Only certain fish & seafood are rich in iron!

Anchovies & sardines are the richest fish in iron, containing up to 3.3 mg per 100g. Octopus, oysters & clams are also iron-rich seafood.

How much iron in fish?

Most fish contain low amounts of iron. Only anchovies, sardines, and mackerel are good dietary sources of iron, containing 1.6-3.3 mg of iron per 100g.

Actually, anchovies are the richest fish in iron. A serving provides 15% of the Daily Value (DV).

Other fish with decent amounts of iron are herring, mullet, and tuna. A serving provides 5% of the DV. Other common fish provide 2% of the required daily intake per serving or less.

iron (mg)
per 100g
iron (mg)
per serving
% DV
anchovy3.252.815%
sardine2.3211%
mackerel1.631.48%
herring1.1215%
mullet10.95%
tuna10.95%
tilapia0.560.53%
swordfish0.380.32%
cod0.380.32%
salmon0.380.32%
catfish0.30.31%
pollock0.220.21%
haddock0.170.11%
Iron in fish.[1]

Keep in mind that fish oil has no iron. Fish oils are only rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Cod liver oil is also particularly high in vitamin A and vitamin D.

Is seafood rich in iron?

Iron-rich seafood is octopus, oysters and clams. Octopus is the richest seafood in iron, providing 45% of the DV per serving. Octopus has 9.5 mg of iron per 100g!

Oysters are the second-richest seafood in iron, providing 27% of the DV per serving. Clams provide 13% of the DV per serving.

Squid, crabs, scallops, shrimps, and lobster have a much lower iron content.

iron (mg)
per 100g
iron (mg)
per serving
% DV
octopus9.58.145%
oysters5.784.927%
clam2.82.413%
squid10.95%
crab0.740.63%
scallops0.520.53%
shrimps0.520.42%
lobster0.260.21%
Iron in seafood.

Do we absorb iron in fish & other seafood?

Fish and seafood have the highest iron bioavailability as compared to other common foods. It’s estimated that we absorb up to 18% of iron in mixed diets that include seafood.

Moreover, better eat fish and other seafood with foods with vitamin C. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption. For instance, you could sprinkle lemon juice on your seafood. Lemon juice is one of the richest foods in vitamin C.[2]

Honey can increase the absorption of iron in foods as well.

Most noteworthy, fish consumption increases the absorption rate of non-heme iron; the type of iron found in plant-based foods.

According to a study, the consumption of a fatty fish, like salmon, can substantially increase the absorption rate of phytate-rich foods, like beans! Although, beans are excellent dietary sources of iron, they contain anti-nutrient compounds, which inhibit the absorption of iron. Meat and poultry have a similar effect to fish.[3]

What inhibits iron absorption?

First, certain compounds of plant-based foods, such as phytates and polyphenols, inhibit the absorption of iron in fish and other seafood. Polyphenols bind to iron in the intestine, inhibiting its absorption.

Plants high in phytate are beans. whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Foods high in polyphenols are berries, herbs, and spices. In addition, you should avoid drinking too much coffee, tea, or red wine when consuming seafood and other iron-rich foods. These beverages contain high amounts of polyphenols.

High amounts of calcium may inhibit the absorption of iron in seafood as well. Therefore, better avoid seafood recipes with milk or other dairy.

Can we get too much iron from fish or other seafood?

In fact, it’s rather unlikely to exceed the maximum safe dose of iron by eating fish and other seafood. Even people who overconsume foods fortified with iron (e.g. cereals) have very little risk of iron overload.

Practically, people may experience side effects of iron toxicity only by taking high doses from supplements.

Always consult your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement, or changing your diet.

Should we eat fish or other seafood to get iron?

Certainly, fish and other seafood can contribute to the daily iron intake. However, we shouldn’t depend on seafood to meet our daily needs of iron. After all, there is a wide variety of iron-rich foods.

However, consuming small amounts of fish or other seafood could significantly increase the absorption rate of other plant-based foods high in iron.

Other animal-based foods high in iron

All animal-based foods have decent amounts of iron. You can eat small amounts of meat, poultry, or eggs with plant-based foods high in iron to increase their iron absorption.

Beef liver and chicken liver are the richest foods in iron, though. A serving provides 34% of the DV.

Plant-based foods high in iron

Actually, many plant-based foods are good dietary sources of iron. Whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoesdark chocolate, as well as certain vegetables and fruits are high in non-heme iron.

Beans are the richest plant-based sources of iron, though. For instance, green peas, soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas provide 25-50% of the DV per serving! You can eat them with meat, fish or other seafood for increased iron absorption! Also, soaking and rinsing beans substantially increases their bioavailability.

Avocado is one of the richest fruit in iron! Prunes, currants, berries are other common iron-rich fruits.

How much iron do I need a day?

Adult men and women older than 51 years require only 8 mg of iron a day. However, women of reproductive age, and pregnant women require much higher dosages. They require 18 and 27 mg of iron a day, respectively.

As iron in fish, seafood, meat, and other animal-based foods is more bioavailable than nonheme iron from plant-based foods, vegetarians, vegans, and people who follow a plant-based diet should consume at least 1.8 times more iron from diet than meat eaters!

As women require high dosages of iron, they may have a hard time to meet their daily needs from food. Especially, women who follow a plant-based diet. They may benefit from taking an iron supplement.

You’ll find a wide variety of iron supplements on iHerb.

Actually, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide. It may lead to serious adverse effects, such as gastrointestinal disturbances, impaired cognition, weakened immune function, fatigue, low body temperature, premature delivery, and even miscarriage.[4]

Iron is a key component of hemoglobin. This protein of red blood cells transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. In addition, iron is involved in energy metabolism, cellular functioning, physical growth, neurological development, and the synthesis of some hormones, amino acids, and collagen.[5]