31% of your DV for iron. “If you sit down to a bowl of mussels, you’ll likely get all the iron you need for the day,” says Feller.
“One sardine has about 2% of your DV for iron,” says Feller. “Although that may not seem like much, consider the size of the sardine.” All you need is a few on top of a salad for added protein and omega-3s.
One-half of a halibut fillet provides 7% of the DV for your iron needs and is an excellent source of vitamin D. “This lean, mild fish pairs well with a heaping plate of veggies and a squeeze of lemon juice,” suggests Feller.
“This is a great option for vegetarians or those living a plant-forward life,” says Feller. One cup supplies 40 grams of protein, 24% of the DV for calcium, 61% of the DV for magnesium, and 18% of the DV for iron.
Just half a cup of this versatile protein provides more than 25% of your daily needs for iron along with a whopping dose of calcium, says Feller.
When you eat one cup of pinto beans, you get more than half of your daily needs for iron, along with a good dose of potassium, vitamin C, and calcium, says Feller.
“Eat a cup of chili with kidney beans and you’ll almost have met your daily needs for iron,” says Feller. Not only will you have reached 83% of your DV, but you’ll be taking in tons of vitamins and minerals, too.
“These are a good source of isoflavones, vitamins, minerals, and protein,” says Feller. One cup will get you a day-and-a-half’s worth of iron.
“Lentils—whether served warm or cold with veggies—are a wonderful source of plant-based protein with a nice nutrient profile,” says Feller. Plus, they also provide folate.
“Dried apricots are nature’s nutritional candy,” says Feller. Just one cup provides 19% of the DV for iron, along with vitamin A, fiber, and potassium.
“Although these are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day to bring luck, eat them all year round to boost good health,” says Feller. Cook up one cup for 8% of your daily iron needs, plus vitamin A, calcium, and magnesium.
One tablespoon of this added sugar gives you 4% of your daily iron requirement. “It imparts a unique flavor—some people like to spread it over a slice of whole wheat bread,” says Feller.
WHOLE WHEAT BREAD
Two slices of whole wheat bread will equal out to 6% of your daily needs of iron. “Now, just add some veggies in the middle along with hummus and avocado,” says Feller.
This food is known for its excellent dietary fiber content. On top of that, it provides modest amounts of protein and 8% of your DV of iron, according to Feller.
“Pumpkin seeds are rich in antioxidants and contain phytosterols that have health benefits such as aiding cell membrane function,” says Feller. Note: One serving will give you 11% of your daily recommended amount.
This veggie is an excellent source of iron as well as vitamins K and A. “Consider having two cups at lunch or dinner to boost your iron intake to 12% of your DV,” says Feller.