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Dietary Sources of Iron
Reviewed By Medical Advisory Board

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Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for Iron [1]:
 Pregnancy 27 mg /day
       14-18 years: 10 mg
       19-50 years:  9 mg

Dietary sources of iron include meats, fish, poultry, and plant sources. The iron found in meats, fish, and poultry is contained in a molecule called heme which is easily absorbed by the body. The iron in plant sources is nonheme iron and is not as easily absorbed . Absorption of nonheme iron is increased with acid digestion, and decreased by substances found in tea, coffee, and wines.

Foods with Heme Iron
Food Serving Iron (mg)
Clams,  canned, drained solids 85 g (3 oz) 23.8
Turkey, giblets, cooked, 145 g (1 cup) 11.18
Chicken, broilers or fryers, giblets, cooked, simmered 145 g (1 cup) 10.21
Duck, domesticated, meat only, cooked, roasted 221 g (1/2 duck) 5.97
Beef, chuck, blade roast, separable lean and fat, trimmed to 1/8" fat, 85 g (3 oz ) 2.62
Turkey, all classes, meat only, cooked, roasted 140 g  (1 cup)  2.49
Fish, sardine, Atlantic, canned in oil, drained solids with bone 85 g (3 oz ) 2.48
Lamb, domestic, shoulder, arm, separable lean only, trimmed to 1/4" 85 g (3 oz ) 2.30
Beef, ground, 85% lean meat / 15% fat, patty, cooked, broiled 85 g (3 oz ) 2.21
Shrimp,  canned 85 g  (3 oz ) 1.81
Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, meat and skin, cooked, fried, batter 140 g (1/2 breast ) 1.75

Lamb, domestic, leg, whole (shank and sirloin), roasted

85 g (3 oz ) 1.68
Pork, fresh, shoulder, arm picnic, separable lean only, cooked, braised 85 g  (3 oz) 1.66
Beef, top sirloin,  all grades, broiled 85  (3 oz ) 1.59
Tuna, light, canned in water, drained solids 85 (3 oz) 1.30

Try to avoid eating foods that block absorption of of iron from plant foods such as  tea, coffee, and wines. The absorption of iron from plant foods is improved by the presence in a meal of foods high in vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Good sources of vitamin C include guava, red and green bell peppers, kiwi fruit, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, Brussels sprouts ,cantaloupe, kohlrabi, broccoli, sweet potato,
and tomatoes .
Foods with Non-Heme Iron
Food Serving Iron (mg)
Fortified cereals ready-to-eat
 Kellogg''s Product 19
 General Mills Total
30 g (1 cup) 18.00
Rice, white, long-grain, parboiled, enriched, dry  185 g (1 cup ) 9.73
Soybeans, mature cooked, boiled, without salt 172 g (1 cup) 8.84
Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt  198 g (1 cup ) 6.59
Spinach, cooked 180 g (1 cup ) 6.43
Lima beans, large, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt  188 g (1 cup) 4.49 
Refried beans, canned, traditional style 252 g (1 cup) 4.21 
Bulgar, dry 140 g (1 cup) 3.44
Tomatoes, red, canned, stewed 255 g (1 cup) 3.39

Cherries, sour, red, canned, water pack, solids and liquids

244 g (1 cup) 3.34 
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, bengal gram), mature seeds, canned  240 g (1 cup) 3.24
Prune juice, canned  256 g  (1 cup) 3.02 
Raisins, seedless 145 g (1 cup) 2.73
Mushrooms, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt 156 g (1 cup) 2.71
Sweet potato, canned 255 g (1 cup) 2.27


Online Resources




1. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc p 772. A Report of the Panel on Micronutrients, Subcommittees on Upper Reference Levels of Nutrients and of Interpretation and Uses of Dietary Reference Intakes, and the Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes Food and Nutrition Board Institute of Medicine NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C.http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI//DRI_Vitamin_A/vitamin_a_full_report.pdf
Accessed 11/8/2008

2.USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21. Content of Selected Foods per Common Measure, Iron, Fe. http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/SR21/nutrlist/sr21w303.pdf
Accessed 11/8/2008.

3.Teucher B. et al. Enhancers of iron absorption: ascorbic acid and other organic acids. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 2004;74(6):403-19. PMID: 15743017

4. Zijp IM et al. Effect of tea and other dietary factors on iron absorption.Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2000;40(5):371-98. PMID: 11029010

5. Hallberg L.  Wheat fiber, phytates and iron absorption. Scand J Gastroenterol Suppl. 1987;129:73-9.PMID: 2820048

6. Lynch SR . et al.,  Inhibitory effect of a soybean-protein--related moiety on iron absorption in humans.Am J Clin Nutr. 1994;60(4):567-72. PMID: 8092092

7. Mork Ta et al, Inhibition of food iron absorption by coffee.Am J Clin Nutr. 1983;37(3):416-20. PMID: 6402915


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