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Iron deficiency is a major concern for many people, especially during pregnancy.
Your doctor tells you to eat more iron, and you immediately think of red meat. While this is a great source of iron, you may not want to ramp up your beef intake due to food aversions, nausea, or expenses.
Or, let’s be real, you may just not feel up to cooking.
Thankfully, there are other iron-rich options that are cheap and require zero-cooking. One of those options is cereal.
In this article, we will discuss how much iron our bodies typically need, high in iron cereals, and recipes that use these cereals.
Let’s dive in!
What Is Iron?
Iron is a mineral that helps make hemoglobin, which is a component of red blood cells. The hemoglobin on red blood cells transports oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
Your body cannot make iron, so it is important to eat plenty of iron-rich foods. Iron is found in many plant and animal foods.
How Much Iron Do I Need?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iron is as follows:
- Men: 8mg/day
- Women ages 19-50: 18mg/day
- Woman ages 51+: 8mg/day
- Pregnant Women: 27mg/day
- Breastfeeding Women: 9-10 mg/day (1)
Your doctor may do a blood test to determine if you need to increase your iron intake. Some people need more iron needs than others.
Pregnancy and Iron
During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by about 50%. Because iron is a component of red blood cells, your iron needs also increase by 50%. (2) Globally, studies estimate that up to 52% of pregnant women are iron deficient. This is the main reason that many prenatal vitamins contain iron. (3)
Gut Issues and Iron
Many people with GI conditions, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, have difficulty absorbing iron in their GI tract. Therefore, people with GI issues often have higher iron needs.
The specific amount varies from person to person, so talk to your doctor or dietitian before making any significant changes to your diet or before beginning any supplements.
Menstruation and Iron
It is estimated that 10% of women of childbearing age have iron deficiency anemia. (4) This is primarily to account for the iron lost through blood during a menstrual period. This is why women ages 19-50 have higher iron requirements, but lower iron requirements later in life.
Girls and women with very heavy menstrual periods may need more iron. Since iron is part of red blood cells, increased blood loss during your period can increase the amount of iron you need to eat to prevent deficiency.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns about heavy periods or low iron to ensure that you don’t have any underlying issues causing the increased bleeding.
Blood Donation and Iron
Much like with heavy periods, people who regularly donate blood are at higher risk for iron deficiency. In fact, an estimated 25-35% of routine blood donors will develop an iron deficiency.
You are (very kindly) allowing blood to be removed from your body to give to someone whose blood and iron levels are critically low. This could cause your own iron levels to dip below normal. If you regularly donate blood, consider talking to your doctor about checking for an iron deficiency. (5)
What Is Fortified Cereal?
Fortification is a process of adding nutrients that were not naturally occurring. Foods are typically fortified with vitamins and minerals that many people do not get enough of.
For example, milk and some orange juices are often fortified with vitamin D, which is otherwise challenging to get from food.
Foods may also be fortified with nutrients that can cause severe health issues if there is a deficiency. For example, flour is fortified with folic acid in the U.S. to help increase the amount of folic acid that women, especially pregnant women, will intake through food.
Folate deficiencies increase the risk of neural tube defects. In 1998, the FDA required that all cereal grain products in the United States must be fortified with folic acid. Since then, the incidence of neural tube defects has decreased by about 35%, which is a deduction of about 1300 babies per year born without this defect.
Likewise, fortified cereals usually contain added iron. Given the high rates of iron deficiency anemia, especially among pregnant women, it makes sense to fortify a commonly eaten food, like breakfast cereal, with iron. (4)
Therefore, iron is required to be listed on all nutrition facts labels and is often added to foods to help boost the iron content in foods that naturally have a low iron content. (1)
How Can I Tell How Much Iron Is In My Cereal?
You can look at any nutrition label to determine how much iron is in your cereal. Iron is one of the four vitamins and minerals that companies are required to list on food labels.
If a package says that the food is high in iron, it likely is. Many of these terms listed on food packaging must meet a certain threshold of the nutrient in order to use these claims.
When a food package says that it is “high in iron,” “rich in iron,” or an “excellent source of iron,” then the food is required by U.S. law to have at least 20% of the RDI or DRV of iron.
Foods that are labeled as a “good source of iron” or “contains iron,” then it is required by U.S. law to have at least 10-19% of the RDI or DRV. (6) Below is an example of how to find the iron content of a food on a nutrition facts label.
