Foods rich in iron

Posted by Tanya Shukla on

The iron recommendation as per the NHS is (1)

  1. 7 mg a day for men over 18
  2. 8 mg for women aged 19 to 50
  3. 7 mg a day for women over 50

Iron is present in food in two forms: Haeme and non-haeme. Haeme iron is mainly derived from meat. Non-haeme iron is present in plant sources such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, lentils and green leafy vegetables. Fortified foods such as cereals contain non-haeme iron(2).

The following table gives a breakdown of the total amount of iron found in different foods:


Animal based sources (haeme iron):

Food Portion size (in g) Iron content (in mg)
Steak 250 6
Sardines 85 2
Chicken breast 140 1.8
Beef Liver 85  6.5
Tuna 100 1.6


Plant based sources (non-haeme iron):

Food Portion size (in g) Iron content (in mg)
Beans 100 5.1
Tofu 170 2.6
Dark chocolate 28 4.5
Broccoli 156 1
Lentils 198 6.6


Haeme source of iron is more bioavailable and absorbable compared to non-haeme sources(3). In some cases iron absorption is as little as 1% from some non-haeme sources. Taking Vitamin C and haeme iron in the same meal has shown to improve absorption of non-haeme iron. Some vitamin C rich sources of food are citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, bell peppers, tomatoes and white potatoes. In order to meet your daily iron requirements, a well balanced healthy diet is key.  

Iron supplements may be needed if your iron requirements are not being met by your diet, however, the first step is to carefully consider alterations to your diet before taking an iron supplement.



  2. (Harvard University, School of Public Health)
  3. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron Fact Sheet for Health Professionals Accessed 9/2/2019

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