Iron rich food for babies list

Iron | Nutrition | CDC

What Does Iron Do?

Iron is a mineral that has many functions. Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen through the body and supports a child’s ability to learn. Having enough iron in the body can help prevent iron deficiencyalert icon and iron deficiency anemia.alert icon

What Happens If My Child Does Not Get Enough Iron?

If your child does not get enough iron, your child may develop anemia.alert icon Anemia is when there are not enough red blood cells in the body or your child’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body is lowered. There are many causes of anemia. In young children, one common cause is not enough iron. Children who do not receive enough iron either from iron-rich foods or supplements are at greater risk for developing anemia.

When Does My Child Need Iron? And How Much?

All children need iron. It is important at all stages of your child’s development. Babies fed only breast milk, only formula, or a mix of breast milk and formula have different needs when it comes to iron.

Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse about your child’s iron needs at his or her next check-up.

Preterm babies often need more iron than full-term babies.

In addition, preterm babies may need extra iron beyond what they get from breast milk or infant formula. Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse about your child’s iron needs at his or her next check-up.

Breast Milk

  • Talk with your child’s nurse or doctor about if your child needs iron supplements before 6 months old.
  • Once your child starts to eat foods, it is important to give foods with iron to meet nutritional needs.


  • Your child’s iron needs can be met by standard infant formulas for the first 12 months of life.
  • Choose a formula that is fortified with iron. Most commercial infant formulas sold in the U.S. contain iron.
  • Standard iron-fortified infant formulas contain enough iron (12mg/dL) to support your growing child’s needs.
  • Once your child starts to eat foods, introduce your child to foods that contain iron.

Mix of Breast Milk and Formula

  • Once your child starts to eat foods, it is important to give foods with iron to meet nutritional needs pdf icon[PDF-30.6MB]external icon.

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Once My Child Starts to Eat Solid Foods, How Can I Make Sure My Child Gets Enough Iron?

When your child is about 6 months old, you can start giving solid foods to your child. Make sure to choose foods that contain iron. Iron found in foods comes in two forms: heme and non-heme iron.

Heme iron is commonly found in animal products and is more easily absorbed by the body. Sources of heme iron include:

  • Red meat (for example, beef, pork, lamb, goat, or venison)
  • Seafood (for example, fatty fishexternal icon)
  • Poultry (for example, chicken or turkey)
  • Eggs

Your child needs to be screened for anemia.

At around 12 months, your child’s doctor or nurse will likely test to see if your baby has anemia. Anemia can occur among children who do not get enough iron. Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse about anemia and iron at your baby’s next check-up.

Non-heme iron can be found in plants and iron-fortified alert icon products. This type of iron is less easily absorbed by the body and will require careful planning to get enough iron for your baby. Sources of non-heme iron include:

  • Iron-fortified infant cereals
  • Tofu
  • Beans and lentils
  • Dark green leafy vegetables

Pairing non-heme iron sources with foods high in vitamin C can help your baby absorb the iron he or she needs to support development. Vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetablesexternal icon include:

  • Citrus fruits like oranges
  • Berries
  • Papaya
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Dark green leafy vegetables

Making sure your child is getting enough iron is important. Some children may need more iron than others. Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse about iron at your child’s next check-up.

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Best Iron-Rich Foods for Babies, Toddlers, & Kids (+50 Recipes!)

Ensuring that our kids eat a well balanced diet, including iron-rich foods, can be hard when they’re eating unpredictably. I hope this info on iron-rich foods for kids (and the recipe ideas at the bottom) helps to set your mind at ease!

Iron-Rich Foods

Ensuring that your kids are getting enough iron can seem hard when they’re in a phase of picky eating—or just not eating a ton. But since iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia are still common issues with kids and it can impact their development and behavior, it’s important to try to include iron-rich foods in their daily meals.

For some context, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Among children ages 1 to 3 years, iron deficiency occurs in 6.6 percent to 15.2 percent of toddlers, depending on ethnicity and socioeconomic status. ” Which is much higher than I would have expected. They say that preterm infants, exclusively breastfed infants, and infants at risk of developmental disabilities are at higher risk for deficiencies.

I never want any parents to worry excessively about their child’s nutritional intake and thankfully, adding iron to a diet is actually quite easy.

(My favorite iron-rich recipes include Spinach Muffins, Extra-Veggie Baby Pasta, Oatmeal Bars, Meatballs, Chicken Puree, Butter Chicken, Chicken Tacos and Spinach Eggs. For more, scroll down.)

