Foods High in Iron

There are many foods high in iron, but first we need to discuss the types of iron.

 There are two types of iron in food:


  • Haem Iron: is readily absorbed by the body. Sources of haem iron include lean meat, chicken and fish.


  • Non-Haem Iron: is more difficult for the body to absorb. Foods high in iron include leafy vegetables, eggs, dried fruit, legumes and iron fortified breakfast cereals. In order to maximize iron absorption, these foods should be consumed in combination with a vitamin C food source (e.g. pineapple, orange, rock melon, lemon juice, strawberries and capsicum). It is also best to eat haem and non-haem iron foods together, as this enhances iron absorption even more.  Iron absorption can be reduced by consuming wheat bran as well as tea and coffee.

    The body is also able to adjust when it is iron deficient. It can absorb 10 – 20% more iron from foods than when it is not iron deficient.

    Foods High in Iron

    Animal Sources (good sources of haem and non-haem iron)

      Serving Size Amount of total iron per serve (mg/serve)
    Liver, cooked (75g) 8.3
    Lean, cooked beef 2

    slices (75g)

    Lean, cooked lamb 2 slices (75g) 1.0
    Eggs 1 boiled egg (55g) 1.0
    Tuna, dark flesh 75g 0.7
    Lean, cooked pork, ham 2 slices (75g) 0.6
    Lean, cooked chicken (no skin) 1 small breast 0.5
    Fish, white flesh 1 average piece (75g) 0.3



    Plant sources (good sources of non-haem iron

      Serving size Amount of total iron per serve(mg/serve)
    Commercial breakfast cereal (iron enriched) Average serve (60g) 5.6
    Nuts (e.g. cashews, almonds) 50g 1.6 – 3.1
    Sweet corn 1/2 cup (120g) 2.1
    Lentils, cooked 1/2 cup (120g) 2.0
    Baked beans in sauce 1/2 cup (120g 1.8
    Porridge, cooked oats 1 cup 1.6
    Bread (wholemeal) 2 sandwich slices (60g) 1.4
    Potato 1 medium 1.4
    Green leafy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, spinach, silverbeet, cabbage) 1/2 cup (120g) 0.8 – 1.2
    Milk chocolate 50g block 0.7
    Bread (white) 2 sandwich slices (60g) 0.7
    Dried fruit (e.g. prunes, apricots) 5-6 (50g) 0.6
    Fruit (fresh) 1 average piece 0.3-0.5


    Iron (Mg) In Food

    Meats, Seafood, Egg  
    Liver 100g 10.0
    Lean beef 100g 3.5
    Lean lamb 100g 3.5
    Lean pork 2.0
    Chicken leg no skin 100g 1.2
    Chicken breast no skin 100g 0.6
    Fish grilled average 100g 0.6
    Tuna 100g 1.0
    Salmon 100g 1.0
    Egg, 1 whole 0.7
    Shellfish average serve 1.0
    Pate 1 Tbsp 2.0
    Milk 0.0
    Milo, 2 rounded tsp 1.0
    Ovaltine 2 tsp 1.0
    Sustagen 250ml 4.0
    Breakfast Cereals  
    Weet-Bix 2 biscuits 2.5
    Vitabrits 2 biscuits 1.0
    Good Start 2 biscuits 3.0
    Sportsplus ½ cup 3.0
    Cornflakes 1 cup 2.5
    Just Right 30g 2.5
    Sultana Bran 30g 2.0
    Sustain ½ cup 2.5
    Porridge ¾ cup 1.0
    Wheatgerm, 1 Tbsp 0.6
    Breakfast bars, 1 average 2.5
    Wholemeal bread 1 slice 0.6
    Fruit loaf 1 slice 0.6
    White bread 1 slice 0.4
    Muesli bars 1 average 2.0
    Rice ½ cup 0.3
    Pasta ½ cup 0.4
    Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, Seeds  
    Baked beans ½ cup 2.0
    Kidney beans, lentils ½ cup 2.0
    Vegetables average serve 0.5
    Potato 1 medium 0.8
    Spinach 100g 3.0
    Peas ½ cup 1.3
    Dried apricots 5 pieces 1.3
    Raisins 2 Tbsp 0.6
    Fresh fruit 1 serve 0.5
    Fruit juice 250ml 0.4
    Sunflower seeds 1 Tbsp 0.8
    Peanuts 30g 0.5
    Almonds 30g 1.0
    Milk chocolate 100g 1.5
    Licorice 50g 4.0

    Note: Tbsp – tablespoonTsp – teaspoon

    Glenn Cardwell – Gold Medal Nutrition, Second Edition p.75 

    Iron Requirements

    Girls 8-11yr 6-8mg
    Women 12-15yr 10-13mg
    Women 16-18yr 10-13mg
    Women 19-54yr 12-16mg
    Women Pregnant 22-36mg
    Women Nursing 12-16mg
    Women 54+yr 7mg
    Boys 8-11yr 6-8mg
    Men 12-15yr 10-13mg
    Men 16-18yr 10-13mg
    Men 19+yr 7mg


    Glenn Cardwell. Gold Medal Nutrition, Second Edition 1999 p.75

    The table above shows the RDI for iron depending on the age and gender of the person. You will note that females require more iron than men once they are 19 years+ due to the increased iron loss through menstruation and child bearing. So it is vital that this group of people consume adequate amounts of foods high in iron.


    Iron deficiency is a greater risk for particular people including:

  • females (due to blood loss through menstruation, and lower overall intake of all nutrients).
  • vegetarians (due to reduced intake of haem iron).
  • frequent blood donors.
  • people with a low intake or iron, or poor absorption of iron-rich foods.
  • fad dieters, or strict calorie counters.
  • people who choose all natural foods – these people avoid processed food (e.g. iron fortified breakfast cereal).
  • those who have suffered injury with blood loss Iron deficiency causes lethargy, pale skin, persistent infections, fatigue, dizziness and weight loss. You should only consider iron supplements if prescribed by a doctor or health professional, as iron overdoses can be toxic to some people.


Be cautious! Iron overload can actually cause damage, so be sure to be checked out by your doctor before starting any supplementation for Iron Deficiency.



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