Iron-Rich Foods: Your Guide to the Best Iron Sources

Do you often feel tired or weak? Do your friends and family comment that you look pale? It may be the moment for you to start including more iron-rich foods in your diet. Sadly, spinach doesn’t contain as much iron as Popeye claimed (1), but plenty of other foods are richer in iron – and you may not even know it!

Are you aware of the two types of iron-containing foods? Animal products contain “heme” iron, while plant-based products contain “non-heme” iron (2). Of course, there are also liposomal iron supplements which are ideal for your digestion. Are you familiar with liposomal supplements? If not, this guide will walk you through!

Key Ideas

  • Did you know that the foods which provide the most iron are meat, fish, and shellfish? These are heme iron products, as opposed to plant-based foods containing non-heme iron. To increase the amount of iron absorbed, experts recommend combining these foods with sources of vitamin C.
  • If you’re a person at risk of iron deficiency, never fear – that’s why Sundt Nutrition iron supplements exist! They’re based on the latest liposomal technology. Plus, they’re vegan and completely GMO-free. You’ll love them!
  • Sundt Nutrition iron supplements let you forget about common side effects like indigestion. Liposomal formulas make stomach pain a thing of the past, and your body can assimilate iron in larger amounts than with a traditional supplement. There’s no replacement for liposomes!

What Are the Most Iron-Rich Foods?

Iron is a fundamental element in haemoglobin, a component in red blood cells (cells which transport oxygen from your lungs throughout your body). Adults’ iron needs will vary according to their age and gender.

  • Adult men require approximately 9 mg of iron a day
  • Adult women (who are not pregnant) require approximately 15 mg of iron a day

When your body lacks iron, your red blood cells can’t transport oxygen as well, making you feel tired and fatigued. As such, your diet is crucial. Let’s look at some nutrition facts (2, 3)!

Food Milligrams of Iron Per Serving Percentage of Daily Reference Intake (DRI)* 
Breakfast cereals fortified with iron 18 100
Dark chocolate (45-69% cacao) (3 ounces) 7 47
Fried liver (85.04 grams) 5 33
Boiled lentils (1/2 cup) 3 20
Boiled spinach (1/2 cup) 3 20
Tofu (1/2 cup)  3 20
Canned sardines packed in oil (85.04 grams)  2 13
Boiled chickpeas (1/2 cup) 2 13
Medium-sized baked potato, skin on 2 13
Boiled peas (1/2 cup) 1 7
Boiled broccoli (1/2 cup) 1 7
1 boiled egg 1 7
Melon slices (1/2 cup) 0 0
Milk (1 cup) 0 0
Based on the DRI for a pre-menopausal adult women who is not pregnant (15 mg iron per day). Women are used as the example here because women tend to be more affected by iron deficiency. 

Meat and Seafood

As we’ve already discussed, there are two types of iron in food: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found in meat, fish, and shellfish such as oysters. This type of iron is more easily absorbed by your body. You absorb up to 30 percent of the heme iron that you eat (4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

Generally, therefore, meat increases your iron levels much more than fruits or vegetables. But your body’s iron intake doesn’t solely depend on your food’s iron content. It also depends on the iron’s bioavailability – in other words, the proportion which your body actually absorbs and uses. For example, these foods’ iron content is as follows:

  • Oysters. 56 mg (milligrams) of iron per 100 grams.
  • Clams. 24 mg per 100 grams.
  • Liver. 10 mg per 100 grams.
  • Beef. 2.0-3.5 mg per 100 grams.
  • Fish. 0.7-2.0 mg per 100 grams.
Did you know that meat, fish, and shellfish are the most iron-rich foods? (Source: Chuttersnap: F1t1tU4qMq0/ Unsplash.com)

Fruits and Vegetables

Non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Foods with non-heme iron are still an important part of a nutritious, well-balanced diet, but this iron is not fully absorbed. Your body can only absorb and use 2 to 20% of this iron (5, 6, 9).

The amount of iron absorbed from plants varies greatly depending on whether certain compounds are present. For example:

  • Tannins (found in coffee). Some studies indicate that just one cup of coffee with your food can reduce your iron absorption by up to 60%.
  • Oxalates (found in spinach). These also reduce iron absorption, as do calcium and phosphorus. This topic, however, is still pending further study.
  • Vitamin C. Iron absorption increases when you include vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in your everyday diet. It’s especially effective in diets with low bioavailability, like vegetarian or vegan diets.
  • Phytates (found in lentils, chickpeas, and whole grains). These reduce iron absorption.
  • Oxalic acid (found in spinach, chard, cabbage, asparagus, and chocolate). This substance also blocks iron absorption.
  • Polyphenols. These are found in varying amounts in all kinds of plant-based food and drink: fruit, vegetables, tea, coffee, wine, and some grains and legumes. They may partially impede iron absorption.

