What drinks are high in iron?

Iron is an essential mineral that plays many important roles in the body. Iron helps transport oxygen through the blood to cells and tissues. It is also important for energy production, immune system function, brain development, and muscle strength.

Many people around the world are deficient in iron, making iron-rich foods and drinks an important part of a healthy diet. Drinks can provide a significant amount of dietary iron if you choose the right options.

Why is iron important?

Iron has several critical functions in the human body:

  • Forms part of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen through the blood to cells and tissues.
  • Needed for myoglobin, which helps supply oxygen to muscles.
  • Required for energy production within cells.
  • Plays a role in brain development and function.
  • Supports a healthy immune system.
  • Needed for the production of some hormones and connective tissues.

Without adequate iron, you may experience symptoms like fatigue, decreased immune function, and impaired cognitive abilities. Iron deficiency can also contribute to anemia, a condition characterized by low levels of red blood cells or hemoglobin.

How much iron do you need?

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for iron depends on your age, sex, and various health factors:

Group RDA
Infants 0-6 months 0.27 mg/day
Infants 7-12 months 11 mg/day
Children 1-3 years 7 mg/day
Children 4-8 years 10 mg/day
Children 9-13 years 8 mg/day
Males 14-18 years 11 mg/day
Females 14-18 years 15 mg/day
Males over 19 years 8 mg/day
Females 19-50 years 18 mg/day
Females over 50 years 8 mg/day
Pregnant females under 18 27 mg/day
Pregnant females over 18 27 mg/day
Breastfeeding females under 18 10 mg/day
Breastfeeding females over 18 9 mg/day

Higher amounts are recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding to support increased blood volume and fetal development.

Top iron-rich drinks

Here are some of the best drinks to get more iron in your diet:

Fortified orange juice

Many brands of orange juice have iron added to them. An 8 oz glass can provide up to 3 mg iron, meeting 18% of the RDA for men and women over 19 years.

Dried fruit juices

Prune, raisin, and apricot juices are all high in iron. Just 4 oz provides over 3 mg iron. Look for bottled, 100% dried fruit juices without added sugars.

Fortified fruit smoothies

Smoothies made with iron-fortified juice or milk can be an excellent source. A 12 oz banana, strawberry, and yogurt smoothie with iron-fortified orange juice could have 5 mg or more.

Blackstrap molasses

Just 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses provides 3 mg iron, meeting 17% of the RDA for adult men. Use it to sweeten tea, spreads, baked goods, and marinades.

Fortified soy milk

One cup of calcium-fortified soy milk can provide up to 8-10 mg iron, meeting 45-55% of the RDA. Refrigerated varieties tend to be higher than shelf-stable.

Prune juice

A half cup of prune juice has over 3 mg iron, providing 17% of the RDA for men and 8% for women. The vitamin C in prune juice may also help with iron absorption.

Fortified milk

Many cow’s milks have iron added to them. One 8 oz glass of fortified low fat or skim milk can have up to 1 mg iron.

Dried coconut water

Rehydrated, dried coconut water provides 2.5 mg iron per 8 oz serving. It’s naturally rich in electrolytes like potassium and magnesium.

Tomato juice

One cup of tomato juice averages over 2 mg iron, meeting over 10% of the RDA for men and women. Pair it with iron-rich foods to enhance absorption.

Black cherry juice

A half cup serving of black cherry juice contains 1.5 mg iron. It’s also rich in antioxidants that fight inflammation.

Pomegranate juice

An 8 oz glass of pomegranate juice provides around 1 mg iron. The vitamin C increases the absorption of the iron in plant foods.

Iron absorption from drinks

Iron is absorbed at different rates depending on the source:

  • Meat/seafood iron (heme): 15-35% absorption
  • Plant iron (non-heme): 2-20% absorption

Iron from animal foods like meat, seafood, and eggs (heme iron) is more readily absorbed than from plant sources like fruits, vegetables, lentils, and fortified foods.

However, absorption of non-heme iron can be improved by pairing iron-rich foods and drinks with vitamin C. Citrus juices, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, and strawberries help maximize iron uptake.

Tips for getting more iron from drinks

Here are some tips to help you meet your daily iron needs through iron-rich drinks:

  • Choose fortified orange juice whenever possible.
  • Enjoy a small glass of blackstrap molasses in water.
  • Make smoothies with fortified soy or almond milk.
  • Pair iron-rich juices like prune and tomato juice with vitamin C sources.
  • Cook with iron-fortified condiments like soy sauce.
  • Add tomato juice to soups and stews.
  • Mix prune or black cherry juice with sparkling water.
  • Choose fully fortified milk and milk alternatives like soy and almond milk.
  • Drink coconut water for potassium along with 1-2 mg iron per serving.

Who may need iron supplements?

In addition to dietary sources, an iron supplement may be recommended for those at risk of deficiency or with higher needs, including:

  • Young children
  • Adolescent girls
  • Pregnant women
  • Breastfeeding mothers
  • Heavy menstruation or blood donors
  • Vegetarians and vegans
  • Those with medical conditions like celiac disease

Always consult your healthcare provider before taking iron supplements, as they can interact with certain medications and health conditions.

Risks of excessive iron intake

It’s possible to get too much iron, especially from supplements. The tolerable upper intake levels (UL) are:

Group UL
Infants 0-6 months 40 mg/day
Infants 7-12 months 40 mg/day
Children 1-13 years 40 mg/day
Children 14-18 years 45 mg/day
Adults 45 mg/day

Consuming too much iron long term may lead to:

  • Constipation, nausea, vomiting
  • Liver damage
  • Increased infection risk
  • Poor zinc and copper absorption
  • Abdominal pain

Unless your doctor recommends it, avoid taking more than 45 mg per day from food and supplements combined.

Groups at higher risk of iron deficiency

Some groups are more likely to be deficient in iron. This includes:

  • Infants and toddlers due to growth needs
  • Teen girls entering puberty
  • Pregnant women
  • Breastfeeding mothers
  • Vegans and vegetarians
  • Endurance athletes, especially females
  • Those with heavy periods
  • Frequent blood donors
  • Those with gastrointestinal disorders

These groups should take care to meet their RDA for iron daily through iron-rich foods and drinks. Talk to your doctor about supplements if diet is not sufficient.

Signs you may need more iron

If you are deficient in iron, you may experience symptoms like:

  • Fatigue, weakness, pale skin
  • Shortness of breath, dizziness
  • Headaches, irritability
  • Inflammation or sore tongue
  • Brittle nails
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Leg cramps
  • Restless legs syndrome

See your doctor if you think you may be iron deficient. A simple blood test can confirm whether you need more iron from your diet or supplements.

Foods and drinks that inhibit iron absorption

Certain foods and drinks can hinder iron absorption when consumed at the same time as iron-rich foods. These include:

  • Coffee and tea (tannins)
  • Calcium supplements
  • Antacids
  • High calcium foods like dairy
  • Eggs
  • Wheat bran
  • Spinach, Swiss chard (oxalates)
  • Soy protein

Try to avoid consuming these foods too closely to your iron-rich meals and snacks. However, dairy doesn’t block iron absorption as much as once believed.


Getting enough iron is important for energy, immune function, and preventing anemia. While many foods provide iron, certain drinks can also be excellent sources.

Focus on incorporating iron-fortified fruit juices, smoothies, soy milk, dried fruit juices, blackstrap molasses, and tomato juice into your routine.

Pair iron-rich drinks with vitamin C sources to maximize absorption. People at risk of deficiency may need supplements under medical supervision.

Consuming a variety of iron-rich foods and beverages as part of a healthy, balanced diet can help ensure you meet your daily iron needs.

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