Iron is important in any diet – and you probably know this, but may not know why. I feel like so many people are iron deficient (purely based on the fact that a number of friends have recently been diagnosed with this!) but there are ways in which we can help this. If your on a Plant Based diet, or any diet then this list of Plant based foods that are high in iron may be helpful.
Iron is so important to us as it is a nutrient that is key during growth: it carries oxygen around the body and is a component of muscle and blood. If you have a diet deficient in iron, you may suffer from ‘iron deficiency anaemia’. In many developing and industrialised countries, iron deficiency is rife. Iron deficiency anaemia occurs when either our red blood cell count or our haemoglobin levels (or both) are too low. This means that oxygen cannot be carried around our bodies as it should be.
When someone has low iron, they may be incredibly tired, suffer from heart palpitations or feel breathless (obviously refer to your doctor if you think you have this!!). Obviously, something that can help with iron levels is eating foods rich in iron. Someone with no dietary restrictions may head straight to meat – especially red meat, to get their iron in. However – there are many options avaialable for those looking for Plant Based foods that are high in iron. A good way to boost your iron levels too is to pair with foods rich in vitamin C. I mean the more vitamins and minerals we can get from a food are great right? Here is a list of some Plant Based foods high in iron:
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Ok so you may have read when I was talking about protein on a Plant Based diet, that Spirulina and I go back a long way, and let’s just say – we aren’t the best of friends. I used to do a shot every morning (and rope my supportive mother in) with a little bit of orange juice (clearly I knew that I should be pairing iron and vitamin C together at the time –not!) I did however put the taste part out of my mind and take it for the goodness it provides. I’d suggest trying it – just be prepared and near a sink in case you can’t hack it, or more sensibly – add it into a smoothie. If it helps to persuade you to try it… it’s also no. 1 in our High Protein Vegetables Top 30 list!
Carrying on with the green theme, spinach is an all round good vegetable. Spinach contains lots of iron and vitamins as is so versatile too in the sense that you can add it into dishes, smoothies or have it in a side salad – either raw or cooked. If you don’t love the taste, spinach can easily be disguised into a smoothie.
Yep… still on the green theme and next in line is kale. With leafy greens such as spinach and kale, the key is to getting the volume in. Getting a good amount of volume in is key and if you can do this, you reap the rewards. Gram for gram with other iron rich foods, leafy greens have much more iron in. However, it can be harder to eat 100g of kale vs. 100g of something else. Other similar green veggies such as broccoli and brussels sprouts are similar in properties and contain decent amounts of iron.
Legumes are another group of Plant Based foods that are high in iron. Black beans in particular are a goodie for bulking out meals (and bulking out your iron). Black beans contain a fair dose of fibre and protein as well as a good amount of iron. I love making curries from scratch and putting black beans in – they pick up flavour really nicely. Black beans are also great in Mexican dishes – you could add them into my Sweet Potato / White Potato wedges with Mexican salsa dish.
Lentils are a key Plant Based diet staple is lentils – they’re versatile, theyre a great filler and they’re cheap! For small little legumes, they have a high amount of iron per serve. Many of the recipes here are suitable for Plant Based diets, and the sheer variety of recipes shows that there is so much that can be done with them.
Similarly to our legume friends above, chickpeas contain good amount of not only iron but also protein, fibre and vitamins. My favourite way to eat chickpeas is in a home made hummus! Equally, they are great to add into curries and salads to bulk them out.
Although sometimes pistachios can be a little fiddly if you have to take the nut out of the pod – it is worth it! They are one of the best nuts for high iron levels and also contain vitamin B6. Create your own home made dukkah using my favourite recipe to sprinkle that iron on top of your brunch!
Similarly to pistachios, almonds have a high amount of iron in. Nuts can be incorporate easily into your daily meals. Don’t always think of the obvious, i.e. snacking on a handful of nuts. Get creative and make your own satay sauce. Swap peanuts of cashews using my delicious recipe (or do a mix of the two!).
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Seeds in general are a good source of Plant Based foods that are high in iron, my pick of which is sesame seeds. Even though they are small – they certainly pack a punch. Remember too that sesame seeds don’t just have to be in their seed form – tahini is ground sesame seeds and can be used too. Why not create a home-made hummus – chickpeas and sesame seeds together are an iron match made in heaven!!
In conclusion, it’s definitely worth getting your iron in, either through Plant Based foods high in iron, or non Plant Based foods high in iron. Having iron in the body helps with good health (sounds vague I know but there are so many benefits of iron I thought I’d use this general phrase). It’s also essential for your metabolism and is required by the body to produce red blood cells and to help with overall energy levels.