Iron is a crucial mineral that our bodies need to function properly. From improving brain function to boosting energy levels, getting enough iron ensures our body works like a well-oiled machine.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: cashews are the best nut for getting iron, containing about 2 mg per ounce.

In this comprehensive guide, we will compare the iron content in various popular nuts and educate you on why cashews reign supreme over all other nuts when it comes to getting your daily dose of this critical nutrient.

Breaking Down the Iron Contents of Common Nuts

Cashews Contain the Most Iron per Ounce

When it comes to getting your daily dose of iron, cashews reign supreme over other popular nuts. According to research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cashews contain 5.35 milligrams of iron per ounce, surpassing almonds, pine nuts, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, and more.

Cashews’ substantial amount of iron can primarily be attributed to being one of the best plant-based sources of iron, specifically non-heme iron. This essential mineral helps transport oxygen-rich red blood cells throughout the body and plays a vital role in eliminating fatigue and boosting energy.

Almonds and Pine Nuts Also Have Decent Iron Levels

While cashews lead the charge in nut iron content, almonds and pine nuts also contain beneficial amounts of this mineral. According to analysis by, one ounce of dry roasted almonds contains 1.28 milligrams of iron.

Similarly, Self Nutrition Data reports that one ounce of pine nuts packs 1.4 milligrams of iron.

Almonds and pine nuts make for iron-rich additions to trail mixes, salads, cereals, baked goods, and more. Their uniqueness lies in their ability to provide key nutrients like protein, fiber, magnesium, and Vitamin E in addition to iron.

Understanding Iron Absorption from Plant-Based Foods

Heme vs. Non-Heme Iron

There are two main types of dietary iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron comes from animal sources like red meat, while non-heme iron comes from plant sources like lentils, spinach, and nuts (1). The key difference lies in how easily the body can absorb them to use.

Heme iron is more readily absorbed by the body, at a rate of 10-35%. In contrast, the absorption rate for non-heme iron can range widely from 2-20%, depending on other components of the meal (2). However, some plant foods can actually enable more non-heme iron to get absorbed.

Understanding these interactions is key to meeting your daily iron needs from a plant-based diet.

The Role of Vitamin C

It turns out that vitamin C plays a pivotal role in aiding non-heme iron absorption. When plant foods containing vitamin C are eaten in the same meal as foods with non-heme iron, the boost can be significant.

For example, adding tomatoes, bell peppers or citrus fruits to a spinach salad can increase iron absorption by 4 to 6 times compared to spinach alone. Similarly, drinking orange juice with black beans allows you to absorb double the amount versus just eating the beans by themselves (3, 4).

Why does this happen?

It turns out that vitamin C enhances non-heme iron absorption by helping it to be better absorbed by the cells lining the small intestine. Then once iron enters the bloodstream, vitamin C prevents it from being lost in the urine or stool before it can be utilized (5).

Food Iron (mg) Vitamin C (mg)
100g Cooked Spinach 2.7 28
1 Medium Orange 0.1 70

As shown above, fruits and vegetables provide a powerful one-two punch of plant-based iron and vitamin C. For example, spinach is incredibly high in iron with 2.7mg per 100g serving, while oranges contain 70mg of vitamin C per fruit.

The bottom line? Pairing plant foods high in vitamin C with your non-heme iron sources can vastly improve absorption, allowing you to meet your daily needs from plant-based sources.

Tips for Meeting Your Daily Iron Needs with Nuts

Pair Nuts with Vitamin C-Rich Fruits or Veggies

Consuming vitamin C-rich foods along with iron-rich plant foods like nuts can enhance iron absorption. Vitamin C helps convert plant-based iron into a more bioavailable form that’s easier for your body to absorb (1). Some great options to pair with nuts include:

  • Oranges or orange juice
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Broccoli
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes

Try sprinkling your favorite nuts on top of a spinach salad with strawberries, mandarin oranges, and red onion. The vitamin C in the fruits and veggies will help you better absorb the iron in the spinach and nuts.

Soak and Sprout Your Nuts to Increase Absorption

Soaking and sprouting nuts before eating them can help deactivate phytic acid, an antinutrient that may hinder iron absorption (2).

Here’s a simple method:

  1. Soak nuts overnight or for at least 8 hours.
  2. Drain and rinse the nuts.
  3. Let them sprout for 1–2 days, rinsing twice per day.

Sprouted nuts have increased nutrient bioavailability compared to unsprouted nuts. Plus, they retain their crunchiness for added texture.

Consume Nuts as Nut Butters for Better Bioavailability

Processing nuts into nut butters can improve iron absorption compared to eating whole nuts (3).

Grinding nuts into butter breaks down cell walls, releasing nutrients and making them more accessible for absorption.

Try making your own homemade almond butter or cashew butter. Blend the nuts in a food processor for 5–10 minutes until smooth and creamy.

You can also find a variety of premade nut butters at most grocery stores, such as peanut, almond, cashew, pistachio, and hazelnut.

Spread nut butters onto whole grain toast, add them to smoothies, or eat them with apple slices or celery sticks for an iron-rich snack.


Though many nuts contain iron, cashews lead the pack when it comes to the quantity of this critical nutrient per ounce. Plus, with helpful preparation tips like soaking and pairing with vitamin C-rich foods, you can maximize iron absorption from these versatile tree nuts.

Simply adding an ounce or two of cashews, almonds, or pine nuts to your daily diet can help ensure you meet your recommended iron intake levels and reap all the rewards – from boosted energy to enhanced cognitive function.

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