Nutritional Tools |  Top 10 Foods |  Press Room |  Testimonials |  Newsletter |  Download Our Brochure |  Help

The Importance of Iron Rich Foods For Iron Deficiency Anemia prevention & Treatment

Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Rate it!
  • Currently 3.03125 /5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5


Iron Rich Foods To Address Iron Deficiency Anemia -
Iron is a key part of hemoglobin and myoglobin, proteins that carry oxygen in the blood and help deliver it to various parts of our body. In addition, iron is essential for the release of energy in the body and for a healthy immune system.

Iron is obtained from iron rich foods we eat and from the breakdown of red blood cells in our body. When our diet lacks iron, the body uses its stored iron to meet needs. When these reserves get depleted, hemoglobin levels decrease and over time a person develops iron deficiency anemia (IDA).

The best sources of iron include iron fortified cereals, chicken and chicken liver, lean red meat, dried beans and legumes, clams, oysters, leafy greens, nuts and whole grains. Iron obtained from animal sources is known as heme iron while iron obtained from plant sources is known as non heme iron. Heme iron is better absorbed than non heme iron in the body.

Milligrams or iron per serving
 Chicken liver, cooked, 100g 12.8
 Clams, mixed species, raw, 85g, 3 oz 
 Chicken, broiler or fryer, cooked, 1 cup, approx 145g
Oyster, breaded and fried, 3oz, 85g 
 Beef, tenderloin, roasted, 3oz, 85g 3.0
Beef, eye of round, roasted, 3oz, 85g  2.2
Chicken, leg, meat only, roasted, 3.5oz, 100g 1.3
Chicken breast, roasted, 3 oz, 85g 
Tuna, white, canned in water, 3 oz, 85g
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2003. USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 16. Nutrient Data Laboratory


FoodsMilligrams of iron per serving
 Ready-to-eat cereal, 100% iron fortified, ¾ cup18.0
 Oatmeal, instant, fortified, prepared with water, 1 cup10.0
 Soybeans, mature, boiled, 1 cup8.8
 Lentils, boiled, 1 cup6.6
 Beans, kidney, mature, boiled, 1 cup5.2
 Beans, pinto, mature, boiled, 1 cup3.6
 Spinach, boiled, drained, ½ cup
 Black-eyed peas (cowpeas), boiled, 1 cup1.8
 Garbanzo beans, cooked, 1 cup, 164g1.74
 Beet greens, cooked, 1 cup, 144g
 Peas, frozen, cooked, 1cup, 160g2.43
 Rice, white, long grained, cooked, 1 cup, 158g1.9
 Cashew nuts, 1oz (18 nuts) 
 Pine nuts, dried (chilgoza or neje) 1oz, 28.35g1.6
 Beets, cooked, 1 cup, 170g
 Plantain, raw, 1 medium, 179g 
 Almonds, 1 oz (24nuts)
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2003. USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 16. Nutrient Data Laboratory

Generally, about 10 to 15% of iron in the diet is absorbed by the body, though individual variations occur. The human body is calibrated to maintain iron levels/stores within normal limits. Thus, absorption increases in individuals who are iron deficient and decreases in normal individuals to prevent iron overload.

Heme iron, found in meat, poultry and fish is much better absorbed by the body than non heme iron found in vegetables, legumes, grains and fruits.  Consequently, vegetarians are at increased risk for developing iron deficiency. Eating heme iron or foods rich in vitamin C in a meal, enhances absorption of non heme iron consumed in the same meal. Vegetarians must be careful to include foods that contain vitamin C such as oranges, orange juice, lemon juice, cantaloupe, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes and bell peppers in their meals to enhance absorption of iron.

Tea and coffee decrease iron absorption in a meal and should be consumed after a gap of an hour at least.


(The table below lists the recommended dietary allowances for gender, age group and physiological conditions)
Recommended Dietary Allowances for Iron for Infants (7 to 12 months), Children, and Adults

 Males(mg/day)     Females(mg/day)  Pregnancy (mg/day)  Lactation (mg/day)
7 to 12 months 11      11          NA NA
1 to 3 years 7 7 NA NA
4 to 8 years
 10 10 NA NA
9 to 13 years 8 8 NA NA
14 to 18 years
 11 15 27 10
19 to 50 years 8 18 27 9
 51+ years 8 8 NA NA
Source: Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001.

