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Foods High in Iron

Iron is essential to the body, specifically for the normal production of red blood cells. Iron is an important make-up of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying substance in red blood cells. Specifically, iron is contained in the heme part of hemoglobin (hemoglobin is composed of heme and globin). Healthy hemoglobin production yields the red color of the oxygenated blood. When iron is decreased, it may lead to iron deficiency anemia. Symptoms of anemia include:

  • Paleness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Syncope or fainting
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Palpitations
  • Tachycardia
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Brittle nails and hair
  • Sore tongue and mouth
  • Angina

Iron deficiency anemia is commonly experienced by children and adults who lack dietary intake of iron and menstruating women who lose iron in the body. In order to address and prevent iron deficiency, it is important to consume foods high in iron.

Iron-rich foods

The following are examples of foods that contain high amount of iron.

Foods rich in Iron

Source – IronRichFood.org


Cocoa powder is one of the foods that is high in iron. Dark chocolate, which is made from raw cacao beans, does not have fat, sugar, and milk and contains high amounts of iron. One tablespoon of cocoa powder constitutes 10 percent of the daily dietary requirements for iron. A 100-gram chocolate milk chocolate bar contains 13 percent of the daily value of iron. Chocolate is a good choice to increase iron intake in children, but one should remember that anything in excess is also harmful.

Dried herbs

Dried herbs usually provide 5 to 21 percent of iron requirements per tablespoon. Dried herbs that are rich in iron include thyme, spearmint, parsley, marjoram, cumin seed, black pepper, oregano, dill, coriander, bay leaf, turmeric, basil, chervil, rosemary, tarragon, anise seed, savory, and fenugreek seed.

Organ meats

Liver and other organ meats contain high amounts of iron simply because they come from animal sources. Liver has been recommended for pregnant women and people with anemia to increase iron stores in the body. Among all livers, duck liver contains the highest amount of iron followed by pork liver, chicken liver, turkey liver, and beef liver. Organ meats can have as much as 36 to 170 percent of the daily human dietary requirements.


Mussels, oysters, and clams also contain high amounts of iron plus traces of zinc. These can be eaten raw, steamed, baked, fried, or mixed in soups.

Dried apricots

Dried apricots can be eaten as a snack or an ingredient in vegetable and fruit salads. Dried apricot contains 7.5 mg of iron in every cup. This constitutes 42 percent of the recommended daily allowance of iron.

Fish eggs

Caviar ( fish eggs) is are also a good source of iron. This can be mixed in salads, served as garnishes or spreads. Caviar contains 12 percent of the daily iron requirements in every tablespoon.

Sunflower seeds, squash seeds, or pumpkin seeds

Seeds provide not only protein but also iron. It also contains thiamine, Vitamin A, and calcium. Dried seeds contain more iron than roasted ones.

Sesame seeds or tahini

This garnish or food additive is a good source of iron as well as protein and zinc. Sesame can be used as garnish or concocted into a paste.

Sun-dried tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes, a good source of iron, can be added in sandwiches or salads. One cup of sun-dried tomatoes will provide up to 47 percent of iron requirements in a day.

Other food sources of iron include cereals and baby products to maximize iron intake in infants and children who do not tolerate certain types of food.

Iron can be very important in the body, but any excessive intake of iron can also lead to problems such as hemosiderosis (excessive iron in the blood). Too much iron can also yield free radicals that may damage organs like the liver and the heart. The daily requirement of iron is no more than an average of 18 mg. Iron that is taken from food sources usually does not lead to excessive amounts in the body. However, the use of iron supplements should be taken as prescribed to prevent iron build-up in the blood and organs.

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