How much iron does my child need?

Toddlers ages 1 to 3 years need 7 mg/day of iron. Kids aged 4-8 need 10 mg/day. For context:

  • ¾ cup of Cheerios: 6 mg
  • 1 serving fortified infant oatmeal: 5 mg
  • 4 ounce hamburger: 5 mg
  • 2 ounces Banza chickpea pasta: 4 mg
  • ½ cup dried peaches: 3.2 mg
  • 2 ounces Barilla red lentil pasta: 3 mg
  • ½ cup of lentils: 3 mg
  • 1 cup prune juice: 3 mg
  • Spinach Quesadilla: 2. 1 mg
  • ½ cup dried apricots: 1.7 mg
  • ½ cup oatmeal: 1.7 mg
  • Simple Green Smoothie: 1.7 mg
  • Spinach Banana Muffin: 1.4 mg
  • 1 egg: 1.4 mg iron
  • ½ cup raisins: 1.5 mg
  • 1 slice whole wheat bread: 0.7 mg
  • ½ cup fortified baby puffs: 0.7 mg
  • 1 ounce hummus: 0.7 mg
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter: 0.6 mg
  • ½ cup edamame beans: 0.5 mg
  • 1 cup watermelon: 0.4 mg

TIP: It’s possible that your kiddo is already getting enough just by eating normal toddler-size servings.

Does my child need an iron supplement?

This question will vary a lot by child so it’s best to check in with your doctor. Kids are routinely screened for iron deficiency when they’re babies and toddlers, so definitely discuss this with your pediatrician if you don’t remember what those results were, if your child is older, or if you’re just curious about supplementing.

It can be hard to find a multivitamin with iron, so check your label, or consider a separate iron supplement in consultation with your doctor.

What are the best sources of iron for kids?

The AAP recommends that iron comes from iron-rich foods first and foremost. The type of iron in meat, fish, and poultry is easier for our bodies to absorb, but adding a range of iron-rich foods is your best bet. Here are some examples of foods with a good dose of iron.

  • Red meats like beef and lamb
  • Dark meat poultry
  • Fish including shrimp and oysters
  • Iron-rich vegetables including dark leafy greens (think Popeye!), baked potatoes, and pumpkin
  • Beans and legumes like kidney beans, lentils, and tofu
  • Fortified cereals like Cheerios and some hot cereals including baby oatmeal
  • Whole grains and whole grain products (including some of the newer bean pastas like Banza)

TIP: A toddler-size serving of meat is 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup. A toddler-size serving of produce is 2 tbsp to ¼ cup. A serving of beans and legumes is 1-2 tablespoons for younger kids and ¼ cup for older kids. (Find more specifics in my Daily Toddler Nutrition Guide.)

Top 10 Best Iron-Rich Foods for Babies

Here are my go-to foods with a lot of iron that you can feed to a baby who’s eating purees or baby led weaning style foods.

  1. Beef, ground
  2. Bean puree
  3. Beans, very soft and lightly mashed
  4. Bean pasta, cooked very soft (like Banza)
  5. Chicken, finely shredded or ground or Chicken Puree
  6. Eggs, scrambled or Egg Yolk Puree
  7. Green bean puree
  8. Infant cereal like baby oatmeal, fortified
  9. Oatmeal
  10. O cereal
  11. Smoothies with spinach or kale (serve on a spoon or in a reusable pouch)
  12. Sweet potatoes, mashed
  13. Pea puree
  14. Peanut butter puree
  15. Strawberry puree

TIP: Iron stores in babies start to run out starting around 6 months, so you’ll want to incorporate these foods into your baby’s diet from an early age.

Top 15 Best Iron-Rich Foods for Toddlers and Big Kids

These foods are easy to prepare and packed with iron for kids.

  1. Apricots, dried
  2. Beans
  3. Bean pasta (like Banza with marinara sauce)
  4. Beef burgers
  5. Broccoli
  6. Eggs
  7. Green beans
  8. Oatmeal
  9. Peanut butter
  10. Raisins
  11. Smoothies with spinach or kale
  12. Spinach Pesto
  13. Strawberries
  14. Watermelon
  15. Wheat bread

TIP: Aim to serve 2-3 of these foods (from either the baby or toddler list) most days and you should easily provide enough opportunities for your child to eat enough iron.

