Any cut of beef, including steak, will add a lot of iron to your diet, but you may be concerned about eating too much saturated fat or getting too many calories from one meal. Fortunately, there are other types of food also loaded with iron. From shellfish to cereal, there is a variety that you may include in your daily diet without worrying about your waistline.
Healthy adult women need 18 milligrams of daily iron, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. A 3-ounce broiled top sirloin steak has approximately 2.8 milligrams of iron, which is 15 percent of this recommendation. However, you’ll need quite a bit more if you’re pregnant – 27 milligrams per day. If you nurse after your little one is born, you won’t need quite as much. In this case you’ll only need 9 milligrams per day. You’ll be able to drop down to 8 milligrams daily after age 51.
Clams are loaded with iron, giving you a lot more than steak. Three ounces of canned clams has nearly 24 milligrams of iron, which is well over your daily recommendation from a single serving. You might want to make a second trip to the raw bar at your company party. Six medium raw oysters contain over 5.5 milligrams of iron.
Also look to your side dish to get the iron you need. Sautéed spinach has a whopping 6.4 milligrams of iron in a 1-cup serving, more than double the amount of iron you’ll get from a steak. Add a little color to your heaping side of spinach by mixing in diced stewed tomatoes. You’ll add more than 0.8 milligrams of iron to spinach just by mixing in one-quarter cup of stewed tomatoes.
Some types of breakfast cereal meet your daily iron recommendation in one single serving. Breakfast cereals fortified with iron have as much as 18 milligrams of iron in a serving – just read the nutrition facts label to determine the exact amount in your favorite cereal. Even flavored instant oatmeal has 3.8 milligrams of iron in a single packet.
Even though spinach and cereal add lots of iron to your diet, the type of iron found in plants, called nonheme iron, doesn’t get absorbed easily. Your body only absorbs 2 to 20 percent of the nonheme iron from cereal, vegetables and other plant sources. This is far less than the 15 to 35 percent absorption of heme iron from meat, fish, poultry, dairy and other animal-based foods, reports the Office of Dietary Supplements.
Vitamin C helps your body soak up nonheme iron from plant-based foods. Drink a glass of orange juice with your breakfast or have a piece of whole fruit. You’ll not only give your system a vitamin C boost, you will also absorb more nonheme iron.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.