Nutrition labels will shows the number of milligrams in iron, and next to it will show the percent Daily Value. In this particular example, one serving contains 0.6 mg of iron, or 4% of the Daily Value.
Since a good source of iron must be at least 10% of the daily value of that nutrient, you can see that one serving of this food is not a good source of iron.
Now that you know why you might want to eat more of this essential mineral, let’s talk about which cereals are high in iron.
High Iron Cereals
Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats
Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats has been a beloved childhood cereal for many, and its nutritional value is impressive. With one serving of 25 biscuits, you can get a whopping 18 grams of iron, which meets 100% of your daily iron requirements.
This nutrient-rich breakfast option provides a convenient and delicious way to start your day with a boost of iron for optimal health and well-being.
Honey Bunches of Oats
Honey Bunches of Oats is a tasty cereal that packs a nutritional punch. Just one cup serving of the cinnamon variety provides a substantial 18mg of iron, fulfilling 100% of your daily value.
One cup of Rice Krispies contains a noteworthy 11.2mg of iron, providing 60% of your daily value (DV) for this essential mineral.
Don’t forget that this beloved cereal isn’t just for breakfast. Consider making iron-rich Rice Krispie Treats in place of traditional dessert options.
For those looking to boost their iron intake, Rice Chex is a great choice, with 1 ⅓ cup serving providing 12.6mg or 70% of the daily value (DV) of iron. Corn Chex is another iron-rich option, offering 10.8mg or 60% DV of iron per serving.
Wheat Chex takes the iron content up a notch, with a substantial 18mg or 100% DV of iron, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a high-iron breakfast cereal option.
Enjoy Chex cereal for breakfast or an iron-rich dessert. Muddy Buddies, also known as Puppy Chow, is a delicious dessert made from the Chex cereal. For a savory option, try the classic Chex mix recipe that uses not one but two high-rich cereals.
Another classic cereal option with an impressive amount of iron is cornflakes. A 1.5 cup serving of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes packs 12mg of iron, or 60% DV. Cornflakes are also a vitamin B12 fortified cereal, which can help boost your intake of this nutrient that is normally only found in animal foods.
Cheerios are another breakfast cereal that can be particularly beneficial for those needing to boost their iron content. A 1.5 cup serving of Original Cheerios contains 12.6mg iron, or 70% DV.
If you’re not into Original Cheerios, you’re still in luck. The Honey Nut, Pumpkin Spice, Blueberry, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios are lower in iron but still a good source at 3.6mg or 20% DV per cup.
A 1 ½ cup serving of Kix contains 10.8mg iron or 60% DV. This iron rich cereal can be a perfect addition to your morning routine.
Another good source of iron is Kashi Original. Not only does it have 2.8mg iron or 15% DV for 1 cup serving, but it also packs 11 grams protein.
Good news for lovers of Cap’n Crunch! A one cup serving contains 7.5mg, or 40% DV of iron, making it a good source of iron.
This iron-fortified wheat cereal packs 7mg or 40% of your daily recommended intake and is a great source of iron.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
This delicious, cinnamon-y favorite also happens to be a good source of iron. A 1 cup serving of the original Cinnamon Toast Crunch contains 3.6mg or 20% DV iron.
A ⅔ cup serving of All Bran contains 4.6mg or 25% DV of iron, making it one of the best bran cereals in terms of iron content. This is significantly higher than Raisin Bran, who clocks in at 1.8mg or 10% DV per 1 cup serving.
Although word to the wise: start slow with this one. All-Bran also packs 12 grams of fiber per serving. A sudden increase in fiber intake can cause GI distress, including bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
A 1 ⅓ cup serving of Pops contains 4.5mg iron or 25% DV.
A ⅔ cup serving of Fiber One Original cereal contains 3.6mg or 20% DV of iron. Notably, it also has 18 grams of fiber per serving.
Like with the All-Bran, start with a small amount of Fiber One cereal and gradually increase as your body adjusts to your higher fiber intake. Fiber One cereal may also be a great tool for those dealing with constipation.
Do you want to know one of my favorite dietitian tricks? Try making Fiber One cereal into a super dessert called Haystacks. This chocolate dessert is a way to incorporate a high fiber, high iron cereal into a dessert.
A 1 cup serving of Lucky Charms contains 3.6mg or 20% DV of iron. Keep in mind that this is for the cereal, not just the marshmallows (wink 😉).
