Iron Rich Foods for Vegetarians
When it comes to nutrients in foods, iron is considered among the most essential ones. Iron deficiency is a problem common in a lot of countries.
It has been argued that iron deficiency is common among some populations because they love plant-based diets, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Many plant-based foods are rich in iron, and we will list some of them to help debunk this myth. But before that, let’s first look at why iron is essential in our bodies.
Why Is Iron Important in Our Bodies?
Iron is a vital nutrient in the human body, and it has numerous functions, such as reducing symptoms of anemia, dizziness, low energy levels, migraines, etc.
On average, the prescribed daily iron intake is 18 mg per day. Note that this requirement isn’t written in stone because it varies on the individual based on their age, gender, wellbeing, etc.
For instance, a lactating lady needs at least 21 mg of iron daily. On the other hand, a teenage girl needs roughly 35mg of iron per day to compensate for what’s lost during periods.
Iron is present in various foods in two forms, namely heme and non-heme. Heme is mainly present in animal products, while non-heme is present in plant-based foods.
It’s worth noting that the body doesn’t readily absorb non-heme iron compared to heme iron. As a result, the iron RDI (recommended dietary intake) for people following plant-based diets is about 2 times higher than those who consume meat.
If you follow plant-based diets such as vegan and vegetarian, here is a list of iron rich foods to help you calm your iron deficiency concerns in plant-based diets.
Iron-Rich Vegetarian Foods
Amaranth has plenty of nutrients like iron and protein. One cup of cooked amaranth contains roughly 5.2mg of iron and 9g of protein.
Amaranth also contains many other nutrients such as fiber, healthy fats, magnesium, manganese, and zinc.
2. Dark Chocolate
Although various forms of chocolate are considered desserts, half a cup of dark chocolate contains roughly 8 mg of iron.
Dark chocolate is also one of the best sources of flavonoids, antioxidants that help boost immunity, improve cognitive function and lower the risk of heart disease.
3. Dried Apricots
One cup of dried apricots contains roughly 4 mg of iron. Dried apricots are also rich in many other minerals and nutrients such as fiber, protein, as well as vitamins A, C, and E.
Note that dried apricots contain a lot of calories (sugar), so to avoid gaining a lot of weight, you should consume them in moderation.
4. Leafy Greens
When it comes to iron-rich veggies, leafy greens are your best bet. Leafy greens such as baby spinach, dill, kale, and lettuce offer between 2.5 mg and 6.5 mg of iron which is between 15% and 40% of the recommended daily intake.
One hundred grams of spinach contains roughly 1.1 times more iron than red meat.
Leafy greens are also rich in other nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and sodium. Not only that, but they are also rich in minerals such as B vitamins and vitamins A and C.
Other leafy greens you can consume include broccoli and Brussel sprouts, albeit they offer between 5% and 10% of the iron recommended daily intake.
Also, consider cooking your leafy greens with tomatoes to boost their RDI.
Lentils are rich in iron as well as fiber and protein, so you can add them to your plant-based diet. One cup of cooked lentils contains roughly 6.6mg of iron and 18g of protein.
Lentils are also rich in other nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, vitamin B12, and zinc. Studies indicate that consuming lentils on a regular basis can reduce the risk of conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and obesity.
Mulberries are sweet and sour fruits with many nutrients, such as iron. One cup of mulberries contains roughly 2.6 mg of iron. Mulberries are also rich in other minerals and nutrients such as fiber, healthy fats, protein, and vitamin C.
Numerous varieties of mushrooms are fit for human consumption, but only a few have quantifiable amounts of iron in them.
For instance, white mushrooms contain roughly 2.5 mg of iron per cup. On the other hand, the Portobello mushroom contains roughly 0.5 mg of iron per cup.
Most people consider olives vegetables because they produce oil but are actually fruits. One cup of olives contains roughly 3.3mg of iron.
Olives are nutritious and contain many other minerals and nutrients such as fiber, healthy fats, sodium, and vitamin A and E.
Consumption of olives, and extra virgin olive oil has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Potatoes contain roughly 3.2mg of iron, most of which is found in their skins. You might think it’s uncouth to eat potatoes with their skins, but potato skins have a lot of flavors when cooked with the right spices.
Potatoes are also rich in fiber and minerals such as B vitamins, potassium, and vitamin C. Sweet potatoes contain iron, with half a cup offering about 2 mg.
Soybean and foods made from soybeans such as Natto, tempeh, and tofu are rich in iron. One cup of cooked soybean comprises roughly 9 mg of iron or half of the total RDI.
Natto, a fermented soybean by-product, contains roughly 15 mg of iron. On the other hand, tempeh and tofu contain roughly 3.5 mg of iron per cup.
Soybean and its by-products are also rich in protein and other nutrients such as calcium, healthy fats, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, sodium, etc.
11. White Kidney Beans
White kidney beans, also known as cannellini beans, contain roughly 5 mg of iron per cup. They are also rich in fiber and protein.
A couple of studies indicate that consuming white kidney beans can reduce the risk of conditions such as heart disease and related conditions such as arrhythmia, dizziness, heartburn, etc.
White kidney beans are also very versatile, and you can incorporate them in numerous dishes such as chili, dips, salads, soups, wraps, etc.
Now we’ve debunked the myth that people on plant-based diets have an iron deficiency.
So if you’re a vegetarian or an aspiring vegetarian and you’re concerned about the lack of iron in your diet, you can consume the foods listed above.
Iron Rich Foods for Vegetarians
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