Whether you are on a plant-based or a non-vegetarian diet, you can never undermine the importance of iron in your diet. It is undoubtedly the power nutrient that plays a vital role in many bodily functions. Deficiency can lead to low energy levels, shortness of breath, irritability, dizziness, headaches, or anemia.
There are two forms of iron in foods: heme found in animal products and non-heme found in plants. Since your body finds it difficult to absorb non-heme iron, it ends up taking much more time than it takes to absorb heme iron. Therefore, as a vegan or if you’re exploring began nutrition for a short period of time, your recommended daily intake is much higher than that of non-vegans.
Here are five plant-based food sources that are rich in iron and can help you fulfill your body’s daily needs.
Legumes, including beans, peas, and lentils are great sources.
Soybeans and the foods derived from them, such as natto, tofu, and tempeh are packed with iron. Moreover, lentils also contain significant amounts of iron. Also, other types of beans, like red kidney, lima, and navy beans are also rich in iron. The best sources among all, however, are chickpeas and black-eyed peas, as they contain the highest content.
2. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are also iron-rich plant sources. If you want to increase your intake, you should consider choosing the varieties that offer the maximum amount.
The seeds that contain the most include sesame, pumpkin, hemp, and flax seeds. Even the products derived from these seeds are good sources for your body. These include tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, and hummus made from chickpeas.
In addition to this, you can also get a good amount of non-heme iron from nuts and nut butter. Consider adding a small portion of almonds, pine nuts, cashews, and macadamia nuts to your daily diet. Also, make sure that you are consuming raw or unblanched varieties, as roasted or blanched nuts are likely to lose their nutrients.
Vegans may disregard fruits not realizing that some fruits are surprisingly high in iron.
Prune is one of the fruits that is rich in iron – and juicing it doubles the amount! In addition to this, olives and mulberries are also among the highest iron containing fruits.
The iron content found in vegetables is higher than that found in animal sources, like meat and eggs. Even though non-heme is hard to absorb, the vitamin C in these vegetables enhance the absorption.
Leafy green vegetables, such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, collard, beet greens, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are some great sources. Potatoes and palm hearts also contain significant amounts. Also, some varieties of mushrooms, such as oyster mushrooms are rich in iron. Moreover, when it comes to tomatoes, consider using its paste instead of the raw vegetable to enjoy a greater amount.
5. Whole grains
Whole grains contain more iron than refined grains since a considerable amount is lost during the grain processing process. Thus, consider consuming whole grains instead of processed ones.
The whole grains that contain the highest amount include amaranth, spelt, oats, and quinoa. These grains also contain other nutrients that are beneficial for your health.
In addition to the aforementioned foods, coconut milk, dark chocolate, dried thyme, and blackstrap molasses are some lesser-known yet rich sources. Start consuming these foods in your daily vegan diet – you will notice a significant improvement in your overall health!