High/Low Iron Diet

Iron is an essential mineral that ensures good health. Iron plays role in DNA synthesis and is the key component of red blood cells, which are responsible for oxygen transport and resistance to infections.1 Iron is a mineral that combines with protein to form haemoglobin, the main part of red blood cells and transports oxygen to body cells. Iron diets have an excellent role in maintaining the haemoglobin level in the body and preventing anaemia.

The amount of iron required by the body depends on age and gender. Children, women, and adult men require a different amount of iron at different ages.

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is most commonly caused by:

  • Chronic blood loss like intestinal bleeding, menstruation, haemorrhoids, and peptic ulcers.
  • In children, iron deficiency can be caused by inadequate iron diets.

Iron deficiency can lead to anemia and multiple other health problems.2


Nutritional Facts

For males, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 10 milligrams/day. The RDA is 15 milligrams/day for premenopausal women. Menopause is natural when the menstruation cycle stops, and no menstruation occurs onward. The iron needs of premenopausal women are higher compared to men because women lose blood and iron during menstruation.3

Who needs more iron? Men vs. Women!

Iron deficiency is rare in men compared to women because they require higher calories and eat a larger amount of food. Women typically eat less food and also suffer from menstruation, which results in loss of blood and iron from the body.

Iron needs during Pregnancy

A pregnant woman will need 30 milligrams of iron/day because the unborn baby also requires iron for its development. This iron comes from the iron stores of the mother. Hence, iron requirements during pregnancy are higher.

High Iron Diets

The following table shows iron-rich foods, but meat, fish, and poultry are the foods highest in iron. The other sources of iron are beans, dried fruits, whole grains, fortified cereals, and enriched bread.4

There are certain conditions in which high-iron diets are harmful, for example, hemochromatosis and chronic liver diseases, which may build iron stores in the liver.

Things to Consider

Heme and Non-heme iron are the two types of iron found in foods. Heme iron is found in meats, poultry, and fish. At the same time, non-heme iron is found in both plant and animal foods. Eating a combination of meat and beans provides both types of iron in the diet.

Vitamin C promotes iron absorption of both heme and non-heme iron in the body. It is essential to take citrus fruits or juices for better iron absorption.

Phytic and Tannic acid: these two compounds interrupt and decrease iron absorption.

Iron supplements: many iron supplements are available; however, these should only be taken if there is an iron deficiency. Otherwise, it may lead to excessive iron storage and negative feedback to iron metabolism in the body.

Foods That Contain Iron
Food Serving Size (mg)
Bran flakes cereal 1 cup 24.0
Product 19 cereal 1 cup 24.0
Clams, steamed 3 oz 23.8
Total cereal 1 cup 18.0
Life cereal 1 cup 12.2
Raisin bran cereal 1 cup 9.3
Beef liver, braised 3 oz 5.8
Kix cereal 1 cup 5.4
Cheerios cereal 1 cup 3.6
Prune juice 1 cup 3.0
Potato, baked with skin One med 2.8
Sirloin steak, cooked 3 oz 2.8
Shrimp, cooked 3 oz 2.6
Navy beans, cooked 1/2 cup 2.3
Figs, dried 5 2.1
Lean ground beef, broiled 3 oz 2.1
Swiss chard, cooked 1/2 cup 2.0
Rice Krispies cereal 1 cup 1.8
Kidney beans 1/2 cup 1.6
Oatmeal, cooked 1/2 cup 1.6
Spinach, raw 1 cup 1.5
Tuna, canned in water 3 oz 1.3
Green peas, cooked 1/2 cup 1.2
Halibut, cooked 3 oz 0.9
Whole-wheat bread 1 slice 0.9
Apricot halves, dried 5 0.8
Raisins 1/4 cup 0.8
Broccoli, cooked 1/2 cup 0.6
Egg, boiled One large 0.6


  1. Tenenbein M, Huang X. Iron. Handb Toxicol Met Fifth Ed. 2021;2:391-417. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-822946-0.00016-7
  2. Halterman JS, Segel GB. Iron Deficiency Anemia. Pediatr Clin Advis. Published online August 11, 2021:31-31. doi:10.1016/B978-032303506-4.10019-7
  3. How can I get enough iron? - InformedHealth.org - NCBI Bookshelf. Accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279618/
  4. Prentice AM, Mendoza YA, Pereira D, et al. Dietary strategies for improving iron status: balancing safety and efficacy. Nutr Rev. 2017;75(1):49. doi:10.1093/NUTRIT/NUW055

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