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Top 15 Iron-Rich Foods

The 15 best iron-rich foods

Wheat bran

Wheat bran consists of the husk of the wheat grain and is valued for its valuable vitamins and minerals. With 16 milligrams per 100 grams , it has the highest iron content among cereal products.

Pork liver

With 15.8 milligrams per 100 grams , pork liver is one of the top iron-rich foods. However, pregnant women should not eat liver during the first 3 months, as the high vitamin A content could harm the unborn child.

Pumpkin seeds

The dark green kernels not only have a strong and aromatic taste, they sometimes shine with 12.5 milligrams of iron per 100 grams . Whether roasted over the salad or in muesli – pumpkin seeds give every dish that certain extra.

Sesame

Sesame is a true power food and is clearly underestimated. Whether roasted over vegetables or in spreads, the miracle grain delivers an impressive 10 milligrams of iron per 100 grams . As tahini it is still 2.5 milligrams.

Amaranth

Although amaranth belongs to the group of pseudocereals, the ingredients are impressive: At 9 milligrams per 100 grams , the gluten-free seeds are plant-based foods that contain a lot of iron.

Linseed

The small brown seeds are known to be a valuable source of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. But an iron content of 8.2 milligrams per 100 grams is also impressive.

Quinoa

Quinoa is also a nutrient-rich pseudocereal that not only provides valuable vegetable protein, but also 8 milligrams of vegetable iron per 100 grams .

Lentils, dried

With 8 milligrams per 100 grams, lentils make a significant contribution to an adequate iron supply. The legume is not only easy to prepare, thanks to the large variety of varieties there is also something for every taste.

Pistachios

The crunchy green kernels are among the most expensive nuts, but they are full of healthy nutrients such as proteins, omega-3 fatty acids and iron (7.3 milligrams per 100 grams) .

Eidotter

With 7 milligrams per 100 grams , the yolk from the egg is a wonderful source of iron. In contrast, 100 grams of chicken eggs, i.e. albumen and yolk, provide only 1 milligram of the trace element.

Millet/millet flakes

Millet is also an iron-rich grain and provides 6.9 milligrams per 100 grams , whether in the form of grains or flakes.

Soybeans

Soybeans are particularly popular with vegetarians and vegans and, when cooked, provide us with 6.6 milligrams of iron per 100 grams . Young, green soybeans – better known as edamame – provide a little more of the trace element with 3.6 milligrams .

Chanterelles

With 6.5 milligrams per 100 grams , chanterelles are the secret star among iron-rich foods: one portion (200 grams) covers a large part of your daily needs.

Blood sausage

Blood sausage, also called red or black sausage, is not for everyone, but it is a sausage with tradition. Because fresh pig blood is used to make it, it provides 6.4 milligrams of animal iron per 100 grams .

Oatmeal

Oatmeal for breakfast not only provides energy and filling fiber, but also provides a good supply of iron with 5.1 milligrams per 100 grams .

Iron-containing beverages

When it comes to drinks that are rich in iron, red juices are often mentioned. But what is behind it? According to the Association of Independent Health Advice (UGB), this question has been investigated through studies. The result: red juices do not necessarily differ from light juices. The ingredients of the juices are decisive: substances such as vitamin C promote iron absorption , while oxalic acid or polyphenols have an inhibiting effect.

Fruit juices made from currants, elderberries and passion fruit are said to actually support the iron supply. They contain a relatively large amount of iron for fruit and are also very rich in vitamin C. There is also a lot of iron in vegetable juice from beetroot , but absorption is slowed down by the high oxalic acid content.

Another way to support the iron supply is iron-rich juices from well-stocked supermarkets, health food stores or drugstores . The juices usually consist of red fruits and berries and are additionally fortified with available iron. Here, however, it should be taken into account that individual fortified juices already belong to the group of dietary supplements.

The body needs iron for this

Iron belongs to the group of essential trace elements . That means it has to be ingested through food because our body cannot produce it on its own.

Iron is an important component of the red blood pigment hemoglobin and is therefore involved in the transport of oxygen in the body. In addition, the trace element plays an important key role in some metabolic processes , is involved in blood formation and, together with other nutrients, ensures a healthy immune system. Iron also supports physical performance . Adequate iron intake is particularly important for children and adolescents, as it is essential for brain development.

Inadequate iron intake is manifested by:

  • reduced performance
  • increased susceptibility to infection
  • disturbed heat regulation of the body

If the body gets too little iron for a long time, anemia can be the result: the red pigment in the red blood cells decreases and at the same time the number of red blood cells decreases. This in turn leads to impaired oxygen transport.