Add Vitamin C for Increased Iron Absorption

If you pair iron-rich foods with produce with plenty of Vitamin C—think citrus, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, dark greens, and bell peppers—the iron will be more readily absorbed by the body. Some ideas to consider:

  • Pasta with Meatballs (Vitamin C from tomatoes, iron from beef)
  • Bean Burritos with salsa (iron in beans, Vitamin C from salsa)
  • Bean Quesadillas with chopped tomatoes on the side (iron in beans and whole grain tortilla, Vitamin C from tomatoes)
  • Simple Green Smoothie (iron from greens, Vitamin C from fruit)
  • Spinach Banana Muffins with Banana with kiwi (iron in spinach, Vitamin C from kiwi)

Limit Milk to No More than 24 Ounces Each Day to Avoid Limiting Iron Absorption

Experts at the Mayo Clinic also advise against letting the kids have more than 24 ounces of milk in a day (or three 8 ounce servings) which could negatively impact iron absorption. That much milk could also make them less hungry for other foods, which could also limit how much iron they’re able to eat through foods.

50 Best Iron-Rich Recipes for Babies, Toddlers, and Kids

Here are some of my favorite recipes for kids of all ages that are rich in iron. (The list is organized alphabetically for easy reference, not in order of preference!)

  1. Bean Puree
  2. Bean Pasta with Marinara Sauce
  3. Beef Burritos with Veggies
  4. Black Bean Quesadillas
  5. Black Bean Soup with Citrus
  6. Broccoli Pesto
  7. Broccoli Cheddar Soup
  8. BBQ Shredded Chicken
  9. Cheesy Meat Buns
  10. Chicken Meatballs with Sweet Potato
  11. Chocolate Smoothie with Hidden Veggies
  12. Green Smoothie
  13. Kale Bites
  14. Lentils and Rice with Dried Fruit
  15. Lentils with Tomatoes and Italian Spices
  16. Lentil Soup with Veggies
  17. Lentil Falafel
  18. Meatballs with Hidden Veggies
  19. Mini Egg Muffins
  20. Mexican Egg Muffins with Spinach
  21. Moroccan Lamb Meatballs
  22. No-Bake Energy Bites
  23. Nut-Free Hummus
  24. Oatmeal with Apple and Raisins
  25. Oatmeal Bars
  26. Oatmeal with Pumpkin
  27. Pesto Chicken and Brown Rice
  28. Potato Nachos
  29. Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars
  30. Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins
  31. Slow Cooker Chicken and Bean Tacos
  32. Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup
  33. Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
  34. Spinach Banana Muffins with Banana
  35. Spinach Pancakes
  36. Spinach Eggs
  37. Spinach Pesto
  38. Spinach Quesadillas
  39. Strawberry Puree
  40. Strawberry Smoothie
  41. Strawberry Muffins
  42. Sweet Potato Quesadillas
  43. Sweet Potato Baby Food
  44. Tofu Nuggets
  45. Tofu, Baked
  46. Tofu with Sesame
  47. Whole Wheat Bread
  48. Veggie Chili
  49. Veggie Chili Mac
  50. Zucchini Burgers

Printable Iron-Rich Foods List

For easy reference, you can print this list of iron-rich foods for kids keep in your kitchen, or save the image on your phone. Simply sign up for my newsletter and gain access to my entire FREE Resource Library of printables.

Related Recipes

I’d love to hear if iron has been an issue for you with your kids. Chime in below in the comments!

what products contain, how to take them correctly according to doctors

One of the key points in the health of our body is the saturation of tissues and organs with oxygen. It is in this process that iron is involved. This element is one of the important components of hemoglobin, the main oxygen carrier in the body. But this is not the only function of iron: without it, it is impossible to carry out DNA synthesis, energy metabolism and adequate functioning of the immune system.

The main causes of iron deficiency in the body:

  • bleeding,
  • inflammatory diseases,
  • problems with the absorption of this nutrient in the stomach and intestines.

An unbalanced diet, lack of iron-rich foods in the diet, can also lead to iron deficiency. Today, iron deficiency anemia is one of the main health problems: this condition affects people, regardless of gender and age, anemia affects about 30% of the world's population (1).

One of the main reasons is inadequate nutrition. The body receives the main supply of this substance from the destroyed "old" erythrocytes, but it is only enough to create new blood cells. Other processes require a micronutrient obtained from food.

