What foods have a high iron content?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 30, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

White blood count very low - what foods have a good amount of iron?


Expert Answers

Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is Caring.com senior food and nutrition editor and the director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet.

Your best, most absorbable form of dietary iron will come from animal products such as beef, poultry, and eggs. In general, the darker the meat the higher the iron content. We also get iron from plant foods such as dark leafy greens and certain dried fruits. Plant sources of iron are less well absorbed by the body "“ however the iron becomes more absorbable if it is accompanied by a source of vitamin C. For example you may have a spinach salad topped with red peppers or strawberries. Your cast iron pans will also transfer some iron to the food you sauté, particularly if it contains tomatoes. Here is a summary of foods to include in your diet to boost your body's iron levels:

  1. Red meat, poultry, eggs, liver
  2. Seafood: oysters, clams and scallops
  3. Vegetables: artichokes, leafy greens, spinach, kale, collards, beet greens; potatoes with the skin; lima beans; green peas; and most other beans (chick peas, soybeans, black beans)
  4. Dried Fruit "“ raisins, figs, prunes, apricots
  5. Iron fortified Breads, cereals, rice, and pasta
  6. Nuts/seeds - All nuts and seeds, such as peanuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and almonds, contain some iron.
  7. Other - Blackstrap molasses. We don't eat this too often, but it is a good source of iron. Try it on your oatmeal.

Note: If you take an iron supplement, there are foods and nutrients that may interfere with the body's absorption. Dairy sources of calcium or calcium supplements, high fiber foods, coffee and tea are known to compete with iron and should not be consumed at the same time as you take your iron supplement.