Fruits and Vegetables High in Iron

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
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Fruits and Vegetables High in Iron

Iron is an essential mineral used to transport oxygen to all parts of our body. A slight deficiency of iron causes anemia (fatigue/weakness), and a chronic deficiency can lead to organ failure.

Conversely, too much iron leads to the production of harmful free radicals and interferes with metabolism causing damage to organs like the heart and liver. Iron which comes from fruits and vegetables is well regulated by the body so overdose is rare and usually only occurs when people take supplements.

Contrary to popular belief, fruits and vegetables can be a good source of iron. In addition, vitamin C is abundant in fruits and vegetables, and helps increase the absorption of iron into the body.

Fruits and vegetables high in iron include dried fruits, dark leafy greens, podded peas, asparagus, button mushrooms, acorn squash, leeks, dried coconut, green beans, and raspberries. The current daily value (%DV) for iron is 18 milligrams (mg).

Below is a list of fruits and vegetables high in iron, for more, see the extended list of iron rich fruits and vegetables, and the top 10 vegetarian foods highest in iron.


List of Fruits and Vegetables High in Iron

Dried Apricots

#1: Dried Fruit (Apricots)

Iron
per Cup
Iron
per 100g
Iron
per 200 Calories
8mg
(42% DV)
6mg
(35% DV)
4mg
(22% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Low-moisture Dried Apricots
Other fruit high in iron (%DV per cup): Peaches (36%), Prunes & Currants (26%), Raisins (24%), Pears (21%), Figs (17%), and Apples (7%). Note: Dried fruit is high in sugar and calories.
A Bowl of Spinach

#2: Spinach

Iron
per Cup Cooked
Iron
per 100g
Iron
per 200 Calories
6mg
(36% DV)
4mg
(20% DV)
31mg
(172% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Spinach
Other Greens High in Iron (%DV per cup): Cooked Swiss Chard (22%), Cooked Turnip Greens (16%), Raw Kale (6%), and Raw Beet Greens (5%).
Green podded peas

#3: Podded Peas

Iron
per Cup
Iron
per 100g
Iron
per 200 Calories
3mg
(18% DV)
2mg
(11% DV)
9mg
(52% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Snow Peas
Lima beans provide 23%DV of iron per cup.
Heads of asparagus

#4: Asparagus

Iron
per Cup
Iron
per 100g
Iron
per 200 Calories
3mg
(16% DV)
2mg
(12% DV)
21mg
(119% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Asparagus
A cup of asparagus contains just 27 calories.
Mushrooms

#5: White Button Mushrooms

Iron
per Cup Cooked
Iron
per 100g
Iron
per 200 Calories
3mg
(15% DV)
2mg
(10% DV)
12mg
(69% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked White Button Mushrooms
Other Mushrooms High in Iron (%DV per cup sliced): Morels (45% DV), Oyster (6% DV), Shiitake (3% DV).
An acorn squash

#6: Acorn Squash

Iron
per Cup Cooked
Iron
per 100g
Iron
per 200 Calories
2mg
(11% DV)
1mg
(5% DV)
3mg
(18% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Baked Acorn Squash
Pumpkin provides 7% DV per cup, most other winter squash provide 6% DV per cup.
Stalks of leeks

#7: Leeks

Iron
per Cup
Iron
per 100g
Iron
per 200 Calories
2mg
(10% DV)
2mg
(12% DV)
7mg
(38% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Leeks
Scallions (Spring Onions) are also high in Iron with (2% DV) per onion.
Half a coconut

#8: Dried Coconut

Iron
per Oz
Iron
per 100g
Iron
per 200 Calories
1mg
(5% DV)
3mg
(19% DV)
1mg
(6% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Dried Coconut
Other Coconut Products High in Iron (%DV per ounce): Toasted Desiccated Coconut, Creamed Coconut, and Coconut Milk (5%).
Green Beans

#9: Green Beans

Iron
per Cup
Iron
per 100g
Iron
per 200 Calories
1mg
(5% DV)
1mg
(4% DV)
5mg
(26% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Green Beans (Previously Frozen)
A bunch of raspberries

#10: Raspberries

Iron
per Cup
Iron
per 100g
Iron
per 200 Calories
1mg
(5% DV)
1mg
(4% DV)
3mg
(15% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Raspberries
Other Berries High in Iron (%DV per cup): Mullberries (14%), Elderberries (13%), Raspberries (9%), Blackberries (7%), Strawberries (6%), Raspberries, Blackberries, Loganberries & Wild Blueberries (5%).

