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15 Iron-Rich Foods That You Should Include In Your Diet

Anaemia is a condition which occurs when haemoglobin, an iron-rich protein present in the red blood cells decreases which ultimately leads to fatigue, weakness, etc. Haemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body.

The primary function of the red blood cells is to transport oxygen from the lungs to the body's cells to ensure that the living cells are performing well. And when your red blood cells count is low, the body has to work harder to deliver oxygen throughout the body.

The body produces millions of red blood cells each day. They are produced in the bone marrow and circulate around for 120 days in the body.

Having anaemia can lead to a lot of complications like fatigue, weakened immune system, heart and lung failure etc.

How The Body Uses Iron In Food

When you consume foods rich in iron, it is absorbed into the body through the upper part of the small intestine. Dietary iron is of two types - heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron comes from haemoglobin which is found in animal foods like red meat, poultry and fish. And non-heme iron comes from plant foods.

Foods To Increase Iron Content In The Body


The intake of sufficient animal protein is essential for increasing haemoglobin in the body. All varieties of red meat like beef, mutton, and ham and other meats like chicken, turkey and meat liver are excellent sources of iron which are necessary for haemoglobin production [1] . Though chicken is considered as lean meat, its regular intake can supply human body with large amounts of iron.

  • Iron content in 100 g beef - 2.6 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g raw, ground chicken - 0.82 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g turkey - 1.1 mg

2. Fruits

Citrus fruits like mangoes, lemons, and oranges are great sources of vitamin C which is necessary for the fast absorption of iron in the body resulting in an increase in haemoglobin levels [2] . Strawberries, apples, watermelons, guavas, and pomegranates are also rich in iron content that can instantly increase the haemoglobin amount in a person who is suffering from anaemia.

  • Iron content in 100 g mangoes - 0.2 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g lemons - 0.6 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g oranges - 0.1 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g strawberries - 0.4 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g apples - 0.1 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g pomegranates - 0.3 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g guavas - 0.3 mg

3. Seafood

Different types of seafood like oysters, clams, shrimps, salmon, tuna and other seafood varieties are enriched with iron and other minerals that are important for increasing haemoglobin content [3] . So, it is best to include seafood in your regular diet, especially anaemia patients, for the fast revival of their health.

  • Iron content in 100 g oysters - 7 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g shrimps - 0.52 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g clams - 10.80 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g salmon - 0.3 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g tuna - 1.03 mg

4. Legumes

Legumes are known for their rich iron content and the commonly available legumes are soybeans, chickpeas, peas, lentils and beans should be eaten regularly. These plant-based foods are a great source of iron, especially for vegetarians[4] . To maximize the absorption of iron, eat legumes with foods rich in vitamin C like tomatoes or citrus fruits.

  • Iron content in 100 g soybeans - 15.7 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g chickpeas - 6.2 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g peas - 1.5 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g lentils - 3.3 mg

5. Whole gains

It is a well-known fact that whole grains make healthy meals and many of these whole grains are also enriched with high iron content. These include rice, wheat, barley, and oats which are perfect for the anaemia patients that will help to increase the red blood cell count [5] . Brown rice is known to be a fine source of iron as compared to white rice.

  • Iron content in 100 g brown rice - 0.4 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g barley - 3.6 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g oats - 15 mg

6. Fresh vegetables

Fresh vegetables like asparagus, beetroot, potatoes, broccoli and other green-leafy vegetables like kale and spinach are all rich in iron content. The regular intake of fresh vegetables is always recommended for the steady supply of iron, other minerals and vitamins in the body.

  • Iron content in 100 g asparagus - 2.1 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g beetroot - 0.8 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g potatoes - 0.8 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g broccoli - 0.7 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g kale - 1.5 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g spinach - 0.89 mg

7. Nuts

Nuts and nut butters such as cashews, almonds, pine nuts and macadamia nuts contain good amounts of non-heme iron [6] . Have nuts daily to receive good amounts of iron and make sure that you don't blanch or roast them as their nutrients get lost in the process, so instead go for raw and unblanched varieties.

  • Iron content in 100 g cashews - 6.7 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g almonds - 3.7 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g pine nuts - 5.5 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g macadamia nuts - 3.7 mg

8. Dates

Besides being an iron-rich fruit, dates are packed with antioxidants. They contain other nutrients like calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, potassium, sodium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and thiamine to name a few. Around 100 g of dates contain 1 mg of iron [7] .

9. Seeds

Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds are some of the plant seeds rich in iron[8] . Seeds also contain excellent amounts of fibre, plant protein, calcium ,magnesium, zinc, selenium, antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds as well. They are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

  • Iron content in 100 g pumpkin seeds - 3.3 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g sesame seeds - 14.6 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g flaxseeds - 5.7 mg
  • Iron content in 100 g hemp seeds - 9 mg

10. Coconut milk

Coconut milk is another food that is high in iron with 1.6 mg of iron per 100 g according to the USDA. Though coconut milk is very high in fat, it's a very good source of many vitamins and minerals which include copper, manganese and magnesium. You can substitute coconut milk for cow's milk.

