Iron is a mineral that fulfills several important functions in the body. Its main function is to transport oxygen throughout the body and to make red blood cells.
Iron is an essential nutrient, which means that you must receive it from your food. The recommended daily intake (IDR) is 18 mg. Interestingly, the amount absorbed by your body is based in part on the amount you have already stored.
Iron Deficiency Causes
A deficiency can occur if your intake is too low to replace the amount lost each day. An iron deficiency can cause anemia and lead to symptoms like fatigue. Women who are menstruating and women who do not eat iron-rich foods are particularly at risk of deficiency.
Pregnancy can cause iron deficient anemia in pregnant women. This is not an uncommon condition. Pregnant women need to produce more (oxygen-carrying) blood to supply their growing baby, this requires more iron to be produced by the mother-to-be. Iron-deficiency anemia can occur if their isn’t sufficient iron produced.
11 Iron Rich Plant Based Foods
It’s important to get your iron from healthy natural sources. Iron is also found in animal products like liver and red meat. Consuming too much red meat can raise your LDL ‘bad’ Cholesterol.
Spinach provides many health benefits, for very few calories. 100 grams (3.5 oz.) Cooked spinach contain 3.6 mg iron, or 20% RDA.
Although it is non-heme iron, which is not very well absorbed, spinach is also rich in vitamin C. This is important because vitamin C significantly stimulates iron absorption.
Spinach is also rich in antioxidants called carotenoids that can reduce the risk of cancer, reduce inflammation and protect your eyes from the disease.
Consuming spinach and other green vegetables with fat helps your body absorb carotenoids, so be sure to eat your spinach with a healthy fat, such as olive oil.
Legumes are filled with nutrients. They are a great source of iron, especially for vegetarians. Some of the most common types of legumes are beans, lentils, chickpeas, green peas, and soybeans. Legumes are also rich in folate, magnesium, and potassium.
- LENTILS – One cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils contains 6.6 mg, or 37% of the DVI.
- GARBANZO BEANS (CHICKPEAS) – One cup (164 grams) of cooked chickpeas contains 5.6 mg, or 26% of the DVI.
- GREEN PEAS – One cup (145 grams) of cooked peas contains 2.1 mg, or 11% of the DVI.
- SOYBEANS – One cup (186 grams) of raw soybeans contains 29.2 mg, or 162% of the DVI.
Studies have shown that beans and many other legumes can reduce inflammation in people suffering from diabetes. Legumes can also reduce the risk of heart disease in people with metabolic syndrome.
In addition, legumes can help you lose weight. They are very rich in soluble fiber, which can increase the feeling of satiation and thus reduce the caloric intake.
In one study, a diet high in fiber containing beans proved to be as effective as a low carbohydrate diet regarding weight loss.
To maximize iron absorption, be sure to consume legumes with foods high in vitamin C, such as tomatoes and citrus fruits.
Pumpkin seeds make a tasty and easily transportable snack.
A serving of 28 grams (one ounce) of pumpkin seeds contains 4.2 mg of iron, or 23% of the RDA.
In addition, pumpkin seeds are a good source of vitamin K, zinc and manganese. They are also among the best sources of magnesium, which is lacking for many people.
A 28-gram serving contains 37% RDA of magnesium, which helps reduce the risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, and depression.
Quinoa is a famous grain, known as pseudo-cereal. One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa provides 2.8 mg of iron, which is 15% of the RDA.
In addition, quinoa does not contain gluten, making it a good choice for people with celiac disease or other forms of gluten intolerance.
Quinoa has a higher protein content than many other cereals, and it is also rich in folate, magnesium, copper, manganese and many other nutrients.
In addition, quinoa has more antioxidant actions than other grains. Antioxidants help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are formed during metabolism and in response to stress.
Tofu is a soy food that is popular among vegetarians and a staple food in many Asian countries. A half cup serving (126 grams) provides 3.6 mg of iron, representing 19% of the RDA.
Tofu is also a very good source of thiamine and several minerals, including calcium, selenium, and magnesium. In addition, it provides 20 grams of protein per serving.
Tofu also contains unique compounds called isoflavones, which have been linked to improved insulin sensitivity, with reduced risk of heart disease and the relief of menopausal symptoms.
An excellent addition to salads, olives bring 3.3 milligrams of iron per 100 grams. It is high time to get into Greek salads!
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds, especially cashews and pine nuts are a good source of healthy fats as well as iron. Cashews contain 1.9 milligrams of iron per 28.4 grams.
Iron Deficiency Symptoms
Some of the physical symptoms of iron deficiency are fatigue, difficulty focusing, shortness of breath and abnormally pale skin color.
If you have these symptoms or are concerned about possible iron deficiency, consult your doctor.