Iron Sources in Food

Iron is needed by your body to manufacture healthy red blood cells. Minimum daily requirements are:

  • 10 mg./day for men and post menopausal women
  • 18 mg./day for menstruating women

There are two types of iron in foods: non-heme and heme iron. Non-heme is found in plants whereas heme is found solely in animal sources.

Heme iron is more readily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron. Below is a list of foods highest in iron. The specified amounts are in milligrams.

Iron pills (Ferrous Sulfate) Take 1 tablet, 3 times per day, with meals, or as prescribed by your doctor. Taking iron will cause black bowel movements. MAY CAUSE CONSTIPATION. Check with your doctor before beginning any supplements.

Include citrus fruits and juices with your meals for more efficient absorption of the iron. Avoid dairy products at the time of dosing, as these affect the effectiveness of absorption. Also, cooking in cast iron cookware slightly increases your intake of iron.


  • Include at least four iron-rich foods per day in your meal plan
  • Include a food or beverage high in vitamin C at every meal to increase iron absorption
  • Include a serving of meat, fish or poultry at lunch and dinner to increase iron absorption
  • For high iron cereals, breads and pasta products, select those with labels that read whole grain, enriched, fortified or essential vitamins and minerals added

Major Food Groups

Significant Sources of Iron

  • Dark Green, Leafy Vegetables
  • Dried Beans and Peas
  • Dried Fruits
  • Eggs
  • Enriched Breads
  • Iron-Fortified Cereal
  • Lean Meats
  • Nuts
  • Raisins
  • Seafood/Shellfish
  • Spinach
  • Tofu
  • Wheat Germ
  • Whole-Grain Breads

Special Tips

  • If your doctor advises you to take an iron supplement, have it with a food or beverage high in vitamin C.
  • Avoid drinking tea or coffee with meals. Substances in these beverages can decrease the absorption of iron.
  • When possible, cook with iron pots and skillets to add iron to foods.
  • Remember to include at least four iron-rich foods per day in your meal plan.
  • Good sources of vitamin C to include with meals are:
    • citrus fruits & juices
    • strawberries
    • cantaloupe
    • mango
    • kiwi fruit
    • cabbage
    • tomatoes
    • green pepper
    • broccoli
    • Brussel sprouts

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