For the normal functioning of organs and systems, a person needs 20-25 mg of iron per day. Moreover, the need of the female body for this nutrient exceeds the male twice (2).

What is important to know about hardware

Basic functions in the body • Transports oxygen to organs and tissues and participates in the removal of carbon dioxide;
• participates in metabolic processes (contained in many enzymes, proteins), in the utilization of toxins, cholesterol metabolism, transforms calories into energy;
• participates in the functioning of the immune system;
• supports the functioning of the thyroid and pancreas;
• participates in the formation of hair, nails and skin cells;
• is actively involved in the formation of the fetus.
Iron requirement (per day) • Men - 8 mg
• Women - 18-20 mg
• Pregnant women - 27 mg
• Children under 13 years old - 7-10 mg
• Adolescent boys - 11 mg
• Adolescent girls - 15 mg
• People over the age of 51 - 8 mg
Physiological iron loss • Men - 1 mg/day
• Women - 2 mg/day
Sources of iron • Heme iron: liver, beef, poultry, fish
• Non-heme iron: plant foods
Effects on iron absorption • Increases: ascorbic acid, folic acid, vitamin B12, copper
• Reduces: tea, coffee, dairy products, rice, nuts and seeds
Factors that increase the loss of iron in the body • Injuries, cuts, surgeries, etc.;
• insufficient intake of iron from food;
• excessive intake of phosphates, oxalates, calcium, zinc, vitamin E;
• lead poisoning, antacids;
• peptic ulcer, gastritis, dysbacteriosis, tumors;
• worm infestation;
• malabsorption;
• violation of vitamin C metabolism;
• intensive growth of the body;
• pregnancy;
• heavy menses;
• playing sports;
• donation.

Who is recommended to eat foods rich in iron

Everyone needs to add iron-rich foods to their diet. This is especially true for pregnant women, as they are most susceptible to a lack of iron in the blood. According to WHO, 42% of all pregnant women are found to be iron deficient (3). The fact is that during the bearing of a child in women, a number of physiological processes change. The volume of blood plasma increases by almost 50%, and the number of blood cells increases by only a quarter (4). Hence the need for iron and trace elements - for increased hemoglobin synthesis. The consumption of this substance also increases for the needs of the placenta and fetus and during breastfeeding.

A growing body needs more iron. There are two such periods in a child's life:

  • the first two years associated with intensive growth,
  • the period of puberty, in which rapid growth also occurs.

During adolescence, children need more iron than adults. 96% of all cases of adolescent iron deficiency anemia (5) are alimentary in nature, that is, associated with malnutrition.

Often, iron deficiency in the body leads to its poor digestibility. This may be due to inflammatory processes in the intestine, atrophic or cicatricial changes in it.

People (especially the elderly) have an increased need for iron in case of infectious diseases, metabolic disorders, tumors and burns.

Iron deficiency occurs after surgery, trauma with blood loss, after chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and after heavy menstruation in women.

Increased consumption of iron-rich foods is advisable during high physical activity (applies to athletes and people doing hard physical work), since iron is directly involved in the conversion of calories into energy.

What foods contain iron

You can get enough iron from food to meet your daily requirement. It can be heme or non-heme iron. Both types of trace elements are absorbed by the body, but the absorption of heme iron is much higher.

Let's talk about 16 iron-rich foods.

Foods rich in heme iron

Heme iron is of animal origin. It is found in meat, poultry, fish and seafood.

1. Eggs and egg products

Oddly enough, egg powder contains the most iron of animal origin - 8.9 mg per 100 g of product, which covers 64% of the daily iron requirement.

100 g of chicken egg yolk contains 6.7 mg of iron, the whole egg - 2.5 mg per 100 g, quail - 3.2 mg per 100 grams.

In addition to iron, eggs contain more than 40 types of vitamins, a large number of micro and macro elements, a complete protein with essential amino acids.

Learn more

2. Offal

Beef liver is richer in iron than others. 100 g of the product contains 49% of the body's daily requirement for this trace element - 6.9 mg. In addition to heme iron, the liver contains a high percentage of protein, vitamin A, copper and other beneficial substances.

Beef kidneys are also rich in iron: 6 mg per 100 g of product, which corresponds to 43% of the daily value.

3. Seafood

Oyster is the third representative of seafood. 100 g of oysters contain 6.2 mg of easily digestible iron (44% of the daily requirement). Oysters are rich in vitamins C and B12, protein and cholesterol. Seafood is not only healthy, but also low in calories.