  • Menstruation: In general, pre-menopausal women, due to regular blood loss, have smaller stores of iron and are at higher risk for developing deficiency than men.
  • Pregnancy and even the post partum period increase iron needs. Generally iron supplements are recommended during these times, and should be taken in consultation with the doctor
  • A vegetarian diet. See above under absorption
  • Intestinal parasitic infection: Hookworm infestation depletes iron stores and is a common cause of iron deficiency in the developing countries.  Infection generally occurs due to walking barefoot on contaminated soil or due to accidentally swallowing contaminated soil. 
  • Diseases which involve internal bleeding e.g. a bleeding ulcer in the small intestine, colon, or the rectum lower iron reserves. Blood in the stools or unexplained dark stools warrant further investigation and must be checked by a health practitioner 
  • Gastrointestinal conditions that make it hard to absorb nutrients from food e.g. prolonged diarrhea, ulcerative colitis increase risk of deficiency
  • Kidney failure predisposes individuals to iron deficiency anemia due to lack of erythropoietin, a hormone produced by the kidneys and essential for production of red blood cells.
  • Vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A is essential for mobilizing iron stores and a deficiency of this vitamin will lead to poor hemoglobin levels, even though iron may be present in sufficient amounts in an individual. This condition is common in the developing countries.
  • Strenuous physical exercise: Long distance runners, vegetarian athletes and female athletes are at higher risk of developing iron deficiency. In fact they may have up to 30% greater iron needs than regular individuals. Reasons for increased demand could be gastrointestinal blood losses and greater turnover of the red blood cells from running. In females deficiency is compounded by iron loss during menstruation.
  • Age:  
  1. Infants at birth have iron stores to last about six months. Their iron needs are initially met by breast milk. Infants that are not breastfed should be given an  iron supplement or iron-fortified infant formula. Babies weaned to solid foods should be offered iron-rich foods.
  2. In the age group of 1 to 4 years iron needs are high due to rapid growth. Iron intake must be emphasized for children in this age group. Milk is a very poor source of iron. Many children drink large quantities of milk at the expense of other foods and can develop `milk anemia'. Recommended milk intake is two to three cups (approx 500-750ml) per day for toddlers and older children.
  3. Adolescents are more prone to low iron levels because of rapid growth rates and erratic eating habits.
  4. Older adults are prone to developing iron deficiency as they may not eat enough due to poor dentition, small appetite or underlying disease.
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutritional disorder in the world. According to the World Health Organization 30% of the total world's population has iron deficiency anemia. In the developing world the numbers may be a lot higher.

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anemia include -
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Craving for ice or clay
  • Weight loss.
Iron deficiency anemia complicates the course of some diseases.  Iron deficiency anemia treatment affects the outcome of cancers, some psychiatric diseases and heart disease are adversely affected by anemia. Anemia worsens heart disease symptoms and can precipitate heart failure. Poor memory, poor learning skills and decreased ability to concentrate are often seen school going children and in adults with iron deficiency anemia.

Too much iron is harmful and can result in a condition called hemochromatosis. Iron overload can even be fatal. That is why though dietary iron intake is safe, iron supplements should be taken only under the advice of a physician. (especially children - ALWAYS KEEP IRON SUPPLEMENTS OUT OF CHILDRENS REACH).


  •  Fatigue
  •  Anorexia
  •  Dizziness
  •  Nausea
  •  Vomiting
  •  Headache
  •  Weight loss
  •  Shortness of breath
  •  Grayish color to the skin

Contact a doctor IMMEDIATELY if you suspect iron toxicity.

By. Dietitian,



User Comments

19 August, 2011 | Anita thakur | Reply

Anita thakur Use sprouted pulses nd fermented foods like dosa ,idli, dhokla. Useing iron ports for cooking green leafy vegetabl may help.

