Foods High in Iron and Zinc


A diet rich in iron and zinc may lower your risk of anemia, neurological disorders like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and age-related macular degeneration. Men need 8 milligrams of iron and 11 milligrams of zinc daily, while women should have 18 milligrams of iron and 8 milligrams of zinc per day. Eating a variety of foods can help you get enough. Talk to your doctor if you're concerned about how much iron and zinc is in your diet.

Big plate of cooked blue mussels.
Big plate of cooked blue mussels. (Image: Matthew Bechelli/iStock/Getty Images)

Look for Fortified Cereals

A 1-cup serving of some fortified, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals can contain as much as 16 milligrams of iron and 4 milligrams of zinc. That's over 100 percent of a man's recommended daily intake of iron and 36 percent of his zinc requirement. It would supply 89 percent of a woman's iron needs and 50 percent of her zinc.

Not all breakfast cereals are fortified with this same level of iron and zinc, and some contain more sodium and sugar than is healthy. Find an iron- and zinc-fortified cereal that has less than 240 milligrams of sodium and 7 grams of sugar per serving along with at least 3 grams of fiber. To absorb the maximum amount of iron, eat the cereal along with a food rich in vitamin C, such as fresh strawberries or fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Child sitting beside bowl of cereal.
Child sitting beside bowl of cereal. (Image: Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Include Seeds and Nuts

Meat, poultry and seafood are some of the richest natural sources of iron and zinc, but they aren't the only ones. Vegans and vegetarians can get their requirements with seeds and nuts. Each cup of roasted pumpkin seeds contains nearly 10 milligrams of iron and 9 milligrams of zinc. Toasted sunflower seed kernels have 9 grams of iron and 7 grams of zinc per cup, and dry-roasted almonds supply 5 grams of iron and over 4 grams of zinc in a 1-cup serving.

Like iron, zinc from a plant-based source such as seeds or nuts isn't as easily absorbed as the form of the mineral found in animal-based foods. To get more zinc from seeds and nuts, eat them as part of a high-protein meal -- stir them into Greek yogurt or include them in a tofu stir-fry.

Pumpkin seeds on wooden spoon.
Pumpkin seeds on wooden spoon. (Image: HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images)

Consume Plenty of Shellfish

Oysters have a higher natural concentration of zinc than any other food, with almost 67 milligrams in a 3-ounce serving. They're also rich in iron: those 3 ounces contain about 8 milligrams, all a man needs for a day and 44 percent of a woman's recommended daily allowance. Other shellfish members of the mollusk family are also good ways to increase your intake of both nutrients. A cup of blue mussels has 6 milligrams of iron and 2 milligrams of zinc; 3 ounces of octopus contains over 4 milligrams of iron and 1 milligram of zinc.

Oysters on grill.
Oysters on grill. (Image: SpVVK/iStock/Getty Images)

Eat More Beans and Legumes

A cup of cooked black beans supplies 66 percent of a man's daily iron requirement and 13 percent of his need for zinc. The same amount gives a woman 29 percent of the iron and around 18 percent of the zinc she needs each day. Cooked green soybeans, also known as edamame, have 4 milligrams of iron and over 1 gram of zinc per cup. Lima beans and black-eyed peas are other choices rich in both iron and zinc.

Eat cooked beans and legumes with vitamin C -- a soup containing tomatoes, for example -- or a high-protein food like meat, fish or poultry to absorb the maximum amount of both minerals.

Lima beans growing in garden.
Lima beans growing in garden. (Image: Henry J Jacobs/iStock/Getty Images)

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