Foods that are high in iron include beef, liver, clams and oysters. The iron found in meat and seafood, called heme iron, is derived from hemoglobin and is easier for the body to absorb. Iron found in plant-based foods is called nonheme iron.
Vegetarians may be at a higher risk for iron-deficiency anemia than people who eat meat. This is because plant-based foods are often lower in iron, and the iron in these foods is nonheme and therefore not as easily absorbed by the body. Plant foods that are high in iron include dark leafy greens, legumes, brown rice, nuts and seeds. A vegetarian should incorporate a variety of these types of foods into his diet to ensure he is getting enough iron each day.
Chicken liver contains about 3.5 milligrams of heme iron per 3-ounce serving. Cooked beef or turkey contains about 2.1 milligrams. Chicken, ham, veal and tuna all contain roughly 0.7 milligrams of heme iron per 3-ounce serving. By comparison, 8 ounces of cooked chickpeas contains about 5 milligrams of iron, but this iron is nonheme and isn't absorbed as well.
Consuming vitamin C with iron-containing foods may help in the absorption of the iron. For example, eating an iron-fortified cereal with a glass of orange juice in the morning is a good way to get iron at breakfast.