A 1 ⅓ cup serving of Apple Jacks contains 4.5mg iron or 25%, making it a great source of iron. Plus, it’s delicious.
Another high iron fruity favorite is Fruit Loops! A 1 ⅓ cup serving contains 4.5mg iron or 25%.
Chocolate lovers are in luck! A one cup serving of Cocoa Pebbles contains 2.7mg or 15% DV iron.
Cream of Wheat
If you are more into hot cereals, try a bowl of cream of wheat to boost your iron intake. A 1 ½ cup serving of prepared Cream of Wheat contains 9.4mg iron or 50% DV. This is iron fortified.
Likewise, grits are also a good source of iron. A ¼ cup of Quaker’s Old Fashioned dry grits contains 1.9mg or 10% DV of iron. Comparatively, a ¼ cup serving of dry Quaker’s Quick Grits contains 1.7mg iron or 8% DV.
This cereal has become popular among those following low carb diets. A ½ cup serving of the triple berry crunch contains 1.6mg iron or 8% DV.
While this is lower than most other cereal options, it has 9 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein, making it a good option for someone with gestational diabetes.
Does Granola Have Iron?
Yes, granola contains iron. The specific amount varies depending on the ingredients used. Below is the iron content of some popular brands of granola on the market.
Nature Valley Honey and Oats Protein Granola
A ⅔ serving of this granola contains 3.2mg or 15% DV iron. However, it also has 13 grams of protein per serving.
Kind Oats and Honey Clusters
This granola contains 2mg iron or 10% DV per ⅔ cup serving.
Bear Naked Vanilla Almond Granola Cereal
This other popular granola option contains 1.9mg iron or 10% DV per ½ cup serving.
Popular Cereals That Are Lower in Iron
For cereals to be a “good source” of iron, they have to contain a minimum of 10% of your daily recommended intake. Often, cereals that are not iron-fortified do not contain enough iron to be considered a good source. And you may be surprised about some cereals that are on this list.
A 1/2 cup serving of dry Quaker Oats contains 1.5 mg or 8% DV iron per half cup of dry oats. Both Quaker quick oats and old fashioned oats have the same amount. While oats are a whole grain and contain a variety of other essential nutrients, it may not be your go-to choice for an iron-boosting breakfast.
Nature’s Path Sunrise Crunchy Vanilla Cereal
This brand is popular for its organic and non-GMO products. While it contains fiber and other superfood ingredients, one cup serving only contains 1mg iron of 6% DV. This is likely because the grain has not been fortified with iron, so it only contains the naturally occurring iron.
Cascadian Farms Cinnamon Crunch Cereal
Many people like Cascadian Farms because of their organic products with simple ingredients. Like with Nature’s Path, Cascadian Farms cereal is also not a good source of iron.
A one cup serving contains 1mg or 6% DV of iron. Because this cereal is not fortified with iron, the iron content comes only from the iron naturally occurring in its ingredients.
Muesli is a grain that can be eaten either as a hot or cold cereal. A ¼ cup serving of Bob’s Red Mill Muesli contains 1mg or 6% DV of iron. It is not a fortified cereal, so the iron content comes exclusively from what is naturally found in the grain.
While Fruity Pebbles is fortified with iron, a one cup serving has 1mg or 6% DV of iron. If you’re looking for a high iron fruity cereal, try switching to Blueberry Cheerios, Fruit Loops, or Apple Jacks.
Of the popular sweet cereals, Honey Smacks ranks toward the bottom of the list in terms of iron content. A one cup serving of honey smacks only has 0.6mg or 2% DV iron.
Final Thoughts: Cereals High in Iron
Cereals high in iron can be a great option for people who are concerned about anemia or low iron levels, including pregnant women, people with GI conditions, blood donors, and women with heavy periods.
Iron-fortified cereals usually have more iron than cereals that are not fortified, even when the non-fortified cereal is made of whole food ingredients.
The cereals with the highest iron content are:
- Frosted Shredded Mini Wheats
- Rice Krispies
- Honey Bunches of Oats
- Wheat Chex
- Rice Chex
- Corn Chex
- Corn flakes
- Captain Crunch
- Cream of Wheat
We hope this list can help you sneak a little more iron into your day. For more information about pregnancy nutrition, check out our articles on gestational diabetes dessert ideas and the benefits of coconut water during pregnancy.