Foods high in iron include chicken or beef liver, mussels, tuna, clams, mollusks, oysters, eggs, beans, tofu and pumpkin seeds. Other foods that are moderately high in iron include canned sardines, beef, turkey, baked potatoes, broccoli and wheat germ.
There are two forms of iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron comes from animal sources, while nonheme iron comes from plant sources. Many foods, such as cereals, are also fortified with iron.
Iron is necessary because it helps hemoglobin carry oxygen through the body. A lack of iron prevents the body from getting enough oxygen to red blood cells. This condition, called anemia, results in fatigue that can affect everything from the brain to the immune system. Iron is also important in maintaining healthy hair, nails and skin.
Because their bodies are always developing, infants and toddlers need about 11 milligrams of iron per day. Young children between the ages of 4 and 8 need 10 milligrams per day, and those between the ages of 9 and 13 need 8 milligrams per day. After menstruation, females need 18 milligrams of iron daily, while males only need 8 milligrams. After menopause, women need the same amount as men—about 8 milligrams of iron per day.