One of the most common questions patients ask me is “Which type of food is high in iron?” or “What should I eat to increase my iron levels?”
The good news is you can increase your iron level by changing your diet. However, you need to be very clear which foods have the highest iron content.
The table below lists the iron content in common types of food (*Source: British Dietetic Association and US Dept. of Agriculture Database). The iron amount is in milligrams for every 100 grams of the food:
Iron content in food
|Type of Food||Iron (Milligrams per 100 grams)|
|FRUITS, SEEDS & NUTS|
You can see that animal products generally have more iron than plant products. This is one of the reasons why iron deficiency is more common in vegetarians. In fact, the iron in animal products is also better absorbed than iron from plant products. However, vegetarians can compensate by increasing their intake of iron-rich vegetables. Also beans, seeds, nuts are an important source of iron for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
Balancing your diet
One important thing to note is that eating too many meat products will increase your cholesterol. So it is important to balance your diet: try to have smaller amounts of iron from meat products and more from plant products. If you need help lowering your cholesterol, you can read more about how to do it here.
Sometimes, despite eating a high-iron diet you may still have iron deficiency. There are many medical conditions that can directly and indirectly cause iron deficiency. They include celiac disease, heavy menstrual bleeding, stomach ulcers and many more. Your doctor can help in evaluating you for these conditions and starting you on the right treatment.
In some cases, iron tablets or intravenous infusions of iron are necessary to treat iron deficiency. Fortunately, most people can maintain a healthy iron level just by improving their diet!