Iron rich foods or foods high in iron are recommended to overcome iron deficiency and anemea. How much iron you need daily? You should eat foods with high content of iron if you are anemic (low haemoglobin). 

A list of foods with iron is given on this page.


Iron is an essential for the formation of haemoglobin. The iron in haemoglobin combines with oxygen and transports it through the blood to all parts of the body. Anemia is a result of iron deficiency. As a result of anemia, the patient have symptoms of tiredness, lack of stamina, headaches, insomnia, breathlessness, and loss of appetite. These symptoms or signs show an iron deficiency.

Vegetables like broccoli and bok choy are rich in iron. These vegetables are high iron and also high in vitamin C, which increases absorption of their iron content. The presence of vitamin C in these vegetables help absorb iron.

Iron Absorption By Body

The iron absorption by body depends on the form of the iron. The iron from animal sources, known as heme iron, is absorbed easily by the body. The iron found in vegetable sources, known as non-heme iron, is less available to the body. The amount of iron absorbed from vegetarian foods is around 1 - 10% , while it is 10 - 20% from animal foods. Eating of iron rich foods removes iron deficiency.

Good Enhancer Foods for Iron Absorption: Combinations of foods such as beans and tomato or tofu and broccoli result in good iron absorp tion. In general vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, capsicums, potato, tomato, etc. and fruits such as cantaloupe, grapefruit, strawberries, orange, etc. enhance the iron absorption.

Foods Not Good (Inhibitors) For Iron Absorption: Avoid the following foods in combination with high iron foods as they inhibit the iron absorption: Tea, coffee, chard, etc.

Daily Iron Requirement

Iron Level: The RDA for iron is 10 mg/day for adult men and for post-menopausal women and 15 mg/day for pre-menopausal women. These amount of iron are considered good for health. The daily requirement of iron is very easily met with vegetarian diets. For example, 1 cup of cooked spinach contains 3 mg, 1 cup of tofu contains 13.2 mg and 1 cup cooked lentils give 6.4 mg of iron.

The requirement of iron in the following table is given in terms of Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI), the amount of iron which is enough for at least 97% of the population.

AgeRNI (mg)AgeRNI (mg)
0 to 3 months1.7 Men 11 - 18 yrs11.3
4 to 6 months4.3 Men 19 + yrs8.7
7 to 12 months7.8 Women 11 - 49 yrs14.8
1 to 3 yrs6.9 Women 50 + yrs8.7
4 to 6 yrs6.1   
7 to 10 yrs8.7   

You can plan your daily meals to take in the amount of iron recommended in the above table.

If you have iron deficiency, and you are advised to take iron supplements, then you should keep in mind that iron supplements may be fatal for adults when taken in doses of 200-250 mg/kg from body weight. The upper limit for iron as recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine is approximately 45 mg daily for adults.

List of Iron in Foods : Vegetarian Iron Rich Foods

Iron in Breads, cereals, and grains
Bran flakes, 1 cup 11.0
Oatmeal, 1 packet 6.3
Pasta, 1 cup, cooked 1.7
Samolina, Cream of wheat, 1/2 cup cooked 5.5
Wheat germ, 2 tablespoon 1.2
Whole wheat bread, 1 slice 0.9
White bread, 1 slice 0.7
Iron in Vegetables (1/2 cup cooked)
Sea vegetables 18.1-
Swiss chard 2
Turnip greens 1.6
Sweet potatoes, canned 1.7
Turnip greens 1.6
Pumpkin, cooked 1.7
Potato, baked with skin 1.7
Turnip greens 1.6
Prune juice, 4 oz 1.5
Spinach cooked 1.5
Beet greens cooked 1.4
Potato, 1 large 1.4
Bok choy cooked 0.7
Peas, cooked 0.65
Green beans, cooked 0.60
Tomato juice 0.6
Broccoli, cooked 0.55
Watermelon, 1/8 medium 0.5
Iron in Legumes (1/2 cup cooked)
Lentils 3.2
Black eye beans 2.6
Navy beans 2.5
Pinto beans 2.2
Lima beans 2.2
Kidney beans Rajmah 1.5
Chick peas (200 g) 6.2
Iron in Soy foods (1/2 cup cooked)
Tofu 6.6
Soybeans 4.4
Tempeh 1.8
Soy milk 0.9
Iron in Nuts/Seeds (2 Tablespoon)
Pumpkin seeds 2.5
Figs, dried, 5 2.0
Dried apricot, 5 1.6
Almond, 1/4 cup 1.3
Tahini 1.2
Sesame 1.2
Sunflower seeds 1.2
Cashew nuts 1.0
Iron in Non-Vegetarian Foods
(Heme Iron Sources) (100 g)
Clams, steamed 22
Clams, cooked 8.5
Oysters, cooked 8.5
Oysters, raw 5.4
Chicken liver, cooked 8.5
Beef liver, cooked 6.3
Beef, roasted 3.5
Ground beef, cooked 2.2
Lamb beef, cooked 2.2
Turkey, white meat1.6

USDA Nutrient Data Base for Standard Reference, Release 12, 1998.
Pennington J. Bowe's and Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. 16th ed. Lippincott-Raven; 1994.
US Dept of Agriculture: 1988: Publication No. HNIS/PT-103.
US Dept of Agriculture; 1986. Agriculture Handbook No. 8-16.

From the above table you can chose foods high in iron.

Following is a list of foods that provide 8 mg or more of iron per 100 gms of the food.

  1. Cereals & Grains: Bajra, Rice flakes
  2. Pulses & Beans: Cow pea, Lobia (black-eye beans), Lentils, Soyabean
  3. Vegetables: Beetroot greens, Mint, Parsley, Turnip greens
  4. Spices: Turmeric (Haldi)
  5. Fruits: Dried dates, Watermelon, Raisins
  6. Fish and Red meats
  7. Iron in Animal Sources : Heme Iron

    Beef Liver, Chicken Liver, Clams, Mussels, Oysters, Pork Liver, Sardines, Shrimp and Turkey are good in iron content.

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