Over 30% of the world population suffers from an iron deficiency with vegans and women dominating these numbers.
What Are the Common Symptoms?
You may be iron deficient if you notice:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Brittle nails
How to Know If You Are Iron Deficient?
One way of finding out is by running a simple blood test called the complete blood count (CBC). If you are anemic, the red blood cell (RBC) count will be lower than normal.
How Can You Overcome Iron Deficiency?
Most of the iron in our bodies comes from food that is easily available in the kitchen. To ward off iron deficiency, you should consume 8-18 mg of iron per day. I have compiled a comprehensive iron rich foods list for you below.
Popeye the Sailor Man loved spinach for a reason – one cup (8oz) gave him 36% of reference daily intake (RDI) value of iron – that’s plenty of strength and energy to wrestle down Brutus and save Olive.
Kale is your go-to source for iron particularly if you are dieting. It provides the required nutrition for weight loss. 1 cup of kale contains 5% of iron RDI. If you do not like to eat raw kale, drizzle some olive oil to make crunchy kale chips or drop a sprout into your soup.
Next in iron rich foods list are olives – one of the healthiest iron rich fruits in the world. One tablespoon of olive oil contains about 119 calories but all the goodness in the world. It is an excellent source of iron, 1 cup of olives provides 25% of the daily recommended value of iron.
4. Collard Greens
Pick the darkest leaves of collard greens to get iron (2% per one cup). Collard also contains calcium and vitamins (A & C).
Sun-dried tomatoes are not just mouth-watering, they are also tiny little iron shells. You get 27% of iron in a single cup of dried tomatoes. Just make sure you do not buy canned tomatoes since they contain far too much oil.
Next comes the global favorite – potatoes. Starch and fiber in potatoes makes your stomach happy and full. However, not many people know that potatoes are also a good source of iron. 1 medium potato provides up to 18% of iron.
13th on our list is another favorite green – peas, a cup of which gives you 17% iron. Compared to other veggies, it is easy to fill up on peas since they are delicious and wholesome. You can eat them raw; boiled or steamed.
8. Black Eyed Peas
You can get your daily dose of iron from black eyed peas as well. Boil or soak one cup of peas overnight to get 24% of RDI value of iron. Black eyed pea and vegetable soup can also be a great starter or side dish to double-up your dose of iron.
9. Sesame Seeds
You do not have to look for iron supplements if you have sesame seeds in your pantry. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of sesame seeds on salads or steamed vegetables to get a healthy dose of copper, selenium, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin E and iron (20%).
10. Sunflower Seeds
There is something about seeds and intense nutritional value. Sunflower seeds, for instance, never disappoint with their nutritional value and health benefits. 1/4th cup of nutty seeds is a mineral- and nutrient-treat. Proteins, carbs, vitamins (E, B5, B6), magnesium, zinc, iron (6%), folate (17%) – you just name it and everything is packed in these tiny sunflower seeds.
11. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds can make a great evening snack given their nutty and salty taste. Grab a handful of seeds to get a daily dose of 5% iron.
12. Hemp Seeds
One tablespoon of hemp seeds a day gives you 13% of your daily iron requirements. If you don’t like them dry, blend them in smoothies.
13. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are normally used for their fiber, omega-3s and lignan (phytochemical) content to regulate hormones, improve digestion, and reduce cholesterol levels but they are also a good source of iron. A tablespoon of flax seeds provides 3% of non-heme iron.
If you are looking for iron rich vegetarian food, lentils are for you. Lentils contain amino acids, proteins, fiber and iron. Stew a cup of lentils to get 37% of iron.
15. Black Beans
For a solid daily iron dose (44%), soak a cup of black beans overnight and cook the next day. Avoid canned beans if possible as they are not organic.
16. Garbanzo Beans
Vegetarians can’t be happier because they can easily get the recommended daily intake of iron from vegetables and beans. If you are iron-deficient, eating a cup of garbanzo beans every other day will give you 26% iron.
17. Kidney Beans
Immensely popular kidney beans provide 22% of iron, folate, manganese, copper and protein. Kidney bean soups are tasty and can be given to children with iron deficiency.
