8 Foods That Have More Iron than Beef

Swiss Chard - Foods with More Iron than Beef

by guest blogger Caroline Praderio, food and nutrition writer for Prevention magazine and EatClean.com

So you got the memo that excessive red meat consumption is a disaster for the environment and your health, not to mention the animals, and that we should all eat less of it.

But isn’t cutting down on beef going to slash our intake of iron—a mineral essential for delivering oxygen to cells and keeping us energized?

Actually, no. Though red meat is a great source of iron (one 4 oz serving of lean ground beef has 2.5 mg, or 14 percent of your daily value), you can actually get this mineral from a slew of delicious plant and animal sources that have a much smaller carbon footprint, and, in some cases, even more iron than beef.

Of course, it’s important to note that iron from animals is more readily absorbed than iron from plants. “So vegetarians and vegans should consume around 1.8 times the recommended daily value,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN, author of The Plant Powered Diet. That works out to about 32 mg per day for women ages 31 to 50, and 14 mg per day for women over 50. You can also enhance plant-iron absorption by eating it along with a source of vitamin C, like a squirt of lemon juice.

With that in mind, check out these 8 delicious foods that have more iron than a serving of beef.

  1. Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are loaded with fiber and protein (and they make a damn good addition to this clean three-bean salad). The 4 mg of iron (22% DV) in each cup is an added bonus.

  1. Spinach

You’ll get 6 mg of iron (36% DV) in each cup of cooked spinach—plus almost one-third of your daily value for calcium and more than a full day’s supply of vitamin A. (There’s a reason Popeye loved this stuff!)

  1. Swiss Chard

Spinach not your thing? A cup of cooked swiss chard delivers a respectable 4 mg of iron (22% DV). (We love it in this vegetarian lasagna.)

  1. Edamame

Heat up 1 cup of frozen edamame for a high-protein snack that delivers 3.5 mg of iron (19% DV). Fun fact: It also packs more potassium than a banana (as do these other foods).

  1. Lentils

There’s a whopping 7 mg of iron (39% DV) in each cup of cooked lentils—all the more reason to make this crazy-easy Italian lentil soup.

  1. Oats

This hearty breakfast staple packs 4 mg of iron (22% DV) in each half cup. (Hint hint: That’s the exact amount of oats you need to make one of these delicious DIY instant oatmeal packets.)

  1. Quinoa

Sometimes we wonder if quinoa is just showing off: It’s a complete vegetarian protein (meaning it has all nine essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own) and it has 3 mg of iron (17% DV) per cooked cup.

  1. Oysters

Slurp down six oysters for 4 mg of iron (22% DV). That same serving also satisfies your daily requirement of hard-to-get dietary zinc.

Praderio_CarolineCaroline Praderio is the food and nutrition writer for Prevention magazine and EatClean.com. A native of Massachusetts, she’s a graduate of Emerson College and a winner of two International Regional Magazine Association awards. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, cook, and rehearse with her dance company.

Adapted from a story originally published on EatClean.com.


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5 Responses to 8 Foods That Have More Iron than Beef

  1. Bonnie April 11, 2019 at 4:53 am #

    Hi there.
    I do have a question on why is it when I dont eat red meat I feel so tired. I dont eat alot of meat. I eat alot of fruit and vegetables, eggs, beans cheese,cottage cheese and plain yogurt. Obviously I’m missing something because after about 4 days I need to eat a plain hamburger just to pump me up again for a few more days then I’m back down again. Hopefully you can give me some ideas.
    Thank you. Bonnie

  2. MOHAMED ALMUTAWA April 20, 2019 at 1:19 pm #

    Hi bonnie
    I have the exact same issue !! I actually got here after searching for the nutrition in beef. Somehow lamb and chicken dont give me any effect at all.
    I noticed I have the same reaction after having beef if i take spinach or yellow lentil soup. Nothing else so far gives me energy. How about u ?? I am not sure what’s the issue with me. It may be iron ,calcium , magnesium , zinc or copper imbalance which are common in these foods.

  3. Victoria June 1, 2019 at 2:31 pm #

    Please read this before going vegetarian/vegan. It’s not just about iron! While the topic is iron in meat, what makes a lot vegetarians/vegans very unhealthy (literally sick) is lack of B12 which, in extreme cases mirrors schizophrenia and may lead to pernitious anemia. Even if they take vitamins, it matters is the form to be absorbed. If you are one of 40% of population that is born with MTHFR genetic anomaly, the commonly sold cyanocobalamin is NOT processed and one MUST take methylated form. Worse yet, this mutation also demands folate and in higher dose than a non-cArrier (again, methylated form) not folic acid which is in all fortified food and must be avoided. These two vits must combine to play a crucial part in methelation cycle, which manages everything from dopamine/serotonin levels, to fertility and development of illnesses from having too much unabsorbed vits polluting blood giving false/elevated readings while your body is starved into sickness and fatigue (think pouring oil on water). This cycle also controls how your body manages waste dusposal, i.e. medication doses. 4 out of 10, people! Lentils are folate super food, btw. So, take B12 and if you won’t get this test done separately or know through 23andme data, just only take the methylated form just in case.

  4. Victoria June 1, 2019 at 2:36 pm #

    @Bonnie and MohammAd – please read my post. You are likely MTHFR carrier ( 32 combos).

  5. Irma July 17, 2019 at 4:43 pm #

    It is so sad to keep seeing this misinformation about meat. The carbon footprint for meat is much, much lower than it is for many of the foods promoted as “healthy” such as corn, wheat, and soybeans.

    The easiest way to restore our environment is to allow ruminants to roam freely and eat grass. If the farmer is doing things right, which is moving the animals from plot to plot to graze, we get healthy pastured animals and excellent quality meat.

    Allowing animals to roam about freely means that they are fertilizing the land naturally. And there are no problems from methane because the animals are eating their natural diet…which is NOT corn.

    This cannot be said for those large crops that are eroding the top soil, are heavily sprayed with chemicals, and are mostly gmo.

    Meat, and especially beef, is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and your body extracts all of its nutrition when it is digested.

    You cannot say that about oats or edamame.

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