Iron, Man

Unusual Iron-Rich Foods and Why You Need Them

August 25, 2019

Unusual Iron-Rich Foods and Why You Need Them

August 25, 2019

We hear about iron-enriched this and that all the time, but how many of us really know if we’re getting enough of this essential mineral? Iron is super important to our bodies for many reasons so it’s a good idea to get savvy on the signs of iron deficiency and understand how to incorporate more iron in your diet.


Iron is required for life. It is a key component of hemoglobin — the substance in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. It also plays a role in maintaining the health of your cells, immune system and digestion of other nutrients.

This little element is the most common one on earth and keeps your mind and body performing at their peak, yet low iron is also one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world, especially for women who lose blood every month.


If you don’t have enough iron, your body is unable to make healthy red blood cells. A slight deficiency of iron causes anemia—resulting in chronic fatigue and lethargy because your brain and body simply aren’t getting enough oxygen. Chronic iron deficiency can even lead to organ failure.


Iron can be absorbed from heme (meat) sources and non-heme(plant) sources. While meat-based sources of iron can be easier to absorb, plant-based sources are better regulated in the body and can cause less damage to your system. If you don’t eat meat or fish, you can boost absorption by including a source of vitamin C when eating plant-based sources of iron.


Typical sources include red meat, liver and shellfish, but there are many other options:

  • Dried apricots have 4mg of iron per cup and come with the vitamin C already included to enable absorption.
  • Legumes are nutrient powerhouses—think beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas etc. There is about 6mg of iron per cup of cooked lentils.
  • Chia seeds are often championed for their Omega-3’s, but are also full of iron—about 4mg per cup.
  • Hemp hearts are a delicious addition to salads, smoothies or cereal, with about 4mg of iron per cup.
  • Spinach is a classic (thanks to Popeye) and is a iron source that is also rich in Vitamin C with about 6.5mg per cooked cup.

Dark chocolate, quinoa and pumpkin seeds all deserve honourable mentions as iron-rich accompaniments to other foods

The daily recommendation of iron is about 18mg, so it is important to make sure that you are eating a diet that includes iron-rich foods. If your iron levels are already low, it may be a good idea to talk with your doctor about taking an iron supplement. However, make sure to check with a professional first and get a blood test—too much iron can be a bad thing too.

The Bottom Line

Iron is a super important mineral that you need to regularly consume, because your body does not produce it on its own. But there are many healthy and tasty sources for this essential mineral.

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