The Best Iron Rich Foods for the Elderly

Shellfish in Glass

Impaired iron absorption and reduced dietary intake are two reasons it is pertinent for the elderly to eat iron-rich foods. You will find two types of iron-rich foods:

  • Heme iron, which is found in animals
  • Non-heme iron, which is found in plant sources

A healthy adult should absorb around 5% to 15% of total iron. Several different factors may influence one’s iron absorption, specifically the absorption of non-heme iron. Since vitamin C speeds up iron absorption, you should consume vitamin C if you are trying to increase your iron levels.

As you age, your stomach acid decreases, which is why many seniors suffer from an iron deficiency. For this reason, aging seniors should become more proactive about eating foods containing ample amounts of heme and non-heme iron.

Adequate consumption of iron ensures proper oxygen transportation and cell growth throughout the body. Here is a list of iron-rich foods for the elderly:

1. Shellfish

Shellfish, including mussels, clams, and oysters, are rich in iron. A 100-gram serving of clams has around 28 mg iron, which is 155% of your recommended daily intake. However, know that the amount of iron in clams differs with some containing low amounts of iron.

Shellfish contain heme iron, not non-heme iron. Your body can absorb heme iron more easily than non-heme food sources. Shellfish also has a lot of nutrients and can control your cholesterol levels, increasing the LDL “good” cholesterol. If you like seafood, once a week, you should eat shellfish, oysters, or clams.

2. Legumes

Legumes are packed with nutrients. Lentils, beans, peas, soybeans, and chickpeas are all classified as legumes. A good source of iron, 198 grams of cooked lentils has 6.6 mg of iron and makes up 37% of your recommended daily intake.

Beans of many varities

Legumes can decrease the risk of heart disease in people diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and can decrease inflammation in people suffering from diabetes. Moreover, you can use them to lose weight because they are high in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can reduce calorie intake and make you feel fuller. You should have foods that contain vitamin C to increase your iron absorption through legumes.

3. Spinach

Cooked spinach contains 3.6 mg of iron and makes up 20% of your recommended daily intake of iron. Even though spinach contains non-heme iron, which your body finds difficult to absorb, it also has vitamin C. Vitamin C increases iron absorption, thus making it easier for your body to absorb iron.

Additionally, spinach contains a lot of carotenoids, which are antioxidants that can reduce a person’s risk of cancer, protect the eyes, and reduce inflammation. You should eat olive oil, a healthy fat, with spinach. You can eat it in several different ways, such as steamed, in salads, and in baked goods.

4. Liver

Now, we know liver may not be your favorite, but it is a great source of iron. Other organ meats that contain high amounts of iron include brain, kidneys, and heart. A 100-gram serving of liver (beef) has 6.5 mg of iron and is 36% of the recommended daily intake of iron.

Liver is also rich in selenium, copper, B vitamins, and vitamin A. The organ meat contains an incredible 634% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A that a person needs to eat each day. Liver is also a good source of choline, a nutrient that your body needs to maintain liver and brain health.

5. Red Meat

Image of a raw beef steak with spices.
Steak of Choice

A 100-gram serving of red meat has 2.7 mg of iron and makes up 15% of your recommended daily intake. Red meat also contains zinc, selenium, protein, and many B vitamins. People who eat red meat more often are more likely not to have an iron deficiency than people who eat less red meat.

Red meat is a good source of heme iron, especially for people with anemia. Even though people can increase their iron intake by taking supplements, natural intake of iron through red meat is preferred, unless they are a vegetarian or vegan.

6. Quinoa

Quinoa, when cooked, offers 2.8 mg of iron and is 15% of your recommended daily intake of iron. It does not have any gluten, thus making it an excellent choice for people suffering from celiac disease or another type of gluten-intolerance condition.

In comparison to other grains, quinoa is rich in protein. It also contains magnesium, folate, manganese, copper, and more. Quinoa also has increased antioxidant activity and can keep free radicals away from your cells. Free radicals are created by the metabolic process when you are stressed.

7. Turkey

Turkey, especially dark turkey meat, is a rich source of iron. A 100-gram serving of turkey meat contains 2.3 mg of iron. You can receive 13% of your recommended daily intake of iron through dark turkey meat.

Turkey also contains protein and an abundance of minerals (zinc and selenium) and B vitamins. Eating turkey can lead to weight loss as well because protein makes you feel full and increases your metabolism after eating. It also prevents loss of muscle that happens during exercise and as you age.

8. Tofu

Tofu, a soy-based food, is probably not a popular choice among fans of red meat, but it is immensely popular with vegans and vegetarians. 126 grams or half a cup of tofu offers you 3.6 mg of iron and makes up 19% of your recommended daily intake of iron.

Image of two cubes of tofu on a small platter

Tofu also contains thiamine and many minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and selenium. It also contains protein. Isoflavones, a compound found in tofu, can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce your risk of heart disease, and alleviate menopausal symptoms.

If you are in need of iron or your iron intake is low, you can increase it by eating any of the iron-rich foods mentioned here. Incorporating some of these into your diet on a regular basis is sure to enhance your iron levels.

I eat many of these iron-rich foods and every time I donate blood they tell me my iron level is great.  Remember, you are your best advocate for doing the right things for your body. Eat rich today!

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It had finally arrived. We were moved into a small retirement community. After the pain in my hips subsided, and my body revived from proper rest, I was faced with assessing my future. Not old enough to retire and not willing to give up my freedom I embarked on this new adventure: Helping Seniors. After all, I could learn a lot by helping this new age group I belonged to. Thus “Sensible Senior Living” was founded. It is my desire to help others enjoy those “golden years” we are now living in. Enjoy the site and most of all enjoy each and every day you have. In each of you is wisdom, insight and vitality that others can benefit from. You are no less valuable, you’re simply limited in your physical ability to administer that value. Do what you can, be who you are, know your limitations. and live on.


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