21 August, 2011 | Poonam | Reply

Poonam Dear Ankita,
You are right, sprouting and fermentation are processes which increase the iron content of foods. Foods cooked in iron vessels are have a higher iron content. Tea and coffee interfere with iron absoption. These are all ways in which vegetarians can improve their iron status and avoid anemia.

06 June, 2011 | ayesha | Reply

ayesha when ever u eat an iron rich foods make sure to take vit enhances the absorption

18 June, 2010 | Janki Patel | Reply

Janki Patel Hello Sunita,
You are right that vegetarians suffer from Anemia as non heam iron is absorbed little less in body. However, moong sprouts, poha(rice flakes), legumes and iron fortified breakfast cereals are good sources for vegetarians.Iron content of poha is less known to all.
Regarding your second qusetion, i would say that normally male have higher haemoglobin compared to female.Moreover, they do not lose blood in menstruation. If your son is taking normal balanced diet, should not have Anemia. If you find any of the anemia symptoms, can get blood checked for Hb and thelesemia minor. Please do not worry and give him Vitamin C and folic acid to form red blood cells.

26 January, 2010 | Sunita P | Reply

Sunita P My mother was always anemic and so am I. I have always had to make sure I ate enough iron rich foods. This is very tough for we are vegetarians.

I want to know - what are the chances that my 2 year old son will get iron deficiency anemia.
What can I do to help him now?

 Post Comments

Contact Name:
(Will show your Gravatar icon)

User Rules

Tags: Anemia, Cancer, Children's Health, Diet, Eat Healthy, Healthy Foods, Healthy Lifestyle, Iron, Nutrition, Nutritional Supplements, Pregnancy / Lactation, Seniors Health, Sports Health, Vitamins & Supplements, Women's Health


© 2007 - 2024 All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. All articles and content written by the team for are the sole property of J.L.S Healthcare Pvt. Ltd. Content may not be copied without express permission to do so. If you want to link back to an article, please ensure a working link to the article title is used and is functioning at all times.


Nutrition BUZZ Tags

This will be shown to users with no Flash or Javascript.
Speak Up!

Nutrition BUZZ

Read other Buzz posts

CLINICAL Nutrition Packages

At Risk Prevention Program Health Risk Assessment & Prevention Program
One Month
Obesity | Cholesterol | Diabetes | CVD
Cholesterol Reduction Program Cholesterol Reduction Program
Three Month
Weight Loss | Cholesterol | Pre-diabetes | CVD
Glucose Stabilization | Obesity Reduction Program Glucose Stabilization | Obesity Reduction Program
Six Month
Pre-diabetes stabilization | Cholesterol reduction | Weight Loss | Cancer management
Intensive - Disease Management Program Intensive - Disease Management Program
One Year
Diabetes | Obesity | Cholesterol | CVD | Cancer Management
Sign Up Now View Details

Free Newsletter

Awareness leads to healthier lifestyles.
Sign up!

Free Newsletter

Health Solutions | In Depth Coverage provides web-based nutrition tools and services that enable consumers to take charge of their own health. Our clinical nutrition programs provide online nutrition counseling services for weight-control; nutrition therapy for managing diabetes and cancer and customized menu plans to lower cholesterol. Our online nutritionists provide health risk assessments, diet evaluations, guidance and support to address the consumers underlying health conditions and personal likes and dislikes.

RSS  Facebook  Twitter 

Suggestions / Feedback / Queries

Contact Name: E-mail:

Reply To Comment

Contact Name*
Contact Email*

(Will show your Gravatar icon)
Notify me when new comments are added
Speaker Up!

Any way - here's an opportunity to send in your topics - bright ideas - even your take on a subject - or even an article you've written and want published for feedback and commentary

If your topic is selected (topics are reviewed for copyright and thought process) it will get posted under your name and title. Please understand that not all submissions can be accepted.

Please note - Any article that has been submitted but not posted, will be respected and not used by the NutritionVista team for any other publication.

Submit your articles to

Speak Up!
Contact Name*
Contact Email*
Topic Suggestions*