Iron is an essential mineral. The major reason we need it is that it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body. Many people think that a plant based diet can lead to iron deficiency because of the lack of meat. I say no way. Check out this great list of plant based iron rich foods. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron is 8mg/day for adult men and post-menopausal women and 18mg/day for pre- menopausal women.
Pumpkin Seeds (1/2 cup) 20.7
Soybeans (cooked, 1 cup) 8.8
Sesame Seeds (1 cup) 7.4
Blackstrap Molasses (2tbsp) 7.2
Sundried Tomatoes (100g) 9.1
Dried Apricots (100g – about 20) 6.3
Lentils (1 cup) 6.6
Spinach (1 cup) 6.4￼￼￼
Tofu (4 ounces) 6.4
Quinoa (1 cup) 6.3
Tempeh (1 cup) 4.8
Chickpeas (cooked, 1 cup) 4.7
Lima Beans (cooked, 1 cup) 4.5
Black-Eyed Peas (cooked, 1 cup) 4.3
Swiss Chard (cooked, 1 cup) 4.0
Black Beans (1 cup) 3.6
Kidney Beans (1 cup) 3.0
Pinto Beans (1 cup) 3.5
Potato (1) 3.2
Prune Juice (8 oz.) 3.0
Beet Greens (cooked, 1 cup) 2.7
Raisins (1/2 cup) 1.6
Kale (cooked, 1 cup) 1.2
One thing to keep in mind is iron absorption is enhanced significantly by eating foods high in vitamin C simultaneously with foods containing iron. Also, avoid coffee and tea an hour before and after you ingest your plant-based iron, as the tannins interfere with bioavailability of the iron. Sometimes this is not possible so don’t fret over it. I just wanted you to be aware. 🙂
According to Paul Thomas, EdD, RD, a scientific consultant to the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplement, iron is an important component of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to transport it throughout your body. Hemoglobin represents about two-thirds of the body’s iron. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. A lack of red blood cells is called iron deficiency anemia.
Without healthy red blood cells, your body can’t get enough oxygen. “If you’re not getting sufficient oxygen in the body, you’re going to become fatigued,” Thomas says. That exhaustion can affect everything from your brain function to your immune system’s ability to fight off infections. If you’re pregnant, severe iron deficiency may increase your baby’s risk of being born too early, or smaller than normal.
Elaine Chottiner, MD, clinical assistant professor and director of General Hematology Clinics at the University of Michigan Medical Center says “People often don’t know they have anemia until they have signs or symptoms — they appear pale or ‘sallow,’ are fatigued, or have difficulty exercising,” Chottiner says.
If you’re low in iron, you may also:
Feel short of breath
Have a fast heartbeat
Have cold hands and feet
Crave strange substances such as dirt or clay
Have brittle and spoon shaped nails or hair loss
Sores at the corner of the mouth
A sore tongue
Severe iron deficiency can cause difficulty in swallowing
Of course these symptoms can be related to many things so it is best to check with your doctor if you are experiencing any of them.
Here is one of my favorite iron rich foods recipes. It is quick and easy.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium celery stalk, small dice
1 medium carrot, peeled and small dice
1/2 medium yellow onion, small dice
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth (if you want to make your own check out this recipe
5 organic Roma tomatoes, diced
1 1/4 cups lentils (any color except red), rinsed (this is very important)
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
2 ounces spinach leaves (about 1/2 a bunch)
Recipe adapted from Aida Mollenkamp
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering, about 3 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with several generous pinches of salt and pepper.
Add the broth, tomatoes with their juices, lentils, bay leaf, and thyme and stir to combine. Cover and bring to a simmer, about 15 minutes. Once simmering, reduce the heat to low and continue simmering, covered, until the lentils and vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes more.
Taste and season with more salt or pepper as needed, then stir in the vinegar. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. If you prefer a creamier texture, purée half of the soup in a blender and add it back to the pot.
Here is another one of my favorite plant based iron rich recipes.