Nutrition for Fitness - Foods High in Iron

By: CimoneC - April 9, 2010
By D. Cimone Cooper

Iron is a vital mineral, used to manufacture red blood cells which carry oxygenated blood throughout the body. A deficiency in iron (anemia) may result in a pale complexion and lethargy. Iron requirements vary by gender, with males requiring 10 mg of iron per day and females of childbearing years approximately 18 mg. Eating iron rich foods with Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron into the bloodstream, which is especially important for pregnant women and vegetarians.

Meat Products High in Iron

The darker the meat, the higher it is in iron. A serving of 3 ounces of liver, kidney, heart provides about 3.5 mg. of iron. Shellfish such as muscles, clams and oysters supply similar amounts of iron. Canned sardines and cooked beef or turkey are also good sources of iron, providing just over 2 mg of iron per 3 oz serving. A large boiled egg supplies 1 mg of iron. Chicken, pork, veal and fish supply less than 1 mg of iron per 3 ounce serving. Hemo-iron (the type of iron found in red meat and other animal products), is readily absorbed by the body.

Iron Rich Grain Products

The iron found in grain products, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs and legumes is the less easily absorbed "non-hemo" iron. Oat and wheat bran, in addition to being excellent for lowering cholesterol, are also loaded with iron. A 3.5 oz serving of either Special K or Bran Wheat cereals will provide you with 13 mg. of iron, just under 75% of your daily RDA. Oatmeal provides 1.9 mg iron per cup, and Cream of Wheat a whopping 10 mg per 1 cup serving. One cup of cooked spaghetti (enriched) has approximately 2 mg of iron.

Nut and Seed Sources of Iron

Nuts and seeds tend to be higher in calories but valuable sources of iron. A one ounce serving of sunflower or pumpkin seeds or 1 cup of soy milk provides 1.4 mg of iron. One tablespoon of sesame seeds provides 1.2 mg of iron. A half-cup serving of canned lima, kidney or garbanzo beans provides approximately 2 mg of iron. If you are vegetarian or enjoy eating tofu, you'll be glad to know that each ½ cup serving of firm tofu provides 1.8 mg. of iron.

Get Iron in Vegetables and Fruit

Ingesting Vitamin C with meals boosts the absorption of iron from food as much as 400%. Vegetables such as one cup of cooked spinach, a stalk of broccoli or a medium-sized baked potato is a good source of iron, providing about 2.1 mg per serving. Dried fruit has a significant amount of iron. Four dried figs contain a whopping 3.4 mg of iron. Try seedless raisins, or dried prunes, apricots or peaches for just under 1 mg. of iron per ½ cup serving.

Try Cooking in Cast Iron Pots

Turns out the advice to cooking in cast iron cookware to increase your daily iron intake isn't an old wives tale after all. In a study published in 1986 in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers cooked 20 different foods in new cast iron skillets to test the iron absorption rate.

Findings report that iron levels increased in each item, with some more than quadrupling their iron content. For example, the iron in 3 ounces of apple sauce increased from 0.35 mg to 7.3 mgs. Even eggs, already a reasonably high source of iron at 1.5 mg each, tripled their iron content to almost 4.76 mg. Cooking acidic foods such as tomato based pasta sauces or soups proved to be an ideal way to increase iron absorption. A 3 ounce serving of pasta sauce showed an increase in iron content from 0.6 mg to 5.7 mgs.

About the Submitter


Part time personal trainer specializing in fitness for women and post-rehab fitness. I am also an advice columnist and freelance writer covering dating and relationships, fitness and health issues.

Public Comments

  • By: ChubbyCheeks215

    Monday, September 13, 2010 - 2:58pm

    Thanks for posting this. I'm highly anemic, and I'll be using some of these tips.

Login to post a comment.

FitLink is a Venture Technology company. Copyright © 2006-2012 Fitlink, LLC