So you need more iron in your diet. Maybe you’re vegan. Maybe you read a magazine article about how iron is important. Maybe you’re a superhero who depends on having a lot of iron in her bloodstream to gain superpowers. Maybe you want to achieve a lifelong dream of being hoisted up by a giant magnet.
Or maybe you’ve got an iron deficiency you want to clear up. Like anemia, for instance. Getting an anemia diagnosis can be pretty startling and scary.
Anemia is when your body simply isn’t producing enough red blood cells, which makes it very difficult for your body to carry oxygen to everywhere that needs it (1).
It means irritability, tiredness, and a feeling of weakness.
And it’s also common. Over 20% of women, and 50% of pregnant women have an iron deficiency. Deficiencies suck, no matter what they are.
So how do you solve it? Simple – eat more food that contains iron.
What Kind Of Food Though?
Your body absorbs the iron in the food you eat through the upper part of your small intestine (2).
However – did you know that there’s actually two kinds of iron in the foods you eat? And that they’re totally different from each other?
Actually, it’s pretty simple. The two types are heme and nonheme iron. You’ll find heme iron in foods that come from animals – because it’s derived from the hemoglobin in those animals. Think foods like red meat, poultry, and fish.
Plus, those kinds of foods give you a ton of protein, which is very important for your body as well.
Heme iron is the best if you want to get a lot of iron, because it absorbs most readily into your body.
Nonheme iron, on the other hand, is from plant and veggie sources. If you want as great a benefit to your body as heme iron, you need to eat more of it.
So What Should I Be Eating?
Let’s break this down into sections from best sources of iron to “well that’s just ok I guess.”
For heme iron, the best sources you can find are chicken liver, beef, oysters, clams, mollusks, and mussels. 3oz servings of any of those will give you 3.5 milligrams of heme iron (3). That’s good.
For 2.1 milligrams per 3oz serving, try eating cooked beef, canned sardines (in oil), or cooked turkey.
more: Take The Quiz – Do You Know The Unique Veggies That Burn Abdominal Fat?
If you want just a bit more iron, these foods have 0.7 milligrams per 3 oz serving: veal, ham, salmon, haddock, tuna, perch, and chicken.
What About Iron From Plants?
Well, that’s nonheme iron, so it’s not going to be absorbed into your body as readily.
However, if you’re looking to eat more plants (and who isn’t?!) you should be eating lentils, beans, and spinach.
Other great sources of nonheme iron are a cup of cooked beans, a half cup of tofu, an ounce of squash, sesame, or pumpkin seeds, or breakfast cereals that have been enriched with irons. You’ll find 3.5 milligrams of nonheme iron in those.
For 2.1 milligrams of nonheme iron per serving, try a cup of dried apricots, a medium stalk of broccoli, a cup of enriched egg noodles, a half cup of canned beans (be they kidney, chickpeas, split peas, or lima beans), or a medium baked potato.
I Want To Get More Iron From The Foods I Eat
As you should! Iron is important, and maximizing it is a great way to avoid anemia.
If you want the most iron from your food, don’t drink coffee or tea while you’re eating it, or right after. Also avoid calcium rich foods or drinks as well.
If you want to get more iron from your food, eat it and consume Vitamin C at the same time.
If none of that works, and you’re still struggling to get enough iron, you might want to consider an iron supplement – but don’t just go out and get one. Talk to your doctor first about whether that’s the right choice for you.
The Best Foods With Lots Of Iron
- Chicken liver
- Cooked beef
- Canned sardines (in oil)
- Cooked turkey
It is nice to see that iron can get into your body any number of ways. Most people reach for that pill, however, that is not always the best option for your body.
It might be a little easier to take an iron pill every day, but you are going to get the BEST source of iron from food that contains it.
Before reading this, I thought it might be as easy as taking a pill. Now I see that there are two different kinds and that makes things a little different.
It is too bad that a lot of people look at it this way. Just eat the foods that you are supposed to so you are healthy and everything will be fine!
I have been taking an iron supplement with my meals because I was told I might have a deficiency like this. Is that a bad thing and can I “overdose” on iron?
Iron rich foods are not that hard to find. If you need more iron in your diet, just take a look online and make a list for the next time you are going to go grocery shopping. It is really that easy!
Do I need to have iron in my diet to survive? It seems like a lot of things to keep track of.
I do not think it is life or death. Read the post above and see some of the symptoms of lower iron and maybe that will help you.
This is one of those posts that needs to be shared with friends and family so that there are people who are informed.
It is so nice that you can actually get what you need for your body FROM food and you do not have to rely on a pill.
This is true. I have been trying to get away from pills for a few years and am making progress.
Getting iron into your diet is easy as long as you know what foods are the ones that can help you. Take to the internet and see what you can find.
I have the symptoms that line up with this sort of deficiency, but I have not been tested for it. Should I get to the doctor, or just assume that is the issue?
Very good post! This kind of information if very important especially if you are not getting all the minerals that you need to maintain a healthy body!
Knowing what I know now about iron, I think I can tackle it from a different stand point and get it into my diet more. Thanks!
I didn’t realize that there were two different types of iron for your body. Knowing that now, you can make a better decision about how you put it into your body or how it needs to be in your diet.
I was always told that I could have a deficiency, but I did not want to believe it. I guess in the long run, it is not a bad thing, but you need to make sure you get things like iron and other minerals into your body when you have the chance.
iron is essential for your body. it is also one of the few minerals that you can get from meat OR veggies.
Yes, you are right. But, unless you know for sure that you need it, you should not be adjusting your diet.
Ah, two different kinds. That makes sense that the one from meat would be different than the one from veggies and etc.
yes it does. both are great for your body and the first thing you should do if you are experiencing sleepiness, is get the iron count checked in your blood.
I was told by my doctor that I needed to eat more foods that are rich in iron. I wasn’t sure what those were, so I am glad to have found them here.
Two different kinds of iron? I never heard that before. I learned something new today!
Yeah, I did not know this either. That is very helpful information!
Great list. Being deficient in iron makes me more tired and my doctor suggested the same thing when I questioned him about it.
My doctor said the same thing. I was glad it was not about taking expensive pill!
Mine too! It is a great thing to hear that you do NOT have to take a pill.
When it comes to your diet, there are so many ways that you can control what goes into your body. This is a great post for those that might be deficient in iron and want to get it naturally if they can.
I think that is the best part. YOU can control so much and that is why when people make excuses, it makes me wonder.