Sure, you might pump iron at the gym. But that’s not the only kind of iron your bod needs. Iron helps your red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body, while also supporting immune function and cognitive performance, according to Lauren Pincus-Harris, R.D.N., and Owner of Nutrition Starring You.
But it can be tough to actually hit the 18 miligrams of iron recommended daily for women between the ages of 19 and 50. “Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder,” says Pincus-Harris. And if you’re not a huge fan of red meat, it can be doubly hard to get enough of the nutrient. That’s because, according to the National Institues of Health, vegetarians require about 32 miligrams of iron per day to meet their needs!
Why the big difference? There are actually two kinds of iron—heme and non-heme. “Plants and foods fortified with iron contain non-heme iron only, whereas poultry, meat, and seafood contain both heme and non-heme iron,” says Pincus-Harris. Heme iron is easier for the body to absorb, so if you’re relying primarily on non-heme iron to fulfill your iron quota, you’ll need to chow down on way more miligrams to make it count.
So how can you jack up your iron intake without relying on red meat? Here are seven iron-rich foods that provide just as much—or more than—the two to two-and-a-half miligrams of iron in an average serving of red meat.