Are fruits high in iron? What about iron absorption?

fruits high in iron

Do you worry about your iron levels? Better prefer fruits high in iron. Also avoid some foods, as they inhibit iron absorption.

Daily Iron needs

Most people need about 8-18 mg of iron daily.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of Dietary Supplements, our iron needs depend on age and sex:

  • the kids need about 7-11 mg of iron per day.
  • women have higher demands though. Usually, women need about 18 mg of iron per day. Pregnant women need even more. They need 27 mg of iron daily. Also, adequate dietary intake of iron may help women to get pregnant!
  • men need less iron. Only 8 mg per day.
  • the elderly needs also about 8 mg of iron daily.

Common fruits high in iron

According to data from the US Department of Agriculture, many fruits have iron.

The fruits that are richest in iron are:

  • goji berries (6.43 mg)
  • raisins (2.59 -3.1 mg)
  • prunes (1.12 mg)
  • currants (1 mg)
  • raspberries  (0.76 mg)
  • blackberries  (0.62 mg)
  • lemon (0.6 mg)
  • avocado (0.55 mg)
  • cherries (0.53 mg)
  • strawberries  (0.41 mg)

Additionally, other fruits with significant amounts of iron are:

  • apricots (0.39 mg)
  • figs (0.37 mg)
  • grapes (0.36 mg)
  • kiwi (0.31 mg)
  • pomegranates (0.3 mg)
  • blueberries  (0.28 mg)
  • banana (0.26 mg)
  • peaches (0.25 mg)
  • watermelon (0.24 mg)
  • cranberries  (0.23 mg)

As you can see, goji berries are the fruit with a very high amount of iron. Additionally, goji berries are super rich in calcium. They contain even more calcium than cow’s milk.

Other common fruits such as apples (0.13 mg), oranges (0.1 mg), grapefruits (0.09 mg), mandarin oranges (0.15 mg), or pears (0.18 mg) don’t have any significant iron content.

The data may vary depending on the variety though. There is no need to go crazy with numbers. Just put in your porridge some goji berries and raisins, if you have high demands in iron…

All the other iron-rich fruits can help you meet your daily iron demands.

Eat fruit with the skin

It’s a good idea to eat fruits with the skin.

Better prefer organic seasonal fruits. Eat them with the skin. Don’t peel them. You’ll lose many vitamins and minerals.

For instance, apple with the skin contains 0.13 mg of iron per 100 grams. If you peel it, the iron content drops to 0.07 mg per 100 grams.

Moreover, the skin of fruits is rich in fiber and antioxidants. Don’t forget that the skin of fruits it’s the first line of defense against diseases and predators.

Hence better don’t peel fruits such as apples.

Of course, the fruits must be organic.

In another case, better avoid the skin. Why? Because chemicals are concentrated in the skin.

Dried fruits high in iron

Dried fruits contain even more iron per 100 grams.

You can eat them as a snack. Only have in mind the greater sugar content.

Raw (mg)Dried/Dehydrated (mg)
goji berries 6.436.8
prunes1.123.52
currants 13.26
cherries 0.530.68
figs0.372.03
apricots 0.396.31
apples 0.132
banana 0.261.15
kiwi0.311.29
pineapple 0.290.83
blueberries  0.280.9
papaya  0.250.85
cranberries  0.230.39

What type of dried fruit to prefer?

Every process method may destroy some nutrients. What method preserves the most?

Uncooked dried fruits have more iron

Whenever possible prefer uncooked dried fruits. They contain much more iron than cooked dried fruits.

For instance, stewed figs contain only 0.88 mg per 100 grams. The same uncooked dried fruit contain 2.03 mg of iron. That’s 130% more iron.

Additionally, cooked foods may inhibit iron absorption. In a study, scientists found that women absorbed much more iron from raw bananas, compared to cooked (2).

Always look at the label of nutrition facts though.

Dried vs dehydrated fruits

Dried fruits may have different nutritional content than dehydrated ones.

That’s because dried and dehydrated fruits come from different processing methods:

  • Drying is a simple method. Through drying, we remove the moisture of fruits. It’s rather common to use the sun for this purpose. Unfortunately, many nutrients are lost this way.
  • Dehydration is a more sophisticated method. We want to remove moisture as well. We manage this with expensive equipment, that controls both the temperature and humidity of a room.

But why should we concern? Because through the dehydration process most nutrients are preserved.

For instance, dried apricots contain 2.66 mg of iron per 100 grams. On the other hand, dehydrated apricots contain 6.31 mg per 100 grams. That’s huge.

Additionally, vitamins are more vulnerable to heat and air oxidation.

Just to mention, raw apricots contain 10 mg of vitamin C. Dehydrated apricots contain pretty much the same amount (9.5 mg). In contrast to sun-dried apricots that contain only 1 mg of vitamin C.

So, what fruit processing method preserves more iron?

It’s better to prefer uncooked, dehydrated fruits. They contain more minerals such as iron and calcium, than dried fruits.

Pay attention to the sugar content of dried or dehydrated fruits though. It’s much greater than raw fruits.

Exotic fruits high in iron

Other more exotic or tropical fruits that contain iron are:

  • durian (0.43 mg)
  • pineapple (0.29 mg)
  • papaya (0.25 mg)
  • mango (0.16 mg)
  • dragonfruit (0.15 mg)

How to absorb the most iron?

It’s very important to absorb the most iron from food. There are foods you should eat and others to avoid.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, we can improve iron absorption by following these simple rules.

Vitamin C increases iron absorption.

Vitamin C helps significantly in iron absorption. As most fruits are rich in vitamin C you better consume lots of them.

Furthermore, many fruits are a good source of iron. It’s good for us to consume at least 3 servings per day.

Vitamin C is more important for vegans or people who follow a whole food plant-based diet. The type of iron that comes from plants is called non-heme. Vitamin C greatly improves the absorption of non-heme iron.

Don’t forget… Not eating fruits, is the number one reason for dying early (1).

Avoid tea, coffee, and red wine

Avoid tea, coffee, and red wine when eating foods rich in iron. 

Tea, coffee, and red wine are rich in polyphenols. Although polyphenols are powerful antioxidants, they inhibit iron absorption.

Polyphenol-rich beverages, such as tea, coffee, or wine can reduce iron absorption by up to 83%.

Calcium may inhibit iron absorption

Avoid foods rich in calcium, while consuming foods rich in iron. Calcium may inhibit iron absorption.

Consuming dairy, such as milk or cheese had a great effect in iron absorption.

Scientists didn’t observe iron inhibition when the amount of calcium in a meal was less than 50 mg.

Can you depend on fruits for iron?

Many fruits are high in iron. Especially goji berries and raisins. Eat them regularly.

Consuming fruits rich in iron can help you meet the daily iron requirements.

Other foods rich in iron are fortified cereals, beans, dark chocolate, lentils, spinach, tofu, beets, chickpeas, tomatoes, potatoes, cashew nuts, green peas, rice, whole bread, pistachio nuts, broccoli and many more.

There are so many vegan options for iron intake…

Sources:

  1. A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990-2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.
  2. Iron absorption in raw and cooked bananas: a field study using stable isotopes in women