11 Foods That Are High in Iron—And the Recipes You Should Use
I have iron-deficiency anemia, so I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying what foods to eat more of when I start feeling super tired, weak, or dizzy. My husband knows that when my skin starts looking pale, or I get a terrible migraine, it’s probably time to feed me a steak, some spinach, or a Flintstones’ multivitamin (hey, there’s no shame in my iron game).
Iron is important because it helps create hemoglobin, which brings oxygen to your body’s tissues. When you don’t have enough, your body can’t make enough red blood cells. And when you don’t have enough red blood cells, you become at risk for iron-deficiency anemia (which, along with headaches and dizziness can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and more).
Here’s the thing: even non-anemic people can be getting (or absorbing) too little iron—and women, babies, and vegetarians are particularly at risk. Thankfully, there are plenty of foods that are packed with iron, and we have delicious recipes for each one.
Here’s what you should be loading on your plate if you think you could use some more iron in your diet (as always, check with your doctor first).
Meat is a particularly good source of iron because it has heme iron, or animal-based iron, which is more easily absorbed into the body than plant-based sources. Lean beef in particular packs 12% of your daily iron intake in 3 ounces. To reap the benefits, try making any of these healthy beef dinners. Bonus? They all take less than 45 minutes to make.
Depending on which leafy greens you choose, they can contain between 14-36% of your daily iron value. Spinach is a great source, and it boasts about 20% of your DV in just one cup. Try this flavor-packed recipe for Creamed Curried Spinach.
All types of shellfish are good sources of iron, but mussels, oysters, and clams are particularly high in the mineral. Mussels in particular contain 132% of your DV. This recipe for 15-Minute Mussels in Tomato Sauce packs a one-two punch because it also has plenty of Vitamin C, which helps you absorb iron more effectively.
One medium baked potato fulfills 10% of your daily iron intake. Just one more compelling reason to eat steak and potatoes. Our Loaded Steakhouse Baked Potatoes are delicious—and an awesome source of iron, since they hit the trifecta of potatoes, beef, and spinach.
Tofu is an awesome plant-based source of iron. Just a half cup contains 36% of your DV! Meatless Monday just got a whole lot more nutritious—especially when you make something as tasty as our Szechuan Tofu With Cauliflower.
Beans or Lentils
Lentils are a great source of iron—just one cup provides 37% of your DV. Similarly, a cup of chickpeas fulfills 18% of your daily iron requirements. Our Slow Cooker Creamy Lentil Soup has both chickpeas and lentils, so you can feel good about your iron intake.
Iron-Fortified Cereals or Whole Grains
Iron-fortified cereals and whole grains are an easy way to get all of your daily iron in one place. Some brands pack 100% of your daily iron in one serving—just make sure you read the label to scan for extra sugar (here’s how to choose the best healthy cereal when you’re shopping).
An ounce of cashews will help you boost your daily iron by 10%. Make a batch of cashew butter at home, and fold it into oatmeal or use as a base for savory sauces to drizzle on grilled meat or veggies.
Probably the most surprising food on this list, 100g of dark chocolate contains 67% of your recommended daily intake for iron. Just make sure it’s the 70-85% dark kind to see full benefits. For a tasty treat, whip up this Spicy Dark Chocolate and Tahini Bark.