How Much Iron is in Beef? A Look at Beef’s Iron Content

Iron is an essential mineral that plays many important roles in the body like oxygen transport and immune health. Meat, especially beef, is well known as a good source of iron. But how much iron is actually in beef? The iron content can vary based on the cut and type of beef.

This article will take a detailed look at how much iron different cuts and types of beef contain. We’ll also compare beef’s iron levels to other meat and plant sources.

Why Your Body Needs Iron

Before looking at the numbers, it’s helpful to understand why iron is so crucial for health:

  • Forms hemoglobin which carries oxygen in the blood
  • Needed for production of some hormones and connective tissue
  • Supports immune function and energy levels
  • Important for brain development in kids and infants
  • Prevents anemia which causes fatigue, weakness, dizziness

The daily recommended intake for iron is 8mg for adult men and 18mg for premenopausal women. During pregnancy, the requirement jumps up to 27mg.

Heme vs. Non-Heme Iron

There are two forms of dietary iron:

Heme iron – Found in meat, seafood, and poultry. It’s more readily absorbed by the body.

Non-heme iron – Found in plant sources like vegetables, fruits, nuts. Not as easily absorbed as heme iron.

Animal products contain both heme and non-heme iron. But heme iron makes up about 40% of the total iron in meat, while non-heme makes up 60%.

How Much Iron is in Beef?

Now let’s look at some common cuts of beef and their iron content based on data from the USDA:

  • Ground beef (80% lean) – 2.7mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • Ground beef (90% lean) – 2.4mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • Top sirloin steak – 2.9mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • Tenderloin steak – 1.6mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • T-bone steak – 2.9mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • Ribeye steak – 2.7mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • Brisket – 1.2mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • Round roast – 2.9mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • Chuck shoulder roast – 2.2mg per 3oz cooked serving

As you can see, most cuts of beef contain 2-3mg of iron per average 3oz cooked serving. Fattier cuts like ribeye or 80% lean ground beef are at the higher end while leaner cuts like tenderloin or brisket are a bit lower.

In general, an average serving of beef can provide about 15-20% of the recommended daily intake of iron for men and 10-15% for premenopausal women.

How Beef Compares to Other Meats

Compared to other types of meat, beef contains a similar amount of iron:

  • Beef – 2.5mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • Pork – 1.6mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • Chicken – 1.1mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • Turkey – 1.4mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • Lamb – 2mg per 3oz cooked serving
  • Veal – 1.3mg per 3oz cooked serving

Oily fish like salmon (1.5mg) and tuna (1.3mg) offer comparable iron levels to lean beef. Overall red meats like beef, lamb and veal tend to be highest.

Iron Levels in Plant-Based Foods

For plant-based sources, here are some examples of iron levels per cooked cup:

  • Lentils – 6.6mg
  • White beans – 4.4mg
  • Spinach – 6.4mg
  • Kidney beans – 3mg
  • Chickpeas – 4.7mg
  • Tofu – 3.4mg
  • Potatoes – 2.9mg
  • Broccoli – 1mg

Certain legumes, greens, and soy products offer significant amounts of iron. The levels are also substantial compared to beef, though the bioavailability of plant non-heme iron may be lower.

Ways to Maximize Iron Absorption from Foods

To get the most out of iron-rich foods, there are some tips that can boost absorption:

  • Eat sources of vitamin C – This can enhance iron absorption so pair iron-rich foods with vitamin C from citrus, berries, tomatoes, peppers.

  • Avoid calcium at the same meals – Calcium can inhibit iron absorption, so don’t combine your iron foods with dairy, certain greens like spinach, or supplements.

  • Soak, sprout, ferment plant foods – This makes the non-heme iron more available to the body.

  • Use cast iron cookware – Iron from the cookware can leach into the food and increase iron content.

Iron Supplements

If diet is not enough, iron supplements can help fill the gap in your intake. Look for ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, ferric citrate, or chelated forms like iron bisglycinate. Vitamin C supplementation can also aid absorption.

The Takeaway on Iron in Beef

Beef provides a significant amount of iron, containing around 2-3mg per 3oz cooked serving. This accounts for 15-20% of men’s RDI and 10-15% for premenopausal women’s. Other meats contain similar levels, while plant sources offer non-heme iron. Maximize absorption by pairing iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources. Consider supplements if iron intake remains low. Including a variety of meat, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, and produce can help obtain this essential mineral.

Beef, the best natural source of iron


What meat is highest in iron?

Red meat is rich in heme iron, along with protein, selenium, and zinc. The amount of iron depends on the type of red meat. For every 100 grams of meat, beef has about 2.47 mg of iron, lamb has 1.78 mg, and venison has 4.98mg. Seafood is also a good source of iron, depending on the species.

Are eggs high in iron?

One chicken egg contains 0.9 mg of non-heme iron (9), equivalent to 8% of the RDA for infants 6–12 mo old (11 mg/d) or 13% of the RDA for children 1–3 y of age (7 mg/d) (10). In eggs, iron is primarily concentrated in the yolk (11), with traces found in ovotransferrin in the egg whites (12).

How much beef do you need to eat to get enough iron?

Ideally, women should aim for 18 milligrams (mg) per day, while men only need 8 mg, says Prest. The best way to get enough is through diet—and yes, it’s true that red meat is an excellent source. Just one 3-ounce serving of lean ground beef packs 2.2 mg of it, per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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