18. Lima Beans
Make lima bean soup today with carrots, zucchini and onions and give your taste buds a treat. 1 cup of lima beans contains 25% of iron and aside from producing blood, lima beans lower cholesterol and reduce flatulence.
Munching on prunes is a good idea if you have a sweet tooth because not only will they satisfy your cravings, they will also give you plenty of iron (1 cup = 17%).
20. Dark Chocolate
Who can say no to dark chocolate? Eating it becomes a must if you have an iron deficiency for one bar of chocolate is loaded with 72% iron – a number too tempting to resist.
Eating dark chocolate every now and then is a good idea anyway. It keeps your:
- Sugar cravings in check
- Blood pressure low and reduces risk of heart attack
- Improves brain function
- Happy chemicals (dopamine, serotonin) high
Can’t say no to iron rich fruits such as strawberries, because they increase the number of RBCs and blood volume. One cup of strawberries gives you 5% of iron. Strawberries also energize you and increase the redness of cheeks that is lost with anemia.
22. Brown Rice
Bet you didn’t know rice is another good source of iron. One cup of brown rice contains 5% of iron and fiber to provide a feeling of fullness and prevent midday energy sap.
23. Cocoa Powder
One ounce of cocoa contains 22% of your daily iron requirements. It also contains magnesium, manganese and copper.
After leafy greens, mushrooms are probably the best source of plant iron. One cup of sliced mushrooms contains about 45% of iron. Experts recommend morel mushrooms for iron deficient people.
25. Goji Berries
Goji berries are iron rich fruits vegetables that are sometimes called superfood because of its nutritional value. One tablespoon of these berries provides up to 11% of iron.
26. Cashew Nuts
Time to go nuts with cashew nuts if you have an iron deficiency. Cashew nuts are immensely healthy and a good source of iron, i.e., 11% per oz. Cashew nuts also contain zinc, magnesium and phosphorous.
Delicious hazelnuts provide 7% of iron per ounce and a good amount of vitamins, fiber and protein. Replacing high-carb snacks with hazelnuts is a good idea to prevent hunger pangs and midday cravings.
Peanuts enjoy a good nutritional profile. Per ounce serving contains 7% of daily iron requirements.
Almonds are probably the most popular snack in the world since these are a good source of iron (6% per oz), anti-oxidants, vitamin E and magnesium.
30. Lamb Kidney
Kidney, whether chicken or lamb, is a rich source of iron.
- 6oz of lamb kidney contains 52% of reference daily intake (RDI) value of iron.
- Kidney is also a good source of selenium (100%) and B vitamins (1300%).
31. Animal Liver
There is the reason why some moms stuff kids with organ meat, as it is the best source of iron, copper and folate, all of which are essential for blood vessels, nerves and immunity.
A duck liver gives you 75% of heme iron.
32. Goose Breast
Luscious and chewy goose breast is another way of replenishing your body with heme iron, a form of dietary iron. Your body absorbs heme iron more efficiently than others.
- 6oz of goose breast contains 56% of daily iron intake.
- Goose breast is also loaded with proteins (48%), phosphorous (37%) & copper (49%).
33. Lean Beef
Steak lovers would love it. 6 ounce of steak provides 52% of iron. That’s a lot for a single serving!
Not just that, when you munch on the scrumptious cut, you are also consuming a healthy amount of protein, zinc, selenium and B vitamins.
So medium-rare tonight?
34. Chicken Heart
For something so tiny, chicken hearts are nutritional bombs. Bite on the teensy lump and you will get 2% of iron RDI. A chicken heart gives 2% of iron, vitamin B12 and protein. Vitamin B12 keeps blood cells healthy.
Last but not least in our iron rich foods list is none other than Seafood.
Who is a seafood fan here?
Time to make sushi and give RBCs a little treat. Almost all fish and marine creatures contain iron but the highest is found in:
- Octopus (29%)
- Cuttlefish (33%)
- Whelk or sea snail (28%)
Seafood is almost always part of the nutrition plan for women who are iron-deficient.
To Sum it Up
The best way to overcome iron deficiency is to eat the right kind of food. The 35 iron-rich foods mentioned in the article contain sufficient quantities of the essential mineral to meet you daily requirements. Start adding them to your diet today to start seeing results.