Iron is an important mineral that is responsible for supporting a large number of functions in the human body. It is crucial for humans to acquire this mineral from their everyday diet to facilitate the proper functioning of the body. If your body is not able to acquire the required amounts of iron, it can lead to a wide range of health problems including low energy levels, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, irritability, and anemia.
Vegans should be especially careful in getting adequate levels of iron, as the form of this mineral found in plant-based foods is not readily absorbed by the body. Iron present in plant-based sources, called non-heme iron, is difficult for the human body to absorb when compared to heme iron that is only present in animal products.
So vegans will have to eat more iron-rich foods for meeting their daily iron requirement. Fortunately, there is an enormous number of plant-based foods that are abundant in iron for vegans to choose from. Some of them are listed below:
Legumes like lentils, peas, and beans, are excellent iron sources to include in your plant-based meals. The amount of iron present in each variety varies greatly.
One cup of soybeans can offer about 8.8mg of iron, whereas, the same amount of a fermented soybean product called natto contains 15mg. Other soybean products like tofu and tempeh carry 3-3.6 mg of this mineral per 6 ounces.
Lentil, which is another popular and healthy legume, has 6.6mg of iron per cooked cup. This plant-based food also carries a lot of other nutrients like fiber, complex carbs, protein, manganese, folate, etc. that are important for your health.
Other beans and peas including navy beans, red kidney beans, lima beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, etc. are also a good source of iron. They also carry a lot of other beneficial compounds like fiber, complex carbs, phosphorous, folate, manganese, potassium, etc. Additionally, studies suggest that eating beans and peas can also help to lower sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Nuts and nut butters carry high amounts of iron. Nuts including almonds, pine nuts, cashews, and macadamia nuts are especially high in iron. Nuts are also rich in fiber, healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant chemicals.
When buying nuts, it is better to go for raw or unblanched varieties, as roasting or blanching nuts can damage the nutrients present in them.
For nut butters, look for natural varieties that are free of added salt, sugar, or oils.
Some of the best seeds that are high in iron are pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and sesame seeds. Various products derived from these seeds (like tahini produced from sesame seeds) are also worth considering.
Seeds are also a great source of plant protein, antioxidants, fiber, magnesium, calcium, selenium, zinc, etc. They are also high in omega-3 fats that are significant for your health.
Various leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard, Swiss chard, and beet greens are some of the best sources of iron. Some of these plant-based foods carry more iron content than red meat, fish, and eggs.
In addition to the leafy greens listed above, you can include cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprout in your diet to acquire good amounts of iron.
Even though raw tomatoes contain only a small amount of iron, when they are dried and concentrated, they offer an impressive amount of this mineral. Additionally, tomatoes are also high in vitamin C that can boost the absorption of iron. So this plant-based food creates a wonderful option to acquire your daily requirements of iron.
This veggie is also an excellent plant-based iron source. The major portion of iron in potatoes is concentrated in their skins. Sweet potatoes can also provide you good amounts of iron.
Potatoes are also a great source of fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium. Hence, they can be beneficial for promoting your overall health.
All mushrooms carry certain amounts of iron, but some varieties have higher concentrations of this mineral than others. For example, white mushrooms and oyster mushrooms carry a good amount of iron, whereas shiitake mushrooms have very little.
This is a vegetable rich in vitamin C, potassium, folate, manganese, and fiber. They also carry a fair amount of iron. This veggie creates a great option to blend into dips, incorporated into salads, added into a stir-fry, or tossed on the grill. Hence, you can choose a variety of ways to eat this iron-rich vegetable.
There is a lot of fruits that can offer you good amounts of iron. Prunes, mulberries, and olives are some of them. They carry a lot of other nutrients too. These fruits create a delicious option to get adequate amounts of iron.
Including these foods in your diet can help to avoid a lot of problems caused by iron deficiency. They can also improve your general health by offering a large number of other nutrients and phytochemicals.