15 Feb 2023

10 best natural sources of iron

AWritten by admin
Iron is an important mineral that serves a number of essential functions. Our body can’t produce it on its own. So, what are the 10 best natural sources of iron?

What is iron?

Firstly, let’s discuss what iron is. Iron is a naturally present mineral in many foods. You might say that iron is specifically significant due to its ability to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body, thus helping to maintain healthy blood. 

This is because iron is a major component of hemoglobin, a type of protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen from our lungs to all parts of our body. Iron is also part of myoglobin, a protein that plays the role of carrying and storing oxygen specifically in muscle tissues. As a result, iron supports muscle metabolism, healthy connective tissues, physical growth, neurological development, cellular functioning, and synthesis of some hormones.(1)

You can find dietary iron in two forms: heme and non-heme. While heme iron is only found in animal flesh such as meat, poultry and seafood, you can find non-heme iron in animal flesh and plant foods. These sources of iron include whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens; which tend to be the type of plant foods animals consume. 

Before jumping into the 10 best natural sources of iron, we’re going to briefly go over why it’s so important to not neglect our iron intake. 

What is iron deficiency?

Anemia is a blood condition distinguished by a lack of healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body does not have enough iron to produce the hemoglobin it needs.

This condition is caused by the following:

  • Poor diet or not enough iron in the diet
  • Blood loss
  • A decreased ability to absorb iron
  • Pregnancy

Around 10 million people in the United States have low iron levels, and roughly 5 million of these have been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia.(2) It is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide, causing extreme fatigue and lightheadedness. It affects all ages and people receiving kidney dialysis among those at highest risk for this condition.

Iron is stored in the liver, spleen, muscle tissue, and bone marrow and is delivered throughout the body by a protein in blood that binds to iron. Therefore, a doctor may sometimes check blood levels of these two components if anemia is suspected.

So, what are some of the best sources of iron?

almond biscotti recipe


Generally speaking, nuts contain quite a bit of non-heme iron. In particular, almonds boast an impressive nutrient profile, including iron. They contain 3.7mg of iron per 100g, or one fifth of the daily value (DV). 

Our Organic Italian Almonds are perfect on their own as a snack, or as part of a meal. It’s as easy as grabbing a handful as a healthy snack or sprinkling over salads, breakfast bowls, desserts and pasta dishes. 

cooked and raw amaranth grain


Walnuts clock in at around 2.9mg of iron per 100g, which is 16% of our DV. 

Simply sprinkle them over your go-to salads or breakfast bowls for additional texture and a rich and toasty flavour. If you’re a little peckish you can even grab a handful as a healthy iron-rich snack. 

At Erbology, we shell our walnuts to order ensuring they reach you as fresh as possible. Our nuts are shipped to us in small batches from farmers in Transylvania. Once we receive them, we perform additional quality checks to select the best nuts. Then, we ship them straight to you, with no delays, and almost no time spent in storage. 

It’s important to mention that there are claims that walnuts contain phytates, which supposedly have an inhibitory effect on our body's ability to absorb iron from food. However, phytates are in fact a beneficial antioxidant, and although they can reduce the absorption of iron, this effect is only of concern for those following imbalanced diets.(3)


Amaranth is often referred to as gluten-free grain because it doesn't grow from grasses like other cereal grains do. Not only is it a complete source of protein but it’s also bursting with iron! A one cup serving of cooked amaranth grain provides over 5mg of iron, which is more than a quarter of our daily value! 

Fortunately, amaranth comes in many forms, all with terrific health benefits. So, no matter your cooking ability or style, amaranth will fit brilliantly into your recipes. For example, puffed amaranth makes a fantastic crunchy and nutritious topping for salads and breakfast bowls. You can even include it in your favourite granola bar and energy ball recipes for extra crunch! It adds a delightful nutty flavour and contains other valuable nutrients, such as magnesium and vitamin E.

Jerusalem artichokes 

Despite the name, Jerusalem artichokes do not come from Jerusalem, neither do they relate to artichokes – at least biologically speaking! This vegetable with an imposing name is part of the sunflower family. Also known as sunchoke and sunroot, it has a mild earthy and sweet flavour and texture often compared to a hazelnut or water chestnut. 

A 100g serving of raw Jerusalem artichoke contains about 3.4mg of iron, or nearly 20% of our DV. Moreover, our Organic Jerusalem Artichoke Powder boasts an astonishing 9mg of iron per 100g. This is because we use about five kilograms of fresh tubers to make one kilogram of our powder.

Jerusalem artichokes go very nicely as a side dish, or in sweet or savoury dishes. We also love adding a spoonful of our Organic Jerusalem Artichoke Powder to breakfast bowls, soups and pasta dishes. In addition to iron, it is rich in prebiotic inulin fibre and thiamine.

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"Iron is a major component of hemoglobin, a type of protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen from our lungs to all parts of our body."


A species of legume native to East Asia, the soybeans (edamame) are a complete protein. Varieties include green, yellow and black which make tofu and tempeh.

Fortunately, all of the above are fantastic sources of iron. In fact, soybeans contain around 10mg of iron per cup, or 55% of the DV. Similarly, 6 ounces (170g) of soft tofu provide 2.6mg, or 14% of the DV, while the same portion of tempeh offers 4.5mg of iron, or 25% of the DV.

