Iron is a vital nutrient that is often associated with meat or non-vegetarian diet. Red meat, poultry and fish do contain rich amounts of iron that are easily absorbable. However, vegans need not be concerned as there is no dearth of plant-based iron-rich foods.
Our body needs iron to produce hemoglobin that is required to carry oxygen in red blood cells to the tissues. Lack of iron can also reduce formation of myoglobin, a protein that helps supply oxygen to muscles. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia. Children and women, particularly during pregnancy, are prone to iron deficiency.
Dietary iron comes in two forms – heme (found in meats) and non-heme (found in plant-based sources). Heme iron is easily absorbed in the intestines, while non-heme iron is not easily absorbed. Vitamin C helps promote effective absorption of non-heme iron.
Therefore, it is very important to take the following plant-based sources with adequate vitamin C.
Beans are a rich source of iron and protein, while being budget friendly. You can choose from a variety of beans, including kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, garbanzo beans and lima beans. Kidney beans are also low in calories. Black beans are filled with iron, fibre and protein. Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are rich in iron and protein.
2. Spinach and other leafy greens
Spinach is an excellent source of iron, among many other nutrients. Cooked spinach contains much higher amounts of iron that raw spinach. Vitamin C in spinach also enhances absorption of the non-heme iron. Other leafy greens rich in iron include cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts.
Tofu contains rich amounts of iron and other minerals. A popular choice in Asian cuisines, tofu has reached tables around the world, thanks to its high nutritional value. You can take silken, firm or extra-firm tofu. There are many tasty dishes that can be prepared with tofu.
Lentils are one of the healthiest foods packed with a rich mix of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. A cup of lentils can form a good portion of your daily recommended iron intake.
5. Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is a powerful source of iron and other essential minerals. It can be taken directly in a spoon or used as a sweetener in cereals, toast, coffee or milk.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of iron. Even a handful of pumpkin seeds contain impressive amounts of iron. Eating pumpkin seeds raw is the best way to go, but you may also lightly roast the seeds.
7. Whole Grains
A healthy diet is incomplete without whole grains. Whole grains can provide valuable amounts of iron without adding extra carbs and calories. You can take whole-wheat bread, pasta and cookies, or experiment with quinoa meals and breakfast.
Like seeds, nuts are rich in iron. Cashews are high in their iron content. Other iron-rich nuts include pistachios, pecan, walnuts and almonds.
Green peas have a rich content of iron and other minerals. Green peas can be incorporated in a variety of dishes such as soups, salads and curries. Black eyed peas, another nutritious legume, offer considerable amount of iron, along with some vitamin C.
10. Raisins and Dates
Raisins contain high amount of iron. These slightly sweet treats are dense in nutrients and make for a healthy addition to your diet. Dates, another dried fruit, are also an excellent choice for iron.
11. Dried Apricots
Apricots in their dried form have higher amounts of iron. These sweet treats are a healthy snack throughout the day and can be added to salads and baked goods.
Oatmeal can serve many health purposes, including reducing iron deficiency. This healthy breakfast food contains a good quantity of iron among other nutrients. You can eat oatmeal cereals, granola or oatmeal cookies.
These were some top iron-rich foods for vegans that can help maintain proper iron levels and counter any deficiency.