Lack of iron, anemia? The best anti-deficiency foods

Often tired, a little anemic, pale… Here is the list of foods richest in iron.

Your iron level is too low? Are you anemic? Tired? It's necessary favor foods rich in “heme” iron, better absorbed by the body, immediately warns Laura Azenard, naturopath. As a reminder, experts have set a safe daily dose of 28 mg of iron per day.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate, in tablet form, contains 22.8 mg of iron per 100 g, which makes it an excellent source of iron. To benefit from its benefits, choose it as black as possible, at least 70% cocoa.

Black pudding

Whether sautéed or pan-fried, black pudding is the food richest in iron with 23 mg per 100g. During periods of deficiency (or during periods for example), you can consume it once a week, for example.

Offal and red meats

Offal like kidneys or liver are particularly interesting for filling an iron deficiency. Cooked pork liver, for example, contains 17 mg per 100g, lamb kidney, 12.4 and chicken liver 12. Red meats such as beef or duck are also good sources of iron: around 9 mg per 100g. Be careful, however, to consume them in moderation: the consumption of meats other than poultry (beef, pork, lamb, etc.) should not exceed 500 g per week.


On the first step of the podium: white beans with 7 mg of iron per 100g. Lentils are also good sources of iron (lentils contain between 6 and 7 mg per 100g). Generally speaking, the iron from plants is much better absorbed if it is associated with foods rich in vitamin C such as kiwis, red fruits, citrus fruits, guavas, peppers, fennel, spinach, cabbage… Which we ideally choose as fresh as possible, seasonal, local and organic. “The idea is to combine legumes with vegetables rich in vitamin C : so, we won't hesitate to prepare a pan of lentils with peppers for example!“, advises the naturopath.

Whole grains

Whole grains should be preferred such as: oatmeal, whole barley, oat bran, whole wheat. But be careful, whole grains (whole wheat, whole rice) (just like legumes (beans, lentils)) contain phytic acid in their shell, a biomolecule which prevents the proper assimilation of nutrients. It is therefore advisable to Soak whole grains and legumes (or sprout them) before cooking to remove phytic acid.

Aromatic herbs

Dried aromatic herbs such as thyme, basil, mint, marjoram, herbs de Provence, parsley, savory, oregano… can be sprinkled on dishes and provide a little iron. For example, dried thyme contains 124 mg of iron per 100 grams; dried basil 90 mg/100g or even dried mint 87.5 mg/100g. Likewise, herbs such as cumin seeds, fenugreek, fennel, coriander, chia, sesame are also good sources of iron, indicates our naturopath.

Algae like spirulina

It contains approximately 9 mg of iron per serving (3 grams). Consume it in powder or flakes sprinkled on your salads, soups or green juices. Please note, the nutritional quality of all minerals is altered above 100°C, hence the interest in turn to gentle cooking (stewed, steamed, etc.) and at low temperature. Note that vitamin C (contained in green vegetables or algae for example) is even more fragile since it deteriorates from 60°C.

Spinach, a false belief?

According to Popeye, spinach is an incredible source of iron. However, with only 3 mg per 100 g, this vegetable is far from being the product that contains the most. However, cooked and boiled spinach contains more iron than raw spinach. Additionally, they are powerful antioxidants and excellent sources of vitamin C.

Tea and coffee after a meal when you lack iron

It is indeed necessary be wary of tannins present in tea, red wine or coffee which can alter iron assimilation of plant origin. It is considered better to drink tea (ideally green or sencha, because these teas are oxidizing and rich in vitamin C) or a coffee between 30 minutes and 1 hour after the meal rather than at the same time.

Which foods contain heme iron, which is best absorbed?

Our diet offers two types of iron: heme iron (the best absorbed) and non-heme iron.

heme iron is contained in animal proteins such as red meats, fish and shellfishs (clams, oysters), offal (liver, kidneys), cold meats (black pudding)… Heme iron is relatively well assimilated during digestion : it is estimated that it is 25% bioavailable (the bioavailability of dietary iron corresponds to the percentage of dietary iron consumed that crosses the intestinal barrier). Note that red meats or fish have a good zinc content, a trace element which contributes to the good assimilation of iron.

► the non-heme iron is contained in the fruits, vegetables and legumes. These products have a lower iron content and the latter is much less absorbable than heme iron: it is estimated that it is bioavailable at 10%. Note that among the foods containing non-heme iron, there are algae. The latter contain so-called complexed iron, that is to say that this iron has the particularity of being surrounded by plant molecules allowing it to be much better assimilated by the body. There spirulina, wakame or even dulse are algae that have a good complexed iron content. But how to consume them? There spirulina can be found in food supplements, powder or flakes that can be sprinkled on soups, salads, steamed vegetables or even compotes. But beware,Spirulina is a real “sponge” and tends to soak up everything in the air or water with which it comes into contact, including pollutants. It is therefore better to choose it with the “Spiruliniers de France” logo, a label that respects organic commitments and a healthy growing environment.“, recommends the naturopath.

Not too much iron either: watch out for overload

Iron is an antioxidant when the body has a normal level. On the other hand, if it is in excess, it becomes very oxidative and can cause fatigue, a feeling of weakness and develop complications affecting the heart, liver and endocrine organs. “We must be wary of heme iron since, as our body assimilates it very well, some people – overconsuming red meat or cold meats – may have iron overload and be at risk of developing low-grade inflammation (the intestine is damaged and becomes porous)“, specifies the expert. And if the body is overloaded with iron, there is a greater risk in the long term of developing hemochromatosis (genetic disease linked to excessive iron absorption), or cardiovascular or respiratory diseases, metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes. Iron overload is relatively rare and can be treated if caught early. This problem concerns more certain men and women over 50 who are less likely to eliminate iron.

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