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Fruits and vegetables high in iron include dried fruits, dark leafy greens, podded peas, asparagus, button mushrooms, acorn squash, leeks, dried coconut, green beans, and raspberries.

Even More Iron Rich Fruits and Vegetables

FoodServingIron
#1 Lemon Grass (Citronella)1 cup30% DV
(5mg)
#2 Palm Hearts1 cup25% DV
(5mg)
#3 Passion Fruit (Purple)1 cup21% DV
(4mg)
#4 Parsley1 cup21% DV
(4mg)
#5 Succotash 1 cup16% DV
(3mg)
#6 Horned Melon (Kiwano)1 cup15% DV
(3mg)
#7 Lentil Sprouts1 cup14% DV
(2mg)
#8 Sauerkraut1 cup12% DV
(2mg)
#9 Dandelion Greens1 cup9% DV
(2mg)
#10 Artichokes1 large9% DV
(2mg)
#11 Groundcherries1 cup8% DV
(1mg)
#12 Mamey Sapote1 cup8% DV
(1mg)
#13 Avocados1 cup5% DV
(1mg)
#14 Lettuce1 cup4% DV
(1mg)
#15 Olives1 large3% DV
(0mg)

Factors which Affect Iron Absorption and Retention

  • The most important factor is your existing iron level. A low iron level will increase absorption, while a high iron level will decrease absorption. In general, you absorb 10-15% of the iron from foods. (2)
  • Meat proteins will increase the absorption of non-heme iron. (2)
  • Vitamin C will increase the absorption of nonheme iron by as much as 85%. (2,3)
  • Tannins, oxalates, polyphenols, and phytates found in tea and coffee can reduce the absorption of non-heme iron by up to 65%. Black tea reduces absorption more than green tea and coffee. (2,3,4)
  • The following teas and beverages also inhibit iron absorption: Peppermint tea, cocoa, vervain, lime flower, chamomile, and most other herbal teas with polyphenols. (4)
  • Calcium, polyphenols, and phytates found in legumes, whole grains, and chocolate can reduce absorption of nonheme iron. (2) Further milk, and antacids can inhibit absorption of iron supplements. (5)
  • Some protein from soy products may inhibit nonheme iron absorption. (2)
  • High fiber foods, such as whole grains, raw vegetables, and bran can inhibit absorption of iron supplements. (5)
  • Foods or drinks with caffeine can inhibit absorption of iron supplements. (4, 5)

Causes of Iron Deficiency

  • Menstruating Women - Due to blood loss during menstruation, women are at risk of iron deficiency. The greater the blood loss the greater the risk. (2)
  • Individuals with Kidney Failure - People with kidney failure, and especially those on dialysis, are at high risk of iron deficiency anemia. This is due to an inability of the kidney to create adequate amounts of the hormone erythropoietin which is necessary for red blood cell creation, and therefore, retaining iron. (2)
  • Pregnant and lactating women - A developing fetus requires a high amount of iron, likewise, there is a high amount of iron lost through breast milk after birth. (2)
  • Older infants and toddlers - Infants and toddlers require a lot of iron as they grow and so are at risk of iron deficiency. (2)
  • People with low levels of Vitamin A - Vitamin A helps move iron from storage in the body. Without adequate amounts of vitamin A the body cannot regulate iron leading to an iron deficiency. (2)
  • People with gastrointestinal disorders -Diarrhea, ulcers, and other gastrointestinal disorders and diseases can lead to an inadequate iron absorption. (2)
  • Cancer - 60% of patients with colon cancer are iron deficient. 29-46% of patients with other cancers are also deficient in iron. (2)
  • People with Gastrointestinal Disorders - People on a restricted diet, or who have problems absorbing nutrients are at risk for iron deficiency. This includes people after bypass surgery. (2)
  • People with Heart Failure - Around 60% of people with heart failure are iron deficient. (2)

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Data Sources and References

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.
  2. Office of Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet: Iron
  3. Hallberg L, Rossander L. Effect of different drinks on the absorption of non-heme iron from composite meals. Hum Nutr Appl Nutr. 1982 Apr;36(2):116-23.
  4. Richard F. Hurrell, Manju Reddy, and James D. Cook. Inhibition of non-heme iron absorption in man by polyphenolic-containing beverages. British Journal of Nutrition (1999), 81, 289-295
  5. National Library of Medicine Fact Sheet on Taking Iron Supplements.