Chicken or beef liver, clams, mussels, oysters, and cooked beef are rich in heme iron, the form derived from hemoglobin-rich animal foods, according to WebMD. Sardines canned in oil, cooked poultry, veal and ham also provide large amounts of highly absorbable heme iron. Plant sources that contain the less-efficient nonheme iron include cooked beans and peas, tofu, broccoli, spinach, and iron-enriched cereals.
Iron absorption is enhanced when foods are consumed in combination with beverages or foods high in vitamin C, explains Mayo Clinic. Drinking citrus or tomato juices with iron-rich meals or adding a salad containing dark leafy greens, peppers and strawberries increases the body’s ability to assimilate dietary iron. Not consuming calcium- and caffeine-rich foods and beverages with high iron foods also enhances absorption, adds WebMD. Half of pregnant women, 3 percent of men and approximately 20 percent of women are iron deficient. While a doctor may recommend a supplement, because iron is not excreted and is stored in tissues and organs, exact dosing is important.
Infants require either breast milk or iron-fortified formula in the first year of life and should not receive cow’s milk, which is low in iron, advises Mayo Clinic. Pureed meats and iron-enriched cereals given at around 5 months of age keep iron intake sufficient enough to prevent iron deficiency anemia.