Top 10 Cereals High in Iron

Last Updated: April 5, 2024

Starting your day with cereals high in iron can make all the difference if you’re looking to boost your iron levels. 

Iron deficiency is incredibly common, affecting millions of people yearly. A shortage of iron can lead to symptoms like weakness, fatigue, and anemia. One way to help boost your iron intake is to incorporate cereals high in iron into your diet. 

Iron fortified breakfast cereals are an excellent source of this essential mineral, making them a convenient and effective way to help meet your daily iron needs. However, not all cereals are created equal when it comes to iron content. 

That’s why I’ve curated a list of top iron rich cereals, along with tips on how to choose the best one for your nutritional needs. Let’s dive in! 

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What is Iron?

Iron is a mineral that’s important for producing hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Without sufficient iron, our bodies can’t produce enough healthy red blood cells, leading to a condition known as anemia (1)

Anemia can result in symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath, affecting everything from your energy levels to your immune function. 

Iron is also vital for growth, development, and hormone synthesis. It’s an essential mineral, meaning our body cannot produce iron on its own; we must obtain it through our diet (2)

This makes choosing iron-rich foods, like cereals high in iron, an important part of maintaining a balanced and healthy diet.

Heme vs Nonheme Iron

Iron exists in our diet in two forms: heme and nonheme. 

Heme iron is found in animal products like meat, seafood, and poultry, and is more easily absorbed by our body than nonheme iron. 

Nonheme iron is found in plants and iron-fortified foods, including many cereals high in iron.

Dietary iron’s bioavailability—or how well our body can absorb and use it—differs between these two types. Heme iron is more easily absorbed than nonheme iron. But nonheme iron’s absorption can be enhanced by eating vitamin C-rich foods with it (3)

Whether you consume meat or follow a plant-based diet, incorporating foods rich in vitamin C can boost your iron absorption, helping you meet your daily iron needs. 

How Much Iron Do I Need?

The amount of iron we need daily depends on our age, gender, and whether we are pregnant/breastfeeding. 

Women generally need more iron than men due to iron loss during menstruation, and pregnant women’s iron needs are even higher to support fetal development.

Below are the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Iron (4):

  • Male 19–50 years: 8 mg
  • Female 19–50 years: 18 mg
  • Pregnant Female 19–50 years: 27 mg
  • Breastfeeding Female 19–50 years: 9 mg
  • Male and Female 51+ years: 8 mg

Keep in mind that if you’re vegetarian, you need 1.8 times the above amounts, since plant based (nonheme) sources aren’t absorbed as well. 

How to Choose Iron Rich Cereals

When wandering the cereal aisle, the choices seem endless. But by paying close attention to food labels, you can easily identify cereals that are high in iron. Here’s what to look for:

1. Iron Content: Check the nutrition facts panel on the cereal box. Look for the amount of iron listed, typically given in milligrams (mg) and as a percentage of the Daily Value (%DV). 

Cereals that provide at least 20% of the Daily Value per serving are considered high in iron. Choose these ones more often. 

2. Ingredient List: Beyond the numbers, you can also glance at the ingredients. Cereals fortified with iron will often list iron or ferrous sulfate among the first few ingredients. 

Is Whole Grain Cereal High in Iron?

You might find it surprising that iron-fortified cereals often contain more iron than their non-fortified whole grain counterparts, even though the latter usually have more whole food ingredients.

While oats naturally aren’t high in iron, I’ve discovered a few oat-based products that pack a higher iron punch.

Other Things to Consider When Choosing a High Iron Cereal

You may want to consider other nutritional aspects like fiber, sugar, and protein content to ensure you’re starting your day in the healthiest way possible.

Finding high in iron cereals that not only meets 100% of the daily value but also keeps added sugars to a minimum is quite the challenge, since many high iron cereals are also high in sugar and low in fiber and protein. 

That’s why I’ve picked the best options with a higher protein and fiber to sugar ratio, but also deliver 20% or more of your daily iron needs.

10 Healthy Cereals High in Iron

Below are my top picks for cereals high in iron: 

  1. Multi-Grain Cheerios:  1 1/3 cup (39g) has 18mg (100%DV) 
  2. Total Whole Grain Cereal: 1 cup (40g) has 18mg (100%DV) 
  3. Quaker Oatmeal Squares: 1 cup (56g) has 16.5mg (90%DV) 
  4. 365 by Whole Foods Market, Raisin Bran Cereal: 1 cup (55g) has 8.1mg (45%DV)
  5. Oats Overnight Banana Bread: 1 pouch (73g) has 7.5mg (40%)
  6. Kellogg’s All-Bran Buds: ½ cup (45g) has 5.9mg (30%DV)
  7. Oats Overnight Chocolate PB Banana: 1 pouch (79g) has 4.2mg (25%)
  8. Fiber One Bran Breakfast Cereal: ⅔ cup (40g) has 3.6mg (20%DV)
  9. Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal: ½ cup (57g) has 4mg (20%DV)
  10. Ezekiel 4:9 Almond Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal:  ½ cup (57g) has 4mg (20%DV)

Top 10 Cereals High in Iron

Tip to Increase Iron Absorption

To maximize the iron absorbed from your high-iron cereal, add some Vitamin C into your meal. Consider adding berries, such as strawberries or raspberries as topping, or have a side of kiwi. 

The goal is to consume both iron and vitamin C in the same meal to enhance the bioavailability of iron, meaning you’re more likely to absorb more of it. 

Final Thoughts

Adding cereals high in iron to your diet is an easy way for anyone looking to boost their iron intake, whether you’re dealing with a deficiency or just aiming to meet your daily needs. 

Choose cereals that provide 20% or more of the Daily Value, and enhance their benefits by pairing them with a source of vitamin C. This combination is a powerful tool in improving iron absorption and ensuring that you’re getting the most out of your cereal.

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