Iron is an essential part of a healthy diet, because red blood cells require iron for proper function. When a body lacks adequate iron stores, a person may become “anemic” (low red blood count). People at higher risk for anemia include infants (especially those exclusively breastfed), young children, women who are pregnant, young women who are menstruating and people with chronic or serious medical problems.

Iron-rich food sources are plentiful, and it can also be taken as a supplement in liquid or pill form. A good goal is to take 6 milligrams (mg) of iron for every 1,000 calories. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, so try to take foods rich in vitamin C while eating iron-rich foods.

Excellent iron-rich foods (3-4 mg per serving)

  • Meats: beef, liver, kidney, heart, clams and oysters
  • Fruits and vegetables: prune juice, fresh apricots, tofu and soybeans
  • Grains: fortified infant cereal, raisin bran, bran flakes, Cream of Wheat, Malt-o-Meal and buckwheat
  • Other: Nuts

Very good iron-rich foods (1.5-3 mg per serving)

  • Meats: liverwurst, turkey, chicken, pork, tuna and shrimp
  • Fruits and vegetables: spinach, beans, raisins, watermelon, orange juice, lemons, limes and tomato juice

Good iron-rich foods (0.5-1.5 mg per serving)

  • Meats: fish, eggs and egg substitutes
  • Fruits and vegetables: dried prunes, figs, dates, dried apricots, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, peas, potatoes, artichokes, sprouts, Brussels sprouts and iceberg lettuce
  • Grains: oatmeal, whole grain breads, enriched pastas and wheat germ
  • Other: peanut butter, molasses and dried brewers yeast

Vitamin C-rich foods to eat with iron-rich foods

  • Fruits: blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, elderberries, gooseberries, loganberries, tangerines, cantaloupe, honeydew, grapefruit, oranges, watermelon
  • Vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, greens, potatoes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes


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A healthy diet should begin the first day of life. The nutrients your child receives promote brain and body development. When healthful eating habits are instilled at a young age, children are more likely to become healthy adults.