Foods that are high in iron include red meat, turkey legs, chicken livers, oysters, beans, lentils, spinach and dried fruits. Meat sources provide iron in a form that is easier for the body to absorb than the iron found in vegetable sources.
Iron comes in two forms, heme and non-heme. Heme iron is the type found in meat, while non-heme iron is the kind found in plants. Some breads, cereals and pastas are fortified with iron. Fortified foods contain the non-heme form of iron.
Consuming foods and beverages that are high in vitamin C along with plant-based iron-rich foods helps the body better utilize the available non-heme iron. Mixing heme and non-heme iron sources in the same meal also helps improve the body's ability to utilize all of the iron consumed. Black tea inhibits the absorption of iron in the body, so individuals who need extra iron should avoid drinking black tea and eating iron-rich foods at the same time.
Iron is an important component of oxygen-carrying proteins in the body, and a lack of iron can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Because the body cannot produce iron, this mineral must be obtained through foods or supplements. Specific iron requirements depend on the person's age and gender, and certain health conditions can temporarily raise or lower iron requirements.