What Is Iron & What Foods Can I Find It In?

Iron is an important trace mineral.

One of its main tasks is to make hemoglobin. Dietary iron has two main forms: heme and non-heme.

Plant sources and iron-fortified foods only contain non-heme iron.

But meat, seafood, and poultry contain both heme and non-heme iron.

Table of Contents

Iron Is Very Important

Iron is a mineral that has many different roles in the body.

It’s vital for making hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein contained in red blood cells that transports oxygen around the body.

Iron also plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy immune system. (source )

Almost two-thirds of the body's iron is found in hemoglobin. (source )

Iron has many benefits. You can learn more about them in Iron, Fe: 8 Research-Backed Benefits

Heme vs. Non-Heme Iron

You can find two types of dietary iron in food.

They are called heme iron and non-heme iron. Animal products, such as meat, poultry, and fish, contain both heme and non-heme iron.

Heme iron, derived from animal sources is the most easily absorbable form.

Foods from plant sources only provide non-heme iron. The body does not absorb non-heme iron as well as heme iron.

It makes it hard for vegetarians, vegans, and other non-meat eating people to get enough iron from foods alone. (source )

Non-heme iron, derived from plants and iron-fortified foods and is less well absorbed.

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient deficiency in the world. (source )

Iron deficiency is caused not only by dietary iron deficiency but also by iron deficiency anemia.

Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia. It is a condition in which the blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells.

Iron deficiency anemia is associated with impaired work capacity, decreased quality of life, reduced educational performance, and increased health care costs.

Iron Supplements Available

There are a lot of Iron supplements available to choose from.

The best part is that they are quite cheap when compared to other supplements.

The trick is to know which one to buy.

We've written a whole article about what Iron supplements we think are of the highest quality. The article is named Recommended Iron Supplements

Who is recommended to take iron supplements?

Iron supplements are recommended for children and adults with iron deficiency anaemia.

For adults and older children and adolescents with a history of iron deficiency anaemia.

For pregnant women with low iron stores at risk of iron deficiency anaemia.

Don't Take Too Much Iron

At high doses, iron is toxic. This is especially important if you are supplementing iron.

Getting too much iron from natural sources is hard.

When you take iron supplements, be sure to stay within the limit or what your doctor has told you to take.

Because excess iron is stored in your organs, especially your liver, heart, and pancreas.

Too much stored iron can lead to life-threatening conditions, such as liver disease, heart problems, and diabetes.

Foods You Can Find Iron, Fe In

You find Iron, Fe mostly in spices and herb, american indian and alaska native food, breakfast cereal, and baby food products.

Examples of food sources include

Foods in our nutrition tool

You can find regularly updated top-ranked lists of foods for over 200+ nutrients in our nutrition tool.

If you are interested in what foods contain the most Iron, we recommend you visit our tool.

Here's our top-ranked list of foods that contain Iron.

Sara Niemelä

co-founder Care Omnia, Head Content Creator

Author Image of Sara Niemelä

Nutrition is my passion. I've spent thousands upon thousands of hours reading, analyzing, categorizing and comparing research studies.

I’m a wife and a mother of three. I enjoy the outdoors, cooking, and spending time with my family.