Our bodies require essential vitamins and nutrients to work properly and stay healthy. Iron is one of these nutrients and a common deficiency for vegans. Iron can be found in various foods, however, there are two forms of iron heme and non-heme. Animal products contain heme iron, whereas plants contain non-heme iron. In this article, we cover some of the best natural foods to fight iron deficiency as a vegan and why you need iron.
The 18mg is the average amount of iron that your body needs. However, this will vary depending on your age, gender, and life stage. Those who exercise frequently and pregnant women require more iron than the average person. Additionally, as non-heme iron is harder for our bodies to absorb, vegans and vegetarians should have an iron intake of 1.8 times more than meat-eaters. This means the average vegan should consume around 32mg of iron per day. If you do not consume enough iron, you will likely experience low energy, shortness of breath, headaches, and dizziness.
A great source of non-heme iron is soybeans, in fact, 1 cup of soybeans contains 8.8mg of iron. Fermented soybean products like natto contain 15mg of iron per cup.
Tofu and tempeh contain around 3mg of iron per 150grams but are both high in protein.
One cup of cooked lentils contains 6.6mg of iron. Better yet, lentils are also high in fiber and protein. Chickpeas and black-eyed peas contain around 5mg of iron per cooked cup. Chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus, which is easily added to sandwiches, wraps, salads or as a dip. Other cooked beans like white, lime, navy and red kidney beans offer 4.5-6mg of iron per cup.
Sesame, hemp, pumpkin, and flaxseeds contain significant amounts of iron. In fact, they contain 1.5-4mg of iron per 2 tablespoons. Thus, adding a couple of tablespoons of seeds to yogurt, granola, rice, and salads is a great way for vegans to boost iron consumption. Seeds also contain antioxidants to boost your health, along with fiber, plant protein, calcium, and magnesium.
A cup of cooked leafy greens is a great source of iron, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Spinach contains 6.5mg of iron, whereas kale contains 3.6mg. Both of these leafy greens can be added to tofu scramble, pasta, or rice to boost your iron consumption. Swiss chard, beet greens, and collard greens all offer around 2mg of iron per cooked cup.
When it comes to mushrooms, the iron content varies depending on the type of mushroom. For example, one cup of raw white mushrooms contains 1.3mg of iron whereas the same amount of oyster mushrooms contains 2.8mg of iron. Portobello and shiitake mushrooms, however, only contain 0.4mg of iron per cup.
Dried and concentrated tomatoes are a great source of iron, with a cup of tomato paste containing 7.8mg of iron. Sun-dried tomatoes contain 5mg of iron per cup.
Eating grains, and oats can increase your iron consumption. A cup of cooked oats contains around 3.5mg of iron while promoting gut health due to the beta-glucan fiber. Spelt grains contain 3.2mg of iron per cooked cup, and the same amount of cooked quinoa contains 2.8mg. Aim to find bread products containing spelt or quinoa to easily boost iron consumption.
Iron is an essential nutrient that everyone needs to have a healthy body, that functions well. Incorporate the natural foods above to fight iron deficiency and increase iron consumption as a vegan. Many of the foods above are easy to add to a variety of meals, making it easy to hit the recommended iron intake. This will not only help you have more energy but also contribute to your overall health.