What Foods Are Low in Iron?

By Kelsey Casselbury

The public health conversation typically revolves around getting more iron in your diet -- after all, 2 billion people worldwide are iron-deficient. However, those who have dysmetabolic iron overload syndrome, meaning they have too much iron, need to watch out for how much of this mineral they eat. By watching portion sizes and choosing your meals wisely, you can avoid getting too much iron.

Fruits and Vegetables

Steer clear of spirulina, edamame, morel mushrooms and spinach if you're on a low-iron diet. Instead, snack on raw Asian pears -- which are naturally iron-free -- as well as arugula, which has 0.03 milligram of the mineral per leaf, and shiitake mushrooms, with 0.08 milligram per piece. Apples, zucchini, cabbage and baby carrots are also low in iron.

Dairy and Grains

Dairy products are generally low in iron -- according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, products such as fat-free cheddar and American cheeses do not have any iron, while fat-free cream cheese has just 0.03 milligram per tablespoon. A 5.3-ounce serving of nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt contains just 0.06 milligram. Many grains are high in iron, but rice-based grains including white rice or rice noodles are low -- a cup of white cooked rice has 0.32 milligram. Couscous is also low in iron, with 0.6 milligram per cup. Avoid whole grains such as whole wheat, quinoa, oats and barley, which are all high in iron.

Protein Options

Many protein options, particularly animal-based proteins, are notoriously high in iron. However, you don't need to become a vegetarian to avoid iron overload -- just choose carefully and keep your portion sizes in check. According to the USDA, 3 ounces of roasted turkey meat -- the proper portion size, according to the American Heart Association -- has just 0.22 milligram of iron. If you prefer chicken, 3 ounces of braised chicken breast, sans skin, has just 0.42 milligram of iron. Beef is slightly higher in iron; 3 ounces of broiled beef tenderloin has slightly more than 1.5 milligrams of iron.

Seafood is a smart choice when you're on a low-iron diet. Three ounces of cooked halibut has just 0.17 milligram of iron, while an entire lobster has just 0.39 milligram. For vegetarians who enjoy soy products, each 100-gram serving of extra firm tofu has 1.2 milligrams of iron.

Sample Daily Menu

Common breakfast foods such as oatmeal and eggs are high in iron, so instead start your day with protein-rich Greek yogurt and a piece of low-iron fruit, like an apple. For lunch, enjoy a salad made from arugula, rather than spinach, and a variety of low-iron vegetables, such as radishes and baby carrots. Top it with 3 ounces of chicken or turkey for a dose of protein. For dinner, whip up a meal of fish such as halibut or salmon and pair it with cooked carrots and couscous.

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