Severe iron deficiency can be caused by chronic blood loss due to increased menstruation or gynecological diseases. Hidden bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract can also trigger a deficiency.

Iron intake: What is the daily iron requirement?

The specialist societies for nutrition in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DA-CH) recommend a daily intake of 10 to 12 milligrams for men and non-menstruating women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

In women, the requirement is 15 milligrams due to the menstrual cycle . Pregnant women need twice as much every day, i.e. 30 milligrams : On the one hand, the placenta and the uterus have to be supplied with additional iron, on the other hand, the unborn child already builds up its own iron stores. During breastfeeding, the iron requirement is 20 milligrams per day – still slightly higher than normal, so that losses due to pregnancy and childbirth can be compensated.

In addition to pregnant and breastfeeding women, children and adolescents are also among the risk groups for iron deficiency. That is why a balanced and varied diet is all the more important during the growth phase.

If the iron intake is below the recommendations of the professional societies, there is not necessarily a deficiency. Only blood tests carried out by a doctor provide information , both on the iron status and on the existing ferritin stores. Ferritin stores iron in the body.

This is how you optimize iron absorption

Iron is not just iron, because absorption depends on bioavailability. Animal foods contain so-called haem iron , which the body can better utilize.

Plant-based foods , on the other hand, provide non-heme iron , the absorption of which is often slowed down by other plant compounds. These include e.g. B. Phytates from whole grain products and legumes, polyphenols from coffee and green tea or phosphate, which is added to soft drinks or food.

However, the inhibitory effect of these ingredients can be reduced or eliminated by small tricks. Types of preparation such as soaking, germinating, fermenting or heating reduce the content of phytates, lignins and the like and thus ensure a better supply of iron. Coffee lovers are advised not to drink the hot drink directly with iron-rich meals, but to wait at least 1 hour between them if possible. The same goes for black or green tea.

These factors improve iron absorption

There are some foods or their ingredients that can support optimal iron absorption:

  • Vitamin C  Above all, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) promotes the absorption of iron. Therefore, it is recommended to consume iron-rich foods in combination with vitamin C-rich foods such as peppers or orange juice.
  • Organic acid Organic acids such as citric acid from fruit and vegetables or lactic acid from fermented foods also promote iron absorption.
  • Beta-carotene The simultaneous consumption of foods that are rich in beta-carotene also ensures increased iron absorption. These include sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, or spinach.
  • Sulfur-containing vegetables Sulfur-containing vegetables such as onions, garlic, leeks or chives not only provide more taste, they also support iron absorption.

When more iron is consumed than the body actually needs, it stores the excess iron in the form of ferritin. If necessary, the stored trace element can be quickly mobilized and used for metabolic processes.

Dietary supplements: How useful are iron supplements?

Healthy people are generally not dependent on taking iron supplements and can easily cover their iron requirements with a varied diet . The same applies to the vegetarian diet , provided that the promoting and inhibiting factors are taken into account. Current consumption surveys also confirm this: Accordingly, the average population – whether vegetarian or not – is well supplied with iron. A precautionary supplementation is therefore not recommended.

Iron supplements during pregnancy are discussed again and again, but should not be taken as a precaution either . If an existing iron deficiency is diagnosed by the doctor treating you, an additional iron intake can make sense.

Iron supplements and their side effects

If iron supplements are taken regularly, side effects can occur:

  • nausea
  • vomit
  • heartburn
  • gastrointestinal problems

Research has also found that long-term use of high-dose iron supplements can increase the risk of heart disease or cancer . Special care should be taken with children. In extreme cases, an overdose can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and fever, but also to serious kidney and liver damage.

However, an oversupply of iron through food alone is hardly possible , neither in adults nor in children. Exceptions are alcoholics and people who suffer from the so-called iron storage disease called hemochromatosis .

Basically, if there is a suspicion of an iron deficiency, a medical examination should always be carried out. This is the only way to determine whether dietary supplements really make sense.

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Written by Florentina Lewis

Hello! My name is Florentina, and I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a background in teaching, recipe development, and coaching. I'm passionate about creating evidence-based content to empower and educate people to live healthier lifestyles. Having been trained in nutrition and holistic wellness, I use a sustainable approach toward health & wellness, using food as medicine to help my clients achieve that balance they are looking for. With my high expertise in nutrition, I can create customized meal plans that fit a specific diet (low-carb, keto, Mediterranean, dairy-free, etc.) and target (losing weight, building muscle mass). I am also a recipe creator and reviewer.

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