Less iron in mussels - 3.2 mg (23% of the daily requirement), even less in shrimp - 1.8 mg (13% of the daily requirement). The squid closes this list - 1.1 mg per 100 g of product (8% of the requirement).

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4. Rabbit meat

This diet product contains 3.3 mg of iron per 100 g of meat, which is 24% of the daily requirement for heme iron.

More than other types of meat, rabbit meat contains vitamins (B6, B12, PP), phosphorus, cobalt, manganese, potassium and fluorine. This meat is hypoallergenic and easy to digest.

5. Beef

Beef also has a high content of heme iron - about 2.7 mg per 100 g of product. Such a volume of the product will fill 19% of the daily requirement of the body. Meat comes in different categories: the darker it is, the more iron it contains. Meat also contains many B, A, K and PP vitamins, proteins (including collagen and elastin), micro and macro elements.

6. Caviar

Black caviar contains 2.4 mg of heme iron (per 100 g of product), which corresponds to 17% of the daily requirement. Caviar is famous for its unique chemical composition: 30% soluble proteins, 13% fats, lecithin, vitamins, folic acid, essential amino acids, minerals.

Less iron in red caviar - 1.8 mg per 100 g (13% of the daily requirement). A more budgetary product - pollock caviar - contains 1.5 mg of iron per 100 g (11% of the daily requirement).

7. Meat (lamb, pork)

Lamb can be safely attributed to dietary products with a high iron content - 2 mg per 100 g (14% of the daily requirement). This meat is easily digestible and has a low calorie content, does not increase cholesterol levels. Lamb is rich in beta-carotene, zinc, vitamins B1, B12, A, D and protein.

Pork meat has slightly less iron - 1.7 mg (12% of the daily requirement).

8. Poultry

100 g of chicken meat contains 1.6 mg of iron or 11% of the daily requirement. Slightly less nutrient in a turkey - 1.4 mg.

Broiler meat contains 1.3 mg of heme iron per 100 g (9% of the daily requirement).

In terms of easily digestible proteins, poultry meat is ahead of pork and beef. It is dietary, low-calorie, contains vitamins A, B1, B12, PP and minerals.

9. Fish

Mackerel is the leader in this category - 1.7 mg per 100 g of product (12% of the daily requirement). Sprat contains 1.4 mg of iron, in horse mackerel and herring 1.1 mg of a useful substance, in salmon and salmon 0.8 mg each.

Approximately the same content of heme iron in river fish. In addition, fish is a source of minerals (calcium and phosphorus), iodine, manganese and copper.

Learn more

10. Dairy products

Sour cream, cream, hard and processed cheeses, cottage cheese, milk powder - all these products also contain iron. Its concentration ranges from 0.3 to 1.0 mg per 100 g of product.

Most iron in fatty cheeses and sausage cheese - 1.0 mg per 100 g. The same amount of substances in powdered milk, slightly less in cheese - 0.7 mg.

Learn more

Foods rich in non-heme iron

The source of non-heme iron is plant-based food. It is absorbed worse than heme, but this does not mean that you need to eat only meat, trying to get enough of easily digestible iron. Nutrition should be balanced, complete and varied.

1. Sesame

Sesame contains the highest content of non-heme iron: 16 mg per 100 g of seeds, which completely covers the daily need for iron.

Sesame also contains a lot of vegetable proteins and fats, vitamins of groups A, B, C, E, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus, potassium and calcium. Sesamin in its composition slows down skin aging. Sesame oil - antioxidant, improves digestion, improves immunity.

2. Seaweed
Photo: Loyna,

Seaweed contains 16 mg of iron per 100 g. A combination of fatty acids (Omega-3) with iodine, vitamins A, B, C, E, D, minerals and dietary fiber makes this product an indispensable source of nutrients.

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3. Legumes

Lentils come first. This leguminous plant more than other cereals contains the iron we need: in 100 g of lentils it is 11.8 mg (84% of the daily requirement).

The product is easily digestible, contains amino acids, vitamin B1, many trace elements. Lentils contain a lot of folic acid, which is so necessary during pregnancy.

A lot of iron in peas: 7 mg per 100 g of product, and the protein content is higher than in many types of meat.

