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Eat these foods to boost your iron levels

Iron is an important mineral that plays a huge role in keeping you nutritionally fit. Responsible for red cell production, energy levels and cognitive support, there’s a reason Marvel gave their superhero the title of ‘Iron Man’. If you’re not eating enough foods high in iron, or your body isn’t absorbing adequate iron from the foods you eat, there’s an increased risk of developing an iron deficiency or anaemia. Globally, anaemia affects almost one quarter of the population (1.62 billion people). So, there’s never been a better time to brush up on the list of foods high in iron.

But first, what is iron?

Iron is a mineral essential to several bodily processes. Topping the list is the role of iron in forming haemoglobin in red blood cells. Haemoglobin is a complex protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron is also found in muscle cells as myoglobin, a special protein that helps store oxygen for future use, and many enzymes as a driver of energy production.

What are the health benefits of iron?

The health benefits of iron include a strengthened immune system, increased energy, better cognitive function and focus, and prevention of anaemia. Often the benefits of iron aren’t noticed until a deficiency occurs.

What is an iron deficiency?

An iron deficiency is a condition characterised by not having enough iron stored in the body. Fatigue, breathlessness, poor concentration, weakness, and difficulty exercising are all symptoms of an iron deficiency. The body cannot make iron; iron must be sourced from the foods you consume.

What are foods high in iron?

There are two types of iron that can be sourced from food: haem iron and non-haem iron. Haem iron refers to iron from animal sources, and non-haem iron refers to iron from plant-based sources. Haem iron is absorbed more efficiently by the human body however it’s important to consume iron from both sources when possible.

 Animal-based iron sources:

  • Chicken liver 11mg/100g
  • Beef 3.5mg/100g
  • Kangaroo 3.2mg/100g
  • Lamb 2.5mg/100g
  • Salmon 1.28mg/100g
  • Tinned tuna 1.07mg/100g
  • Pork 0.8mg/100g
  • Chicken 0.4mg/100g

Plant-based iron sources:

  • Weetbix 4.2mg/30g
  • Kidney beans 3.1mg/1 cup
  • Green lentils 3mg/1 cup
  • Tofu 2.96mg/100g
  • Chickpeas 2.7mg/1 cup
  • Cooked wholemeal pasta 2.3mg/140g
  • Cashew nuts 1.5mg/30g
  • Raw spinach 1.2mg/1 cup
  • Rolled oats 1.1mg/30g
  • Broccoli 0.86mg/1 cup

How much iron do you need?

The recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron depends on your gender and age. For men over the age of 19, the RDI is 8 milligrams (mg). Ideally, aim to include 2-3 servings of iron-rich foods in your daily meal planning.

Other ways to increase your iron intake, include:

  • Pairing foods high in vitamin C with foods containing iron to improve iron absorption
  • Cooking plant-based iron sources to improve availability of iron
  • Avoiding tea, coffee, and calcium with or after consuming a source of iron


Iron | Nutrition Australia

Foods high in iron | healthdirect

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This blog is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your medical practitioner.