While it won’t give you superhuman strength, Popeye’s favorite food is a great source of iron—an essential mineral that helps transport oxygen around the body. The National Institutes of Health recommend that women between the ages of 19 and 50 get 18 milligrams of iron a day, while women ages 51 and older (and men 19 years and up) need 8 mg per day. Get too little of this vital nutrient, and you may experience symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath and headaches (psst: iron also helps maintain healthy hair, skin and nails). To make sure you get your fill, we tapped nutritionist Frida Harju-Westman for her top sources (beyond boring salad).

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cauliflower rice bowl with curried lentils carrots and yogurt recipe
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell


“Available throughout the year, lentils are a great source of iron, fiber and protein,” Harju-Westman tells us. Just a 150g serving (approximately five ounces) will give you one third of your daily iron requirements. Not too shabby. 

What to make: Cauliflower Rice Bowl with Curried Lentils, Carrots and Yogurt

Skillet Steak with Asparagus and Potatoes recipe

Red Meat

Researchers at the University of Newcastle found that those who regularly consume red meat are less likely to suffer from an iron deficiency than those who eat other types of meat or avoid it altogether. Note: This doesn’t give you permission to tuck into a juicy steak every night—keep your weekly intake to 500 grams or less (about 17 ounces), says Harju-Westman. 

What to make: Skillet Steak with Asparagus and Potatoes

Buddha Bowl Spring Dinner recipe

Pumpkin Seeds

A handful of these green gems will provide you with almost 20 percent of your recommended daily intake of iron. They also boast good amounts of zinc, magnesium and copper, plus high levels of antioxidants which work to protect you from a number of diseases. Keep a bag handy to snack on or sprinkle them on a salad for a crunchy, nutritional boost.

What to make: Buddha Bowl with Kale, Avocado, Orange and Wild Rice

The Ultimate Quinoa Avocado Bowl recipe


This gluten-free rice alternative is a good source of iron but make sure that you soak or slow-cook it, Harju-Westman advises. That’s because quinoa contains phytic acid which, when activated, actually reduces our absorption of iron.

What to make: The Ultimate Quinoa-Avocado Bowl

broccoli cauliflower gratin


Adding a cup of steamed broccoli to your dinner will provide you with almost 10 percent of your recommended daily intake of iron. It also contains vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron. Talk about a superfood.

What to make: Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin

dark chocolate dipped mandarins

Dark chocolate

Well, here’s some amazing news. In addition to being loaded with antioxidants, dark chocolate is also a good source of iron with one serving containing about 20 percent of your recommended daily intake. But just remember to watch your sugar intake, OK? (Think: one square after dinner and not the entire bar.)

pistachio crusted pork tenderloin 921

Pistachio nuts

“Another great snack, pistachio nuts contain almost four times the amount of iron found in other nuts,” says Harju-Westman. Sprinkle them onto yogurt for a tasty breakfast or use them as a flavorful crust on fish and meat.

What to make: Pistachio-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Escarole Salad


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