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Fruits and Vegetables High in Iron

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
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 foods, which are mostly fruits and vegetables, help 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.


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List of Fruits and Vegetables High in Iron

1 Dried Fruit (Apricots)
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.
2 Spinach
A Bowl of 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%).
3 Podded Peas
Green podded peas
Lima beans provide 23%DV of iron per cup.
4 Asparagus
Heads of asparagus
A cup of asparagus contains just 27 calories.
5 White Button Mushrooms
Mushrooms
Other Mushrooms High in Iron (%DV per cup sliced): Morels (45% DV), Oyster (6% DV), Shiitake (3% DV).
6 Acorn Squash
An acorn squash
  • 11% DV (2mg) iron per cup cooked
  • 115 Calories
    Data Source
Pumpkin provides 7% DV per cup, most other winter squash provide 6% DV per cup.
7 Leeks
Stalks of leeks
Scallions (Spring Onions) are also high in Iron with (2% DV) per onion.
8 Dried Coconut
Half a coconut
Other Coconut Products High in Iron (%DV per ounce): Toasted Desiccated Coconut, Creamed Coconut, and Coconut Milk (5%).
9 Green Beans
Green Beans
10 Raspberries
A bunch of 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.
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Even More Iron Rich Fruits and Vegetables
#1 Lemon Grass (Citronella) 30% DV (5mg) in 1 cup
#2 Palm Hearts 25% DV (5mg) in 1 cup
#3 Passion Fruit (Purple) 21% DV (4mg) in 1 cup
#4 Parsley 21% DV (4mg) in 1 cup
#5 Succotash 16% DV (3mg) in 1 cup
#6 Horned Melon (Kiwano) 15% DV (3mg) in 1 cup
#7 Lentil Sprouts 14% DV (2mg) in 1 cup
#8 Sauerkraut 12% DV (2mg) in 1 cup
#9 Dandelion Greens 9% DV (2mg) in 1 cup
#10 Artichokes 9% DV (2mg) in 1 large
#11 Groundcherries 8% DV (1mg) in 1 cup
#12 Mamey Sapote 8% DV (1mg) in 1 cup
#13 Avocados 5% DV (1mg) in 1 cup
#14 Lettuce 4% DV (1mg) in 1 cup
#15 Olives 3% DV (0mg) in 1 large
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 willdecrease absorption. In general, you absorb 10-15% of the iron from foods.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, penny royal, 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.
  • Some protein from soy products may inhibit nonheme iron absorption.2
  • Calcium, milk, and antacids can inhibit absorption of iron supplements.5
  • 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.5
High Risk Groups for an Iron Deficiency
  • Menstruating Women - Due to blood loss during menstruation women of childbearing age are at risk of iron deficiency, the greater the blood loss the greaterthe risk.
  • Individuals with Kidney Failure - People with kidney failure, andespecially 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.
  • 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.
  • Older infants and toddlers
  • People with low levels of Vitamin A - Vitamin A greatly helps move iron from storage in the body, without adequate amounts of vitamin A the body cannot regulate iron properly leading to an iron deficiency.
  • People with gastrointestinal disorders -Diarrhea, ulcers, and other gastrointestinal disorders and diseases can leadto an inadequate iron absorption.

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View more food groups with the nutrient ranking tool, or see ratios with the nutrient ratio tool.

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-haem 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.

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