Foods that contain high iron content

Updated November 21, 2016

Iron-rich foods are an essential part of any diet, helping your body function properly and giving you the energy you need to power through your day. According to the UK Food Standards Agency, many young women between the ages of 15 and 24 don't get nearly enough iron, putting them at risk for iron deficiency or anaemia. Fortunately, there are numerous everyday foods whose high iron content can help replenish your body's stores of this essential element and keep you in peak condition.


Red meat packs the highest iron content of any food, particularly dark meats such as liver, beef, buffalo meat, lamb and pork. (Though liver offers the highest iron concentration, it should be avoided by pregnant women). Generally, the darker the meat, the more iron it has. Iron derived from animal sources such as red meat and poultry is known as heme iron, and is more easily absorbed by the body than plant sources of iron. Thus, those who need larger amounts of iron more quickly are advised to eat red meat rather than iron-rich plants.

Beans and Legumes

After meat, beans and legumes contain some of the highest levels of iron. Top iron-rich bean and legume varieties include chick peas, lentils, soya beans and black-eyed peas. For example, one cup of lentils provides 6.4 mg of iron and just 1/2 cup of chick peas yields 6.2 mg. Since soya beans are also high in iron (at 4.4 mg per 1/2 cup, cooked), this means soy products such as tofu, tempeh and soy milk are also excellent iron-rich options. To aid the body in absorbing the iron from these foods, pair with produce such as tomato, potatoes or citrus fruits. Foods such as these containing vitamin C help the body absorb the iron in food during the digestive process.

Cereal and Grains

Carnivores need not stick solely to meat to get their regular dose of iron, as iron-enriched cereals, whole-grain breads and pastas are also excellent sources. When food shopping, choose cereals or grains labelled "iron-fortified" or "enriched," or check the item's nutrition label to verify its iron content. To promote better absorption of the iron present in enriched cereal, toss in some berries or pair with a glass of orange juice.

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