Learn more

4. Cereals

Buckwheat is the leader among cereals. The iron content of whole buckwheat is 8.3 mg per 100 g of grain (59% of the daily requirement). According to these indicators, it is ahead of meat and seafood. Buckwheat is also an indispensable source of protein, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

Slightly less iron in barley - 7.4 mg, and also high in protein, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Even less iron in wheat and oats: 5.4 mg per 100 g of grain.

Learn more

5. Seeds and nuts

Sunflower seeds contain 6.1 mg of iron per 100 g of seeds. Slightly less in pine nuts and peanuts: 5.5 mg and 5 mg, respectively. In hazelnuts - 4.7 mg of iron, in almonds - 4.2 mg, in pistachios the content of this nutrient is 3.9 mg per 100 g.

apples - 6 mg per 100 g of the product. Fresh apples are significantly inferior to them - 2.2 mg.

A lot of iron in figs, apricots and dried apricots - 3.2 mg per 100 g of the product. 3 mg of iron in 100 g of raisins, dried peaches and prunes, 2. 5 mg in persimmons and pears.

The most iron-rich greens are: spinach (3.5 mg), basil (3.2 mg) and parsley (1.9 mg).



How to properly take foods with iron

First of all, nutrition should be balanced - and not only for iron. When compiling your menu, remember the substances that help and hinder the absorption of iron.

Do not mix with calcium and magnesium

When cooking, do not mix iron-containing products with dairy and fermented milk products. The calcium present in them reduces the absorption of iron.

Also, don't fill your food with seeds and nuts. They contain a lot of magnesium, which prevents the absorption of heme iron.

Tea and spicy food separately

Do not drink tea or coffee with meals. These products contain substances - iron antagonists.

Do not eat spicy and acidic foods with iron-containing foods. It irritates the gastrointestinal mucosa and reduces the absorption of iron.

Choosing a side dish for meat

Rice should not be used as a side dish for meat. It slows down the absorption of iron. Give preference to other cereals, legumes, vegetables and greens with a high content of vitamin C.

The right combinations

Assistants in the absorption of iron - vitamins. There are many of them in fruits, red peppers, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, berries, and eggs.

It is also recommended to combine heme and non-heme iron, this increases the absorption of the substance.

Cooking in cast iron

Cooking in cast iron cookware with the lowest possible heat treatment adds iron to food.

Reviews of doctors about products with iron

In medicine, great importance is attached to proper nutrition. Today, iron deficiency anemia (IDA) has become a major health problem. The incidence rate is on the rise. The main problem is that 90% of anemias are iron deficiency (2), most of them are nutritional in nature, that is, they are related to nutrition.

Doctors pay special attention to the diet of pregnant women, since anemia preceding pregnancy complicates its course (6).

— Quite often, women enter pregnancy already having a low level of hemoglobin, says obstetrician-gynecologist Natalia Kosolapova . - In this case, IDA in pregnant women is more difficult, as the body has time to adapt to a low level of iron. An excellent means of preventing anemia in preparation for pregnancy is proper nutrition, balanced, including iron.

Doctors consider the rational nutrition of children especially important, especially during puberty. The frivolous attitude to food of adolescents themselves contributes to the increase in the incidence of IDA in minors.

— In the last decade, the incidence of iron deficiency anemia has steadily increased. This is especially noticeable among adolescents: the incidence of IDA has increased by almost 300% and almost all of it is related to nutrition. The reason is not always the availability of products, says general practitioner Mikhail Lystsov . - More than half of the children complain about the lack of time for food, high employment, love for convenience foods and fast food, a tendency to vegetarianism. Among girls, a high percentage of partially hungry or refusing some meals due to the high motivation to lose weight.

Popular questions and answers

The topic of proper nutrition is popular today. We will briefly answer the most frequently asked questions regarding the importance of iron in the body.

How do you know if there is a lack of iron in the body?

Lack of iron in the body leads to anemia. Symptoms: fatigue, drowsiness and reduced efficiency, dizziness and headache, the skin becomes noticeably paler, the structure of hair and nails changes, the heart rate increases, shortness of breath appears. Reliably the presence of anemia will show a blood test.

What foods interfere with iron absorption?

Foods high in calcium (dairy and sour milk, some juices), rice, tea, coffee and alcohol interfere with the absorption of iron. Nuts and seeds will reduce the absorption due to the magnesium they contain, as well as spicy and acidic foods taken together.

What are the consequences of long-term lack of iron in the body?

