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High Iron Foods

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High Iron Foods

Iron is a mineral the body uses to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is in red blood cells and helps to carry oxygen from the lungs to the body. Your body usually maintains normal iron status by controlling the amount of iron absorbed from food. If your child’s diet does not provide enough iron he/she is at risk for developing iron deficiency anemia.

Recommended Daily Allowance for Iron

 0-6 mos 0.27 mg0.27 mg 
 7-12 mos 11 mg11 mg 
 1-3 years 7 mg 7 mg
 4-8 years 10 mg  10 mg
 9-13 years 8 mg  8 mg
 14-18 years 11 mg 15 mg
 19+ years 8 mg 18 mg

There are two forms of iron in food: Heme and Nonheme.

  • Heme iron is found in meats and is the type that is easy for your body to absorb.
  • Nonheme iron is not as well absorbed. It is found in grain products and some vegetables.

Your child needs a variety of foods for a healthy diet. No single food can supply all the nutrients in the amounts he/she needs. The following tables suggest dietary sources of heme and nonheme iron.

Good Sources of Heme Iron

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Poultry
  • Veal
  • Liver
  • Pork
  • Clams
  • Oysters
  • Tuna
  • Crab
  • Shrimp

Good Sources of Nonheme Iron

  •  Fortified cereals
  • Grits
  • Oatmeal
  • Tofu
  • Spinach
  • Black eyed peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Lima beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Lentils
  • Soybeans

Helpful Hints:

Eating foods high in vitamin C with foods that contain iron will help your body absorb more iron from foods.

These are some examples:

Foods High in Vitamin C

  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Grapefruits
  • Tangerines
  • Cantaloupe
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Kiwi
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Potatoes
  • Collards and other greens

Meals with Vitamin C and Iron

  • Hamburgers with coleslaw
  • Spaghetti with meatballs and tomato sauce
  • Peanut butter sandwich and orange wedges
  • Juice with iron fortified cereal

Infant formulas, cereals, and grain products with added iron (fortified with iron) are very helpful for improving iron status.

Use iron fortified infant cereal until 18 months of age. This is the age group at greatest risk for iron deficiency anemia.

Iron fortified infant cereal can also be used as filler when making beef patties or meat loaf for small children. This adds extra iron to the meat.

If your child's doctor prescribes iron, make sure your child takes it every day. Taking iron with orange juice improves absorption.

If you want more information about building a healthful diet, ask your doctor for a copy of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate. 

Please call your child's doctor if you have any questions or problems.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 02/2018

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