11. Dark chocolate

100 g of dark chocolate contains about 1.6 mg of iron. Dark chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants and contains prebiotic fibre, magnesium, copper and manganese. Consume chocolate that contains at least 70 per cent of cocoa as the polyphenol antioxidants are higher [9] .

12. Jaggery

Jaggery is another wonder food which is loaded with iron with around 11 mg of iron per 100 g. Jaggery promotes the production of red blood cells and having it daily will increase the quantity of iron in your blood. Also, consumption of jaggery will help in cleansing the blood, keeping you healthy.

13. Honey

Honey is another food that helps in increasing haemoglobin levels in the body. It contains copper, iron and other essential minerals and vitamins. Anaemic patients who consume honey will see a marked difference in their energy levels and will also see a rise in the haemoglobin levels[10] .

14. Amla

Amla or Indian gooseberry contains 0.31 mg of iron per 100 g. It also contains other essential vitamins and minerals like calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin C, folate, and so on. Drink amla juice twice a day before having a large meal [11] .

15. Blackstrap molasses

Blackstrap molasses is prepared from the boiling of sugar syrup and compared to other molasses, it contains high concentrations of vitamins and minerals. It is also high in iron with 24 mg per 100 g. You can add blackstrap molasses to every meal and substitute it for white sugar or other sweeteners.

How Much Haemoglobin Does An Adult Need?

Females from 14-18 years need 15 mg per day and from 19-50 years need 18 mg per day. Males from 14-18 years require 11 mg per day and 19 years and above need 8 mg per day.

Lifestyle Changes For Managing Anaemia

There are some lifestyle changes that you can make to manage anaemia which includes:

  • Exercising is good for you but, when you have anaemia exercising can make you tired easily which may cause further damage to your heart and other organs. So, consult with your doctor before starting any exercise.
  • Take rest whenever you feel the need to.
  • Avoid smoking, and drink alcohol in moderation; for men 2 drinks or less per day and for women 1 drink or less per day.
  • Avoid taking too much stress and over-the-counter medications like aspirin that can increase the chances of gastrointestinal bleeding.
View Article References
  1. [1] Geissler, C., & Singh, M. (2011). Iron, Meat and Health. Nutrients, 3(3), 283–316.
  2. [2] Lynch S.R., Cook J.D. (1980). Interaction of vitamin C and iron. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 355(10), 32–44
  3. [3] Navas-Carretero, S., Pérez-Granados, A. M., Sarriá, B., Carbajal, A., Pedrosa, M. M., Roe, M. A., … Vaquero, M. P. (2008). Oily Fish Increases Iron Bioavailability of a Phytate Rich Meal in Young Iron Deficient Women. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 27(1), 96–101.
  4. [4] Zielińska-Dawidziak, M. (2015). Plant Ferritin—A Source of Iron to Prevent Its Deficiency. Nutrients, 7(2), 1184–1201.
  5. [5] Theuer, R. (2002). Effect of Iron on the Color of Barley and Other Cereal Porridges. Journal of Food Science, 67(3), 1208–1211.
  6. [6] Macfarlane, B. J., Bezwoda, W. R., Bothwell, T. H., Baynes, R. D., Bothwell, J. E., MacPhail, A. P., … Mayet, F. (1988). Inhibitory effect of nuts on iron absorption. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 47(2), 270–274.
  7. [7] Sari, A., Pamungkasari, E.P., Dewi, Y.L.R. 2018. The addition of dates palm (Phoenix dactylifera) on iron supplementation (Fe) increases the hemoglobin level of adolescent girls with anemia. Bali Medical Journal 7(2), 356-360.
  8. [8] Grillet, L., Mari, S., & Schmidt, W. (2014). Iron in seeds – loading pathways and subcellular localization. Frontiers in Plant Science, 4.
  9. [9] Magrone, T., Russo, M. A., & Jirillo, E. (2017). Cocoa and Dark Chocolate Polyphenols: From Biology to Clinical Applications. Frontiers in Immunology, 8.
  10. [10] Al-Waili, N. S. (2003). Effects of Daily Consumption of Honey Solution on Hematological Indices and Blood Levels of Minerals and Enzymes in Normal Individuals. Journal of Medicinal Food, 6(2), 135–140.
  11. [11] Gowri, B. ., Platel, K., Prakash, J., & Srinivasan, K. (2001). Influence of amla fruits (Emblica officinalis) on the bio-availability of iron from staple cereals and pulses. Nutrition Research, 21(12), 1483–1492.
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