The consequence of iron deficiency is iron deficiency anemia. Also, iron deficiency adversely affects the condition of the skin, hair and nails.


  1. Frequency and prevalence of iron deficiency anemia. Zhorova V.E. Khilkevich E.G. URL:
  2. Iron deficiency anemia. Modern tactics of diagnosis and treatment, criteria for the effectiveness of therapy. Stuklov N.I., Semenova E.N. URL:
  3. The role of iron in the human body. Iron-deficiency anemia. Sargsyan A.M. URL: https://cyberleninka. ru/article/n/rol-zheleza-v-organizme-cheloveka-zhelezodefitsitnaya-anemiya/viewer
  4. Iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy - prevention and treatment. Vinogradova M.A., Fedorova T.A. URL:
  5. Iron deficiency anemia in adolescents. Zhukova L.Yu., Kharchev A.V., Sokolova N.E., Egorov A.S., Tarasenko A.N. URL:
  6. Iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy. Peresada O.A., Kotova G.S., Solonko I.I. URL:

10 foods rich in iron (list)

Iron is an important microelement necessary for all living organisms. It helps to synthesize collagen and serotonin, supports the immune system and is involved in metabolic processes [1]. But the main function of iron is cellular respiration. This microelement is part of hemoglobin, the protein that makes up red blood cells. It is iron that helps blood cells to bind oxygen and deliver it to the tissues, and then remove the exhaust carbon dioxide from the body. By the way, it also stains the blood red.

Our body is unable to produce iron on its own. He gets it from food, so it is important that the diet is varied. There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. The former is absorbed more efficiently [2]. It can be found in meat, fish and seafood. The source of the second is plant food. Here is a list of foods with the highest iron content of both types. Including them in the diet will help replenish the micronutrient reserves.

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Daily intake of iron

Women aged 19-50 need iron the most. They need to receive at least 18 mg of the trace element per day. During pregnancy, the need for it increases to 27 mg. Adolescents 14–18 years of age also require an increased iron content: girls - 15 mg, boys - 11 mg. The average daily intake of iron for adult men and older people of both sexes is 8 mg [3]. It increases significantly with intensive sports, regular heavy physical exertion and heavy menstruation.

Foods high in iron

  • Shellfish
  • Offal
  • Red meat
  • Spinach
  • Legumes
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Broccoli
  • Tofu
  • Dark chocolate


Almost all types of mollusks are rich in iron. Thus, one hundred-gram serving of oysters contains about 3 mg of iron, which is 17% of the daily requirement [4]. In addition, this amount also provides 24% of the Daily Value of Vitamin C and 4% of the Daily Value of Vitamin B12. Shellfish are also low in calories, high in protein, and increase levels of "good" cholesterol, which prevents heart disease.


Liver, kidneys, brain, heart, stomachs and other offal contain large amounts of iron. Although not everyone likes their taste, offal often surpasses meat in terms of nutritional content. For example, to get 36% of the daily value of iron and meet the daily requirement for vitamin A, it is enough to eat only 100 g of beef liver [5]. In addition, offal is a good source of protein, copper, selenium and choline, which is important for the liver.

Red meat

It is the main source of easily digestible heme iron. At the same time, the darker the meat, the more this trace element in it. One 100 gram steamed ground beef patty contains 2.7 mg of iron. This fills the daily requirement by 15% [6]. Meat also serves as a source of protein, zinc, selenium, and B vitamins. But poultry is not so rich in iron: in 100 g of turkey, its content does not exceed 0.7 mg [7].

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Such a rich set of nutrients, as in spinach, is rare. It contains folate, lutein, beta-carotene, calcium, vitamins A and E. In addition, 100 g of the product replenishes 15% of the daily iron requirement. It is non-heme, but at the same time it is quite well absorbed due to the high concentration of vitamin C in spinach. Doctors advise to boil the leaves a little - this will help reduce the amount of oxalic acid, which prevents the absorption of iron [8].

But keep in mind: 100 g of fresh spinach is a big package. It is designed for several people, and it is hardly possible to eat it at a time. In addition, spinach tends to accumulate nitrates, which are often used in its cultivation. Buy the product in trusted farm shops or in special organic packages. Or try growing it yourself - on the windowsill. In winter, instead of fresh spinach, you can take frozen: all its beneficial properties and taste are preserved.


