You may think that as long as you’re not a vegetarian, you’re probably getting enough iron. After all, meat is full of iron. If you dig into a juicy burger or savory steak a few times a week, that should be enough, right? Wrong.
You need a lot of the stuff
The Daily Value for iron for adults, teens, and children four-years and older is 18 mg a day. And, ladies, if you’re expecting a baby or nursing your little one, it’s even higher: 27 mg a day.<1> The truth is, there are very few foods that provide that much iron. One kind is clams, which can have up to 28 mg in a 3.5-ounce serving. But there’s a catch: clams’ iron content is highly variable, so you can’t be sure if you’re really getting that much unless they’re canned and you can read the label.<2>
Iron-rich foods aren’t so rich in iron
What about meat and poultry? They have lots of iron, right? Unfortunately, they provide a lot less than you think. Check it out:
- 3.5 ounce serving of liver: 6.5 mg
- 3.5 ounce serving of ground beef: 2.7 mg
- 3.5 ounce serving of dark turkey meat: 2.3 mg
Wait, didn’t Popeye get his super-strength from iron-rich spinach? Not easily.
- 1 cup serving lentils: 6.6 mg
- 1 ounce pumpkin seeds: 4.2 mg of iron
- ½ cup serving of tofu: 3.6 mg
- 3.5 ounce serving of spinach: 3.6 mg
- 1 ounce serving of dark chocolate: 3.3 mg
- 1 cup cooked quinoa: 2.8 mg iron
- 1 cup serving of broccoli: 1 mg iron
What an iron-rich diet really looks like
It is possible to get all the iron you need from food—but it’s challenging. If you had a lentil salad for lunch (with one cup of lentils), a handful of pumpkin seeds and an orange as an afternoon snack, and a serving of liver with a cup of broccoli for dinner, you’d be up to 18.3 mg of iron… just a little over the DV. But let’s face it, you probably don’t eat that many iron-rich foods all in the same day.
The form of iron matters
An important factor to consider about iron is whether you’re eating food with heme or non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in meat, poultry, and seafood. It’s easier to absorb than the non-heme iron found in plant sources. Vitamin C can help you absorb iron better, so it’s helpful to eat foods that contain C when you eat iron: a burger with tomato slices, for example. Some vegetables with iron—like spinach and broccoli—also have vitamin C, which is handy.
What happens if you don’t get enough iron?
Feeling tired all the time is the most common problem faced by folks who are low in iron. As if that wasn’t bad enough, iron deficiency can cause you to have trouble concentrating, feel chilly, and look pale. Plus, you may find you’re always coming down with colds and your nails keep chipping.
While anyone can become low in iron, women are somewhat more likely than men, especially during the child-bearing years. Up to 12 percent of white American women have iron-deficiency anemia and the situation is even worse for African-American and Mexican-American women, whose rate is closer to 20 percent.<3> Vegetarians are also at higher risk.
Luckily, there’s Floradix®!
The best-selling iron supplement in North America, Floradix is a highly bioavailable, liquid iron supplement that is:
- Made with whole food concentrates, digestive herbs, vitamin C, and rosehips for better absorption
- Blended into a tasty fruit and vegetable juice that’s easy to love
Along with your favorite iron-rich foods, Floradix is a good insurance policy to make sure you’re getting all the iron you need.
<2> Spritzler F. 11 healthy foods that are very high in iron. Healthline. 2018 Jul 18. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-healthy-iron-rich-foods
<3> Le CHH. PLoS One. 2016 Nov 15;(11):11:e0166635. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166635. eCollection 2016.