The traditional thinking is that iron absorption from beans like soy is quite low. However, this thinking is based on single meal studies. In addition, older methodology is unreliable when measuring iron absorption from ferritin, which is a blood protein that contains iron.(4

On the contrary, because some of the iron in soy, as well as other legumes, is in the form of ferritin, iron absorption may be much higher than previously thought. More recent studies, using methodology suitable for measuring iron ferritin absorption, showed absorption from soy to be quite high.(5)

organic cordyceps mushroom

Lion’s mane mushrooms 

Lion’s mane mushrooms have a similar nutritional profile to many other mushroom varieties. In general, fungi are low in calories and fat, with a sizable helping of antioxidants and minerals, such as iron. Just one cup of cooked lion’s mane mushroom contains about 2% of our recommended DV of iron.

Our Lion’s Mane Powder is 100% organic and natural, and makes a convenient, iron-boosting addition to your favourite recipes. It’s easy to add to hot drinks, and smoothies, or you can even mix it into soups and stews! If you’re thinking of trying lion’s mane, don’t forget to choose an organic product to avoid any chemicals or pesticides making their way into your food.

Mushroom hot chocolate

Dark chocolate

Fortunately, dark chocolate is not only incredibly delicious but also nutritious. A 28g serving contains 3.4mg of iron, which is almost 20% of the DV!

However, not all chocolate is the same. Compounds known as flavanols are responsible for chocolate’s benefits, and the flavanol content of dark chocolate is much higher than that of milk chocolate. Subsequently, it’s best to consume chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa to get the maximum benefits.(6)

Our raw chocolate granola contains 4mg of iron per 100g whilst being a delicious, chocolatey snack with benefits for your gut health. Simply enjoy as a filling snack, or pair with yoghurt or milk for a healthy iron-rich breakfast!

hemp protein powder


Technically a nut, hemp seeds are very nutritious. They have a mild, nutty flavor and are often referred to as hemp hearts. In addition, they have a great nutritional profile being rich in healthy fats, protein and various minerals. In fact, hemp seed powder contains iron in abundance, boasting 7mg of iron per 30g, which accounts for up to 40% of our DV! 

The Erbology Organic Hemp Protein Powder is a fantastic source of iron. Try adding a spoonful to your daily routine to increase your intake. You can add it into a post-workout smoothie or mix it into breads and cakes.

chia seed powder

Chia seeds

Also known as the edible seeds of Salvia hispanica, a flowering plant in the mint family, chia seeds are native to central and southern Mexico. ‘Chia’ means strength! This tiny  seed comes packed loaded with nutrients and is also a great source of iron. Just 2 tbsp (15g) of chia seed powder provide 1.8mg of iron, which is equivalent to 10% of our DV of iron. 

The seeds are an unprocessed whole-grain, and unlike flaxseeds, they are easily absorbed by the body. Our Organic Chia Powder is not simply made of ground chia seeds. First, we cold-press the seeds to extract the oil. As a result, our powder is more concentrated and rich in minerals and vitamins. Simply stir into porridge, smoothies or mix into baked goods like cookies and cakes if you enjoy mildly nutty notes of flavour.

Is red meat one of the best sources of iron?

Red meat contains heme-iron. This is the form most readily absorbed by our bodies. For example, we absorb up to 30% percent of the heme iron that we consume. Top animal-based sources of iron include red meats such as beef, lamb and pork. Generally speaking, the redder the meat, the higher its iron content.

Red meats and their iron content:

  • 100g of beef contains 2.6mg of iron/ 14% of our DV
  • 100g of lamb contains 1.9mg of iron/ 10% of our DV
  • 100g of pork contains 0.9mg of iron/ 4% of our DV
  • 100g of veal contains 1 mg of iron/ 5% of our DV

However, the World Health Organization has classified processed meat as a carcinogen. Diets high in red meats can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

Furthermore, it’s worth mentioning that compared to beef burgers (made with red meat), plant-based burgers are associated with up to 98% less greenhouse gas emissions. This is because plant-based products generally require much less agricultural land, need less water and cause less pollution than animal products.(7

Hence, to minimise our environmental impact and risk of disease, it’s clear that reducing meat intake is one of the leading solutions. Fortunately, the previous 9 plant-based sources of iron are a clear indication that our iron intake wouldn’t be negatively impacted, whilst helping to reduce our risk of disease. 

Supplement pills

Do I need to take iron supplements?

Generally speaking, the majority of people should be able to get all the iron they need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you do decide to take iron supplements, avoid taking too much as this can be harmful.

In healthy people, taking high doses of iron supplements (particularly on an empty stomach) can cause an upset stomach, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Large amounts of iron may also cause more serious effects, including inflammation of the stomach lining and ulcers.(8)

However, it’s essential to highlight that iron intake is important. Simply put, without enough iron, there aren’t enough red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body, ultimately leading to fatigue and potential anemia.

Furthermore, iron from plant sources is not as well absorbed as the heme-iron from meat. However, consuming non-heme iron alongside foods containing vitamin C will help increase the amount of iron your body absorbs.

For example, you can sprinkle chia seeds over a fruit bowl with kiwis and oranges.. Or you can add baby spinach, peppers or tomatoes to a tofu dish to enhance your iron absorption.(9) The combinations are endless!

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  3. Schlemmer, U., Frølich, W., Prieto, R.M. and Grases, F., 2009. Phytate in foods and significance for humans: food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis. Molecular nutrition & food research, 53(S2), pp.S330-S375.
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  8. Iron, NIH Website, 30.Jan2023.
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