Plant- Based Superfood Sources of Iron: Who really needs Iron anyway?
You do, for sure! Yep, I don’t even know you, we haven’t talked, met, and I don’t even have a client intake form for you.
Yet, this much I know: You. Need. Iron.
But, I’m cheating here, because, really, EVERYBODY needs Iron.
Amazingly, it IS possible that we can all get sufficient iron without having to resort to eating meat. Let’s restore our good health, enjoy better karma, all while we protect the planet and its creatures. Rejoice!
Iron is the mineral critical for circulating oxygen to our red blood cells throughout our body. Iron gives us energy.
Anemia, an iron deficiency, leaves us feeling EXHAUSTED, and short of breath – and no one’s got time for that! Thing is, most doctors still, to this day, think needing Iron means “eat more steak”, and for those of us in a plant-based, cruelty-free YOU-niverse, that’s just not going to cut it!
Plant-Based, Iron-rich alternatives require learning how to minimize iron loss, get the right intake, and maximize Iron absorption.
Before we get to the foods which offer optimal amounts of Iron, let’s first make sure you’re not inadvertently blocking your Iron uptake! For instance, did you know that Antacid medications restrict iron absorption?
The following list of foods can inhibit iron absorption for as much as 2 hours before and after iron-rich meals:
Caffeinated beverages, i.e., sodas, coffees, any teas (black, green, white) even peppermint tea, red wine, calcium supplements, eggs and dairy. Side note: dairy is highly inflammatory, and therefore “bad news” most everywhere, not just near iron intake!
How do I increase Iron absorption?
Include Vitamin-C rich foods whenever you’re eating Iron-rich foods. Get creative with pairings and serve any of these alongside, in the same meal:
Apricots, bell peppers, broccoli, cantaloupe melon, cauliflower, all citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, leafy green vegetables, mango, papaya, pomegranate, prunes, raisins, strawberries, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
And finally, the actual list of foods rich in Iron:
- Hemp hearts, a nutrient-dense food with much of what our body needs for good bone health: magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, copper, iron and zinc.
- Pistachios, one of the healthiest nuts available due to their high content of protein, calcium, iron (almost 5 mg of iron per cup), copper, oleic acids, and antioxidants such as vitamins A & E, and a healthy ration of beneficial fatty acids. . A 1-ounce serving of these nuts (approximately 49 pistachio kernels) contains 6 grams of protein (Self Nutrition Data, n.d.).
- Spirulina, a blue-green algae, loaded with powerful benefits including a source of plant-based iron. Among the long list of benefits of this superfood, it has known anti-toxic properties, useful to counteract pollutants in the body, including fluoride, iron, lead, mercury, and arsenic, especially when taken alongside Zinc. It also supports mental health and well-being as it is a source of the amino-acid tryptophan which regulates healthy serotonin levels.
- Apricots, incredibly high in minerals and rich in beta carotene, are one of the most healing fruits you can eat. They are one of the best sources for organic iron and cobalt making them very beneficial for anemia, digestive disorders, and reproductive health. Apricots are highly beneficial for autoimmune disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, asthma, lupus, colitis, IBS, and PCOS.
(Tip: Look for wild and/or organic varieties without any preservatives such as sulfur dioxide. A handful of dried organic apricots each day is a fantastic snack that can help keep you energized and focused throughout the day.)
- Lentils, rich in iron, protein, and fiber, with B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and potassium (great for keeping sodium in check) among the most helpful of other nutrients. This combination makes lentils a great addition to a healthful diet. Each cup of cooked lentils contains over 6 milligrams of iron and more than 17 mg of protein.
- Soy products, just a half-cup serving of tofu contains more than 6mg of iron and about 10 g of protein.
(Tip: A great cooking tip is to season the hot oil you cook it in (cooking in seasoned wok or cast iron pans recommended) with salt & pepper to flavor your tofu instead of seasoning the tofu before you start. If you salt it (or any other foods in advance, you’ll draw out the liquids, leaving behind a tougher, drier item which will surely leave you unhappy with results).
- Tempeh and Natto are other soy products which contain significant sources of iron and additional health benefits, particularly since they are fermented, a process which enriches the nutritional profile of each ingredient, digestibility, and delivers the probiotics needed to restore your gut balance.
So, how much Iron do any of us need? According to the NIH, we should get the following daily iron intake in milligrams (mg):
- infants 7–24 months, 11 mg
- children aged 2-11 years, 13-15 mg
- teens 12-19 years, 16 mg
- women 19-50 years, 18 mg
- adult males, 8 mg
And, yes, amounts can still vary, person to person. Keep in mind that babies are born with a reserve of iron, which comes from their mother’s blood while they are in the womb.
In joy, and good health…
*Anyone who is concerned that they may not be getting enough iron from their diet should speak to a doctor or dietician*
Be sure to check out all the Salad Squad Events in order to help ease your access to all these amazing sources of iron everyday!