The Blog

8 Foods That Have More Iron than Beef

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

by guest blogger Caroline Praderio, food and nutrition writer for Prevention magazine and

So you got the memo that excessive red meat consumption is a disaster for the environment and your health, not to mention the animals, and that we should all eat less of it.

But isn't cutting down on beef going to slash our intake of iron--a mineral essential for delivering oxygen to cells and keeping us energized?

Actually, no. Though red meat is a great source of iron (one 4 oz serving of lean ground beef has 2.5 mg, or 14 percent of your daily value), you can actually get this mineral from a slew of delicious plant and animal sources that have a much smaller carbon footprint, and, in some cases, even more iron than beef.

Of course, it's important to note that iron from animals is more readily absorbed than iron from plants. "So vegetarians and vegans should consume around 1.8 times the recommended daily value," says Sharon Palmer, RDN, author of The Plant Powered Diet. That works out to about 32 mg per day for women ages 31 to 50, and 14 mg per day for women over 50. You can also enhance plant-iron absorption by eating it along with a source of vitamin C, like a squirt of lemon juice.

With that in mind, check out these 8 delicious foods that have more iron than a serving of beef.

  • Kidney Beans
  • Kidney beans are loaded with fiber and protein (and they make a damn good addition to this clean three-bean salad). The 4 mg of iron (22% DV) in each cup is an added bonus.

  • Spinach
  • You'll get 6 mg of iron (36% DV) in each cup of cooked spinach--plus almost one-third of your daily value for calcium and more than a full day's supply of vitamin A. (There's a reason Popeye loved this stuff!)

  • Swiss Chard
  • Spinach not your thing? A cup of cooked swiss chard delivers a respectable 4 mg of iron (22% DV). (We love it in this vegetarian lasagna.)

  • Edamame
  • Heat up 1 cup of frozen edamame for a high-protein snack that delivers 3.5 mg of iron (19% DV). Fun fact: It also packs more potassium than a banana (as do these other foods).

  • Lentils
  • There's a whopping 7 mg of iron (39% DV) in each cup of cooked lentils--all the more reason to make this crazy-easy Italian lentil soup.

  • Oats
  • This hearty breakfast staple packs 4 mg of iron (22% DV) in each half cup. (Hint hint: That's the exact amount of oats you need to make one of these delicious DIY instant oatmeal packets.)

  • Quinoa
  • Sometimes we wonder if quinoa is just showing off: It's a complete vegetarian protein (meaning it has all nine essential amino acids that your body can't make on its own) and it has 3 mg of iron (17% DV) per cooked cup.

  • Oysters
  • Slurp down six oysters for 4 mg of iron (22% DV). That same serving also satisfies your daily requirement of hard-to-get dietary zinc.

    Caroline Praderio is the food and nutrition writer for Prevention magazine and A native of Massachusetts, she's a graduate of Emerson College and a winner of two International Regional Magazine Association awards. When she's not writing, she loves to read, cook, and rehearse with her dance company.

    Adapted from a story originally published on

    For more from Maria Rodale, visit