Grains

Though many grains and legumes have high iron content, the amount of iron actually absorbed from them tends to be low. This is due to their high phytate content and, in some cases, high polyphenol content (9, 10, 11).

Plus, calcium also limits iron absorption, as does the bran in whole grain products. As such, it may not be the best idea to pair cereal with milk. Instead, try eating cereal dry and washing it down with a glass of orange juice.

In fact, in North American and European diets, about 90% of the phytates consumed come from grains. For this reason, our cereals are often enriched with added iron to ensure people with elevated iron needs get enough. People with high iron needs include:

  • Children
  • Women of childbearing age (pre-menopausal)
  • Pregnant women
  • Breastfeeding women

Remember that drinking coffee with your breakfast cereal greatly reduces the amount of iron you absorb.

Remember that drinking coffee with your breakfast cereal greatly reduces the amount of iron you absorb. (Source: Stoica: EV6C1LjH1Lk/ Unsplash.com)

Iron-Rich Foods: What You Need to Know

Iron deficiency causes anaemia, which is common in pre-menopausal women. But why is iron so important? Are supplements necessary? This guide answers those questions and explains liposomal supplements. Are you familiar with liposomal technology? If not, we think you’ll love it!

Why Is It Important to Get Iron in Your Diet?

For many reasons you may not be aware of. Iron’s importance has been summarized for a few key areas (12):

  • Mental alertness. Iron contributes to cognitive function and normal energetic metabolism.
  • Red blood cells. Iron is involved in forming healthy red blood cells and creating haemoglobin.
  • Oxygen. Iron helps oxygen be transported throughout the body.
  • Immune system. Iron allows the immune system to function properly.
  • Low energy and fatigue. Iron helps reduce feelings of tiredness.
  • Cell division. Iron allows new cells to be created.
Age Condition Men
Milligrams iron/day
Women
Milligrams iron/day
0-6 months   4,3 4,3
7 months-5 years   8 8
6-9 years   10 10
10-13 years   11 15
14-19 years   11 15
20-29 years   9,1 18
30-39 years   9,1 18
40-49 years   9,1 18
50-59 years   9,1 15
60-69 years   9,1 9
More than 70 years   9,1 9
  Pregnancy   27
  Breastfeeding   15

Iron deficiency is often the result of ingesting low amounts of bioavailable iron. In other cases, it tends to be caused by increased iron requirements: growth spurts, pregnancy, menstruation, or excessive blood loss due to injury (9).

There are other risk factors for iron deficiency which apply to young women:

  • Having been pregnant several times, or going through labour with a lot of blood loss
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Diets low in heme iron, such as vegetarian diets (13)

If your iron intake is limited or inadequate due to your diet, anaemia may be the consequence. This condition can cause fatigue, decreased exercise performance, an accelerated pulse, and pale, pallid skin.

Beyond Iron-Rich Foods: When Are Supplements the Right Call?

Iron supplements are recommended if you have iron deficiency or simply low iron levels. Some groups are especially susceptible (2, 5, 9, 13):

  • Pregnant women. Iron deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk of death for both mother and child. It also raises the odds of premature birth and low birth weight.
  • Babies and small children. Children young enough to be breastfed run the risk of suffering iron deficiency due to their rapid growth. This is especially true of babies born premature or with a low birth weight, and babies born to women with iron deficiency.
  • People with heavy menstrual flow. People with menorrhagia, or excessive menstrual bleeding, lose significantly more iron on average during their periods (compared to people with normal menstrual bleeding).
  • Frequent blood donors. In the United States, approximately 25 to 35% of habitual blood donors develop an iron deficiency.
  • People with digestive issues. People with coeliac or Crohn’s disease, as well as people who have undergone gastrointestinal surgery, are at greater risk for iron deficiency.
  • People with heart disease. Approximately 60% of heart disease patients in the U.S. have an iron deficiency.
  • People with cancer. The rate of iron deficiency in cancer patients ranges from 29 to 46%.

If you think you may have low iron levels, remember to ask your doctor before taking supplements. Iron supplements can be toxic when misused, especially if you’re pregnant, underage, or have serious health conditions like heart disease or cancer.

