By: Lauren Wicks,
Iron is an extremely important nutrient, as it helps our red blood cells supply oxygen to the body and supports our metabolism. Women need more than twice as much as men from age 19-50 (men need 8mg, while women need 18mg.) This is because iron can be easily lost during menstruation, which can increase our risk for iron-deficiency anemia and leave us with some negative side effects.
Below, you will find the top food sources of iron, which also happen to be pretty delicious! Here are our favorite iron-rich foods, plus the tastiest ways to cook with them.
Related: Recipes to Boost Your Iron Intake
Oysters are a nutritional powerhouse, fueling us with omega-3 fats, zinc, protein and of course, iron! They’re also known for being an aphrodisiac. Just six oysters offer us 44 percent of our daily iron needs, but you won’t want to stop there after trying our Spicy Barbecued Oysters.
Related: Healthy Oyster Recipes
Legumes are a wonderful source of iron, and white beans are the best of ’em. One cup of white beans packs not only 44 percent of your daily iron needs, it also packs 50 percent of your fiber needs (plus lots of vitamins and minerals). We love adding them to avocado toast and bulking up salads.
You’ll be pleased to learn your dark chocolate habit actually has some health benefits! One ounce of dark chocolate can pack nearly 10% of your daily iron needs! Not only that, but dark chocolate is also a good source of fiber and magnesium. Check out some of our favorite brands, here.
Lentils are starting to get some spotlight as a versatile, inexpensive superfood, and we are all for it! Just a half-cup of this legume packs almost 20 percent of your daily iron needs, and it also serves as a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, B vitamins and potassium. We especially love using lentils in soups and curries.
Related: Healthy Lentil Recipes
Popeye was really onto something by eating spinach every day! Just a cooked half-cup of this leafy green packs in almost 20 percent of your daily iron needs. Spinach is also an excellent source of nearly a dozen vitamins and minerals. We love sneaking a handful of greens into our smoothies, pastas and grain bowls.
Related: Healthy Spinach Side Dish Recipes
While soy has been hotly debated in the nutrition world, we believe minimally processed soy foods—like edamame, soy milk and tofu—are a nutritious part of a healthy diet. A half-cup serving of firm tofu packs in 17 percent of your daily iron needs, plus a hefty dose of healthy fats, protein and several minerals. Tofu makes a great Meatless Monday option in stir-fries, pasta recipes and more.
Kidney beans are a little less iron-dense than their white bean cousins, but they are chock-full of nutritious benefits. One cup of cooked kidney beans packs in 22 percent of your daily iron needs, along with loads of protein, fiber, potassium and magnesium. We love using kidney beans in soups, tacos and classic comfort food recipes.
Related: Healthy Bean Recipes
Sardines are famously loaded with omega-3 fats, Vitamin D and other hard-to-obtain nutrients, but they are also a good source of iron. Just three ounces of canned sardines contain 11 percent of your daily iron needs. They are a great way to give your salads and pasta dishes an easy nutrition boost!
Chickpeas are more than just another legume to add to the list of iron-rich food sources—they contain more than 20% per cup. These popular legumes are packed with protein, fiber, folate and minerals, too. Chickpeas are extremely versatile for use in everything from traditional curries to cookies!
Related: Healthy Chickpea Recipes
Beef is a bit lower in iron than you may expect (besides the liver, which contains about 28 percent of your daily needs in three ounces). A standard three-ounce serving of braised bottom round contains a little over 10 percent of your daily iron needs. Beef is also a great source from some of those hard-to-obtain minerals, like zinc, selenium and vitamin B6. We’re pretty partial to our favorite Asian Beef and Broccoli, but we have dozens of other delicious healthy beef recipes to try, too.
Related: Clean Eating Buyer’s Guide to Beef
Tomatoes can be a pretty surprising source of iron; a mere half-cup of stewed tomatoes packs as much iron as three ounces of beef! Tomatoes are also a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, which is responsible for giving them their vibrant color. Lycopene is thought to be a powerful cancer-fighting nutrient. We love adding tomatoes to more than just pastas and sandwiches—they’re even delicious as the star of our favorite side dish.
Related: Healthy Tomato Recipes
We often think of “white foods” as being devoid of nutrients, but that’s not the case with potatoes! One medium potato packs 11 percent of your daily iron needs, along with vitamin C, fiber and potassium. Swap out the bacon and sour cream for these Healthy Baked Potato Recipe ideas, and you’ll love our flavorful, healthy spin on potato chips.
Related: Healthy Potato Recipes