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Foods high in iron: spinach, white beans, eggs and more

Iron isn't only found in spinach and steak! Nutritionist Keri Glassman shares seven foods that are high in iron and delicious, too.
by Keri Glassman, R.D. / / Source: TODAY

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When most of us think of iron, an image of a 16-ounce steak comes to mind. Or, perhaps Popeye. Iron, as many of you are aware, is a mineral that is naturally present in many foods. As a nutritionist, I'm here to set the record straight that it's not just found in steak or spinach.

Iron is a main component of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen through the body. This is why your friend had her iron levels tested after feeling lethargic for a month. Iron is necessary for growth and development and synthesis of some hormones.

Dietary iron comes in two forms: heme and nonheme. Plants and iron-fortified foods contain nonheme iron only, whereas meat, seafood and poultry contain both heme and nonheme iron. Heme iron is more easily absorbed. This is why, even though vegans often get more iron overall in the diet, it's from nonheme iron, resulting in their blood levels often being lower than meat eaters. The solution for this? Pair those veggies with a vitamin-C source, as this will help with absorption. Next time you're making a spinach salad, top it with tomatoes or finish the meal strong with an orange.

To help you meet your iron needs (18 mg for women ages 19-50, and 8 mg for men ages 19+), I’ve pulled together seven of the top foods high in iron, and a delicious way to eat them all.

1. Oysters

These mollusks are more than just an aphrodisiac. Have two or three oysters and the peace of mind knowing that you’re getting about 8 mg of iron, or 44 percent of your daily value.

2. White beans

White beans may be small, but they're mighty and loaded with protein, antioxidants and 7 mg of iron per cup. Get a healthy serving in chili or white bean and spicy chorizo soup.

3. Dark chocolate

It’s not candy, it’s food. Brain food. Get your daily dose of dark chocolate and 7 mg per 3-ounce serving with my superfood dark chocolate bark.

4. Lentils

Skip the meat and fuel up on plant protein. You’ll get 3 mg of iron in every half cup. Try our delicious lentil currant salad, for starters.

Spice-Roasted Carrots with Lentils

5. Spinach

It's time to go green: Spinach packs power with 3 mg of iron per half cup of these leafy greens. Toss with pomegranate dressing for a slightly sweet, slightly tart super healthy drizzle that is chock full of antioxidants.

6. Tofu

Don’t flake on meatless Mondays! Try this baked tofu for vegan protein and 3 mg of iron in a half cup serving.

7. Eggs

An egg-cellent source of protein and 1 mg of iron in every one. Get crackin’ with this veggie frittata and benefit from the wide array of veggies, too.

For more tips on how to live a Nutritious Life, follow Keri on Instagram @nutritiouslifeofficial. If you're looking for extra diet and fitness advice, join our Start TODAY newsletter.

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