If you think you may have low iron levels, remember to ask your doctor before taking supplements. (Source: Suria: 111624419/ 123rf.com)

Liposomal Supplements: Effective, Easy to Digest

The most common problem with iron supplements is the stomach pain and nausea they sometimes produce. Thankfully, Sundt Nutrition liposomal iron supplements were designed to prevent these issues.

Now, we keep referring to liposomal supplements. Do you not know what a liposome is? Don’t worry – we’re here to explain it in detail for you (16, 17)!

  • What are liposomes? They’re tiny “bubbles” which are highly similar to human cells. These bubbles are primarily made up of phospholipids. But to put technical language aside, what’s important is that this cutting-edge technology allows iron to be absorbed more efficiently. The iron molecules are “encapsulated” inside these liposomes.
  • What’s the benefit of putting iron in liposomes? Pharmaceutical drugs have long used liposomes and proven their advantages, but research also supports the use of liposomal techniques in nutritional supplements. Liposomes equate to quicker, easier absorption and greater bioavailability.
  • What’s bioavailability? It simply refers to the proportion of iron which actually reaches its destination in the body. This proportion is greater in liposomal supplements than traditional versions.
  • Could switching to Sundt Nutrition iron supplements get rid of my digestive side effects? It sure can! Research indicates that liposomal formulas protect the intestines on top of promoting faster absorption in the intestinal tract. This effect is even stronger because this iron supplement also includes vitamin C!
  • Why do Sundt Nutrition iron supplements include vitamin C? Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, is the main enhancer of your body’s iron absorption. You won’t have to worry about pairing iron with vitamin C in your meals! Plus, this combination makes the supplements more cost-effective.
  • Why are these supplements more cost-effective than conventional versions? As you may have already deduced, the increased availability of the iron in Sundt Nutrition supplements means that you get more iron for your money. The cost-benefit ratio is clearly in your favour!
  • Are these supplements vegan? Yes! If that worry is on your mind when supplement shopping, worry no more. Sundt Nutrition iron supplements are, in fact, especially recommended for vegans and vegetarians. They contain no GMOs and, of course, no animal-based ingredients. You’ll love them!

Our Conclusions

If you’ve been told to raise your iron levels, don’t overlook Sundt Nutrition iron supplements! Their liposomal formula provides over 70% of your daily requirements – a hefty amount! Plus, just one capsule provides 35 milligrams of vitamin C, ensuring that your body can absorb these minerals.

Bid farewell to indigestion and other iron supplement side effects. Liposomes’ cutting-edge technology prevents stomach pain. Plus, you’ll absorb more of the iron than you would with other products. You can feel your body regain health and wellness in a matter of weeks. After trying Sundt Nutrition iron supplements, you won’t want to switch!

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References (16)

1. Tu elección saludable. Guía de alimentación. Fundación Española de la Nutrición (FEN), 2019: Disponible online
Source

2. Iron. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Disponible online
Source

3. Iron. Harward T. H. Chan. School of Public Health. Disponible online
Source

4. Iron Rich Foods. American Red Cross (Blood Services). Disponible online
Source

5. El hierro en la alimentación Purificación Gómez-Álvarez Salinas. Licenciada en Farmacia. Vol. 18. Núm. 2. Páginas 54-57 (Febrero 2004). Disponible online
Source

6. González Urrutia Rocío. Biodisponibilidad del hierro. Rev. costarric. salud pública [Internet]. Julio de 2005 [consultado el 07 de octubre de 2020]; 14 (26): 6-12. Disponible online
Source

7. Sharma,K.K.Improving bioavaibility of iron in Indian diets through food-based approaches for the control of iron deficiency anemia.Revista Alimentación,Nutrición y Agricultura 2003;32:51-61. Disponible online
Source

8. Allen,L.H.y Ahluwalia,N.(Junio,1997).Improving iron status through diet the application of knowledge concerning dietary iron bioavaibility in human populations.USA:The USAID Micronutrient Program (MOST); Junio,1997. Disponible online
Source

9. Review of iron and its importance for human health Nazanin Abbaspour, Richard Hurrell and Roya Kelishadi. PMID: 24778671. Disponible online
Source

10. Iron bioavailability and dietary reference values. Hurrell R, Egli II am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May; 91 (5): 1461S-1467S. [PubMed] [List of references]. Disponible online
Source

