4 Easy-to-Digest Foods That Are High in Iron

Iron is a vital mineral that is essential for the creation of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that facilitates the transport of oxygen to the cells in the body. People who do not have enough iron in their diet, and therefore not enough hemoglobin, may develop anemia.

Anemia is a very common condition, and it may be especially problematic for people with digestive diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and celiac disease. People with IBD may not only have problems in getting enough iron in their diet and absorbing that iron but also with bleeding that may increase the risk of anemia.

Therefore, it is crucial that people with IBD get enough iron in their diet. Vegetable sources of iron are known as "non-heme" iron, and animal sources of iron are known as "heme" iron. Heme iron is generally easier to absorb than non-heme iron. Eating vitamin C along with an iron source may help the iron be absorbed and used easier by the body.

For people with IBD, or who have an ostomy or a j-pouch and who are dealing with a restricted diet, getting iron-rich foods that are also easy to digest can be a challenge. The good news is that once you know where to find it, getting enough iron can be less of a chore and more of a pleasure as you explore foods that are good sources of iron and that are also easier to digest.



Turkey dinner

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In the United States, turkey is often thought of as the meat that's served on Thanksgiving. It's often reserved for other holidays, too, or for a big Sunday dinner. Turkey, however, is a great source of iron, providing 1.6 mg of iron for every serving of 3.5 ounces. One doesn't have to cook an entire turkey, though, to enjoy the benefits, because turkey cutlets are usually also available at the grocery store or the butcher. However, keep in mind that there is a benefit to the work of cooking the entire turkey: the dark meat may provide even more iron than the light meat.

Turkey lunch meat has less iron, around 1.1 mg per serving of about 1.7 ounces. However, lunch meat is easier to come by and is a quick item that can be eaten right out of the package. Go for a high-quality deli cut, and beware of brands that contain added sugars, colors, salt, or other additives.

Other nutritional benefits to turkey include vitamin B12, vitamin B6, magnesium, and protein. It's also low in fat and is an easy to digest form of protein.



Chicken on a cutting board

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Chicken is versatile, easy to come by, and can be a way to get more iron into your diet. One 3-ounce serving of chicken contains about 1.1 mg of iron. The beauty of chicken is that it is relatively inexpensive and vastly versatile. There is no shortage of recipes for cooking chicken, so keeping it interesting doesn't take much research. Keeping it simple is easy: roasted chicken without any additions or flavorings can be done using just your oven or slow cooker. Take it one step further and use the leftover bones from a roasted chicken to make chicken stock (bone broth) to drink while on a liquid diet, or to add flavoring to rice by using broth instead of water when cooking.

Not just a good source of iron, chicken also contains many other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, vitamin B12, magnesium, and potassium.



Tunafish sandwich

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Canned tuna is easy to find, easy to eat, and can be served in a variety of ways. One 3 ounce serving of tuna, packed in water and straight out of the can, has about .8 mg of iron. Tuna can be eaten plain, which makes it for an easy, quick meal, but it could also be made into endless varieties of tuna salads or served with crackers. Tuna is a food that is higher in sodium, which can be a concern for those who are trying to keep their sodium intake low, but that factor can be mitigated by eating low sodium foods for the rest of the day.


Breakfast Cereal

Corn Flakes

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Many people might think of breakfast cereals as a staple for children, but not for adults. However, most cereals are fortified with iron and can be a very quick and easy breakfast (or other meal). The trick for people experiencing digestive problems is to find one that is lower in fiber. Corn and rice-based cereals rather than wheat, bran, or oatmeal-based cereals may be easier to digest. The amount of iron in any one particular brand of breakfast cereal will vary. One cup of generic corn flakes may provide about 18 mg of iron, which is 45% of the recommended daily value for most women and 100% for most men. A rice-based cereal may contain about 9 mg of iron, which is about 50% of the daily value for most women and 100% for most men.

Breakfast cereal can also be a wealth of other vitamins and minerals that people with IBD might not get enough of in their diet, including vitamin A, vitamin D, folate, calcium, and zinc.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Abbaspour N, Hurrell R, Kelishadi R. Review on iron and its importance for human healthJ Res Med Sci. 2014;19(2):164–174.

  2. Nielsen OH, Soendergaard C, Vikner ME, Weiss G. Rational management of iron-deficiency anaemia in inflammatory bowel diseaseNutrients. 2018;10(1):82. doi:10.3390/nu10010082

  3. Pediatric IBD Foundation. Food high in iron. 2017

By Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker who covers digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.