By Paige Green, Hy-Vee Dietitian on Wednesday, June 2, 2021


Broccoli is a great source of iron for both meat-eaters and vegetarians!

Are you pumping enough iron ... in the kitchen?

You may pump iron regularly at the gym, but your bodies pump it continuously every day. Iron is a key component of red blood cells – a taxicab for oxygen, if you will. It picks up oxygen in the lungs, drives it through the bloodstream, and parks it into skin and muscle tissues. If deficient, there will be less taxi rides leading to decreased oxygen carrying capacity and anemia can occur.

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common deficiency in the world. Symptoms include low energy, frequent headaches, pale skin, and even a condition known as pica, or cravings from non-food items such as dirt. If anemia is left untreated, heart problems can occur.

RECIPE: Italian Pork Chop Sheet Pan Dinner

There are two types of iron found in food: heme and non-heme. Sources of heme iron are only found in animal products and the body can absorb these 2-3 times more than non-heme. Although less iron is absorbed in plant sources, by simply adding a vitamin C source to a vegetarian iron pick, you can significantly enhance absorption.

Curious to know which foods can get you to your iron goal (Men: 8 mg/day, Women < age 50: 18 mg, Women > age 51: 8 mg)? 

Lean Red Meat

If you like to grill (or reap the benefits), you’re going to love this iron pick. It may be less likely to develop iron deficiency if meat, poultry and fish are enjoyed on a regular basis. A serving of ground beef contains a good source of iron as well as immune-boosting zinc and muscle building protein.

Pumpkin Seeds

No matter how you toss them, in salads or trail mixes, pumpkin seeds are soaring with iron and healthy fats. These small gems are also amongst the best sources of magnesium which most Americans are low in, too.   


This go-to veggie is a favorite amongst both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Steam or roast with olive oil and then quirt lemon on it to rev up the flavor and make the broccoli’s iron more absorbable.  


As if you really needed another reason to love this leafy green. Not only is it a rich source of iron, it can easily be added to any dish. Popeye even approves.

5-2-1-0: Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and veggies everyday!

Vegetarian Delights

If you’re not much of a meat eater, tofu or beans, like kidney and garbanzo are great sources. Keep in mind, foods from plants have non-heme iron so it’s best to pair these picks with vitamin C to absorb the iron better.


Scrambled or sunny-side up, however you enjoy them you’ll get a hefty dose of iron. Add some iron-fortified toast to the side and you’ll score big. A little tip, coffee or hot tea with breakfast may take away some of the iron benefit as they keep you from absorbing this nutrient as well. 

Maybe these particular foods are consumed every day, yet maybe there’s one on the list that you can include to your weekly menu. Regardless, it’s time to stop feeling run-down due to our diet lacking a nutrient found in all departments of the grocery store. Feed your best in the kitchen so you can feel your best at the gym.

paigePaige Green received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management at the University of Northern Iowa in 2012. She pursued her passion for nutrition at Iowa State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics during the spring of 2015. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Paige truly sets out to educate individuals on finding a healthy balance in life and her passion for people and nutrition inspires clients of all ages. You can find Paige at the Ames Hy-Vee on Lincoln Way.