11. Chapter 13. Iron – Food and Agriculture Organization. Disponible online
Source

12. Declaraciones de propiedades saludables distintas de las de reducción de riesgo de enfermedad y al desarrollo y salud de los niños (artículo 13) autorizadas en el reglamento (UE) Nº 432/2012. Disponible online
Source

13. Iron status of vegetarian adults: a review of the literature Roman Pawlak, PhD, RD, Julia Berger, BS and Ian Hines, PhD. Disponible online
Source

14. Dietary determinants and possible solutions to iron deficiency for young women living in industrialized countries: a review Kathryn L. Beck, * Cathryn A. Conlon, Rozanne Kruger, and Jane Coad. Disponible online
Source

15. Liposomes as Nanomedical Devices. Giuseppina Bozzuto and Agnese Molinari. Disponible online
Source

16. Liposomal-encapsulated Ascorbic Acid: Influence on Vitamin C Bioavailability and Capacity to Protect Against Ischemia–Reperfusion Injury. Janelle L. Davis, Hunter L. Paris, Joseph W. Beals, Scott E. Binns, Gregory R. Giordano, Rebecca L. Scalzo, Melani M. Schweder, Emek Blair and Christopher Bell. Journal ListNutr Metab Insightsv.9; 2016PMC4915787. Disponible online
Source

Official Guide
Tu elección saludable. Guía de alimentación. Fundación Española de la Nutrición (FEN), 2019: Disponible online
Go to source
Official Website
Iron. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Disponible online
Go to source
Official Website
Iron. Harward T. H. Chan. School of Public Health. Disponible online
Go to source
Official Website
Iron Rich Foods. American Red Cross (Blood Services). Disponible online
Go to source
Scientific Article
El hierro en la alimentación Purificación Gómez-Álvarez Salinas. Licenciada en Farmacia. Vol. 18. Núm. 2. Páginas 54-57 (Febrero 2004). Disponible online
Go to source
Scientific Article
González Urrutia Rocío. Biodisponibilidad del hierro. Rev. costarric. salud pública [Internet]. Julio de 2005 [consultado el 07 de octubre de 2020]; 14 (26): 6-12. Disponible online
Go to source
Scientific Article
Sharma,K.K.Improving bioavaibility of iron in Indian diets through food-based approaches for the control of iron deficiency anemia.Revista Alimentación,Nutrición y Agricultura 2003;32:51-61. Disponible online
Go to source
Scientific Article
Allen,L.H.y Ahluwalia,N.(Junio,1997).Improving iron status through diet the application of knowledge concerning dietary iron bioavaibility in human populations.USA:The USAID Micronutrient Program (MOST); Junio,1997. Disponible online
Go to source
Scientific Article
Review of iron and its importance for human health Nazanin Abbaspour, Richard Hurrell and Roya Kelishadi. PMID: 24778671. Disponible online
Go to source
Scientific Article
Iron bioavailability and dietary reference values. Hurrell R, Egli II am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May; 91 (5): 1461S-1467S. [PubMed] [List of references]. Disponible online
Go to source
Official Website
Chapter 13. Iron – Food and Agriculture Organization. Disponible online
Go to source
Official Document
Declaraciones de propiedades saludables distintas de las de reducción de riesgo de enfermedad y al desarrollo y salud de los niños (artículo 13) autorizadas en el reglamento (UE) Nº 432/2012. Disponible online
Go to source
Scientific Article
Iron status of vegetarian adults: a review of the literature Roman Pawlak, PhD, RD, Julia Berger, BS and Ian Hines, PhD. Disponible online
Go to source
Scientific Article
Dietary determinants and possible solutions to iron deficiency for young women living in industrialized countries: a review Kathryn L. Beck, * Cathryn A. Conlon, Rozanne Kruger, and Jane Coad. Disponible online
Go to source
Scientific Article
Liposomes as Nanomedical Devices. Giuseppina Bozzuto and Agnese Molinari. Disponible online
Go to source
Scientific Article
Liposomal-encapsulated Ascorbic Acid: Influence on Vitamin C Bioavailability and Capacity to Protect Against Ischemia–Reperfusion Injury. Janelle L. Davis, Hunter L. Paris, Joseph W. Beals, Scott E. Binns, Gregory R. Giordano, Rebecca L. Scalzo, Melani M. Schweder, Emek Blair and Christopher Bell. Journal ListNutr Metab Insightsv.9; 2016PMC4915787. Disponible online
Go to source
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