Foods Rich in Iron

What foods provide iron?

There are two forms of dietary iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron comes from the blood in animals cells – like red meat, seafood and fish. Iron in plant foods such as lentils and beans is called nonheme. This is the form of iron added to iron-enriched and iron-fortified foods. Heme iron is absorbed better than nonheme iron, but most dietary iron is nonheme iron . A variety of heme and nonheme sources of iron are listed in Tables 1 and 2.

Table 1: Selected Food Sources of Heme Iron [Animal Sources]

Food Milligrams
per serving
% DV*
Chicken liver, cooked, 3½ ounces 12.8 70
Oysters, breaded and fried, 6 pieces 4.5 25
Beef, chuck, lean only, braised, 3 ounces 3.2 20
Clams, breaded, fried, ¾ cup 3.0 15
Beef, tenderloin, roasted, 3 ounces 3.0 15
Turkey, dark meat, roasted, 3½ ounces 2.3 10
Beef, eye of round, roasted, 3 ounces 2.2 10
Turkey, light meat, roasted, 3½ ounces 1.6 8
Chicken, leg, meat only, roasted, 3½ ounces 1.3 6
Tuna, fresh bluefin, cooked, dry heat, 3 ounces 1.1 6
Chicken, breast, roasted, 3 ounces 1.1 6
Halibut, cooked, dry heat, 3 ounces 0.9 6
Crab, blue crab, cooked, moist heat, 3 ounces 0.8 4
Pork, loin, broiled, 3 ounces 0.8 4
Tuna, white, canned in water, 3 ounces 0.8 4
Shrimp, mixed species, cooked, moist heat, 4 large 0.7 4

Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Nonheme Iron [Plant Sources]

Food Milligrams
per serving
% DV*
Ready-to-eat cereal, 100% iron fortified, ¾ cup 18.0 100
Oatmeal, instant, fortified, prepared with water, 1 cup 10.0 60
Soybeans, mature, boiled, 1 cup 8.8 50
Lentils, boiled, 1 cup 6.6 35
Beans, kidney, mature, boiled, 1 cup 5.2 25
Beans, lima, large, mature, boiled, 1 cup 4.5 25
Beans, navy, mature, boiled, 1 cup 4.5 25
Ready-to-eat cereal, 25% iron fortified, ¾ cup 4.5 25
Beans, black, mature, boiled, 1 cup 3.6 20
Beans, pinto, mature, boiled, 1 cup 3.6 20
Molasses, blackstrap, 1 tablespoon 3.5 20
Tofu, raw, firm, ½ cup 3.4 20
Spinach, boiled, drained, ½ cup 3.2 20
Spinach, canned, drained solids ½ cup 2.5 10
Black-eyed peas (cowpeas), boiled, 1 cup 1.8 10
Spinach, frozen, chopped, boiled ½ cup 1.9 10
Grits, white, enriched, quick, prepared with water, 1 cup 1.5 8
Raisins, seedless, packed, ½ cup 1.5 8
Whole wheat bread, 1 slice 0.9 6
White bread, enriched, 1 slice 0.9 6

Data in these tables comes from: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2003. USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 16. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp.

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