This is a must have for vegetarians and vegans. Legumes are one of the best plant sources of iron. Chickpeas, peas, lentils, beans, soybeans - choose what you like. One cup of boiled lentils contains 6.6 mg of iron. This is 37% of the daily norm [9]. And half a cup of boiled beans is enough to fill 10% of the daily requirement for an element [10]. In addition, legumes give a feeling of satiety for a long time and allow you to reduce calorie intake [11].

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds can be a snack option. 100 g of the product contains 9 mg of iron, or half of the daily recommended amount [12]. But you can't get carried away with them. First, it can cause problems with the gastrointestinal tract. Secondly, pumpkin seeds are very nutritious. A 100-gram serving provides the body with 559 kcal. To increase your iron levels without harming your health, add a small handful of seeds to your salad, porridge, or soup.


South American groats are often used as a substitute for cereals containing gluten. Add 100 g of boiled seeds to your favorite salad to replenish 8% of the daily iron requirement [13]. Unlike traditional cereals, quinoa is rich in protein containing essential amino acids [14]. Interestingly, our body perceives quinoa as a protein from cow's milk.

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A diet rich in broccoli helps improve eyesight, reduces inflammation and slows down aging. Broccoli cleanses the body, removes cholesterol and excess sugar. Use it as a side dish — a glass of cooked broccoli provides 6% of your daily iron requirement [15]. To get the most benefit, steam broccoli for no longer than 5 minutes. This will help preserve vitamin C.


Making tofu is like making cheese from milk, which is why many people call it soy cheese. In terms of its nutritional properties, it is almost as good as dairy products - for this, vegans and people with lactose intolerance fell in love with it. 100 g of tofu contains 17 g of protein, which is easily and quickly absorbed by the body. In addition, the same amount of the product helps to cover 15% of the daily requirement of iron [16].

Dark chocolate

Chocolate not only brings pleasure and stimulates the production of the "hormone of happiness", but also helps to normalize iron levels. Choose chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa [17]. Nutritionists advise eating no more than a quarter of a chocolate bar a day. This will be enough to compensate for 17% of the daily iron requirement, improve the intestinal microflora and improve mood.

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Iron deficiency is dangerous

Iron deficiency usually has no symptoms at first. But if you do not replenish its reserves on time, you can provoke the development of iron deficiency anemia [18]. Its main symptoms are: weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, pallor, drowsiness, loss of appetite, heart palpitations and headaches [19]. There may be a desire to eat something inedible - chalk, clay, paper or ice. With a lack of iron, the cells begin to "suffocate", which is why many vital metabolic processes are disrupted in the body.

Iron deficiency also contributes to reduced immunity and a high risk of infections [20]. In addition, it is one of the causes of hair loss. The trace element is responsible for delivering oxygen to the follicles, thereby strengthening and nourishing the roots. With its deficiency, the hair becomes dry and weak and may begin to fall out [21]. Among other external signs: sores in the corners of the mouth, dry skin, brittle exfoliating nails. According to a study by Japanese scientists, in some cases, iron deficiency causes depression [22].

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If you notice signs of iron deficiency, seek medical attention. He or she will order blood tests, identify the source of the problem, and be able to create a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.

Expert's comment

Evgeniya Maevskaya, MD, gastroenterologist and nutritionist GMS Clinic

How often do you need to take a blood test to find out about iron deficiency in time?

The frequency depends on many factors: general health, clinical signs of overt or latent deficiency, being at risk for iron deficiency, or the presence of chronic diseases, including the gastrointestinal tract.

For a potentially healthy person, it is enough to monitor blood counts every six months. However, a general analysis is not enough. At a minimum, it should be supplemented by a study on serum iron and ferritin, otherwise signs of a latent deficiency can be missed. In some cases, a more rare test is needed - for soluble transferrin receptors. This is determined only by the doctor.

Is it possible to make up for iron deficiency only through plant foods? What is your advice for vegetarians and vegans?

Treatment of anemia with dietary iron alone is not possible due to its low content and low bioavailability. Anemia is treated only with iron supplements.

Vegetarians and vegans should eat as varied a diet as possible, including vegetable sources of iron such as sea kale. Shrimps, mussels, and sea fish can serve as a good source of iron if allowed. It is better for vegetarians to undergo an examination and make sure that there is no atrophy in the stomach and problems in the intestines. With atrophy and insufficient acidity of the stomach, the transition of non-heme iron from plant foods to the digestible heme form is significantly difficult, which means that it will not be absorbed.

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