Creative Ways to Add Iron to your Diet

Allison J. Stowell, MS, RD, CDN

If your health care professional has diagnosed you with iron deficiency anemia (IDA), he or she may have mentioned a thing or two you can do on your own to try to manage your condition. Most likely your diet was part of the conversation. Consuming iron-rich foods can help you increase your iron stores and may help you manage IDA. 

So which foods are best? 
For breakfast or snack, consider having 1 cup of Special K cereal or a packet of plain, fortified oatmeal. Looking for a healthy snack? Try a half cup of canned black or kidney beans or 1/3 cup hummus. Quinoa, raisins and eggs are also good options. Chicken liver, six medium-size oysters and 4 oz. of 90 percent lean ground beef are excellent iron-rich proteins to include in your lunch or dinner.   

Add some “C”
When it comes to iron absorption, adding vitamin C from vegetables and citrus is a must. Think of vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes, broccoli and strawberries as absorption “boosters” that may help you absorb iron better.

While you can create this necessary pair by simply adding orange or grapefruit juice, consider more interesting food combinations such as…

  • Adding a citrus salsa to grilled steak
  • Squeezing fresh lime over a black bean salad (add some diced avocado for additional iron and vitamin C)
  • Making beef and broccoli for dinner (pair it with iron fortified noodles)
  • Preparing a summer salad of fresh spinach, strawberries and walnuts

Now that you are on your way to trying to manage your IDA with changes to your diet, we thought you might want to give this iron rich recipe a try!

Lentil and Fennel Salad (Courtesy of

4 Servings (serving size: 1 cup)

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

1 ¼ cups dried lentils
¾ cup (1/4 inch thick) red bell pepper strips, each cut in half crosswise
½ cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
½ cup thinly vertically sliced onion
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, divided

To prepare dressing, combine first 7 ingredients, stirring with a whisk.

To prepare salad, place lentils in a large saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above lentils. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer 18 minutes or until just tender. Drain. Place lentils in a large bowl; stir in dressing, bell pepper, fennel, onion and 2 tbsp parsley. Sprinkle 1 tbsp parsley over top of salad. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Nutrition information
Amount per serving
Calories: 282
Calories from fat: 24%
Iron: 6.3mg
Fat: 7.5g
Saturated fat: 1g
Monounsaturated fat: 5.1g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.9g
Protein: 16.3g
Carbohydrate: 40.1g
Fiber: 14.8g
Cholesterol: 0.0mg
Sodium: 306mg
Calcium: 51mg

The information in this article is for informational purposes only and not intended to provide medical advice. You should direct all questions about your health to your health care provider.

Allison Stowell, MS RD CDN is a practicing dietician and experienced nutrition consultant and writer.