Did you know that iron-deficiency is the most widespread nutritional disorder in the world? It is, and with more than 2 billion people (over 30 percent of the population) suffering from anemia worldwide, getting enough iron is far from being solely a vegan problem. Still, the question of finding sufficient plant-based sources of iron remains at the forefront of discussions when it comes to adopting a vegan diet. The most commonly known sources of iron are ‘heme iron’ such as meat, seafood, and poultry, but contrary to what may be popular belief, those sources of iron only constitute 10-15 percent of the total intake of the nutrient in Western populations. The rest comes from — you’ve guessed it — plants!
The Importance of Iron and How Much We Actually Need
So, we can (and do) get iron from a wide array of different plant sources, but what happens if we don’t? Iron is a component of a number of proteins involved in the transport of oxygen to tissues throughout our bodies for metabolism. As such, it is necessary for proper growth, cellular functioning, and hormone synthesis. Not consuming enough can lead to problems such as compromised muscle functions, cognitive and neurological impairments, vulnerability to infectious diseases, and even death. To avoid having to deal with these issues, women are advised to keep their intake of iron at around 18 milligrams a day while men should consume around eight mg.
Not sure how to get your fill of this important nutrient each day? Here are eight little known but delicious and healthy plant-based sources of iron:
Chocolate may be an indulgence but in its purest form — dark cacao nibs — it’s actually full of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. Aside from being packed with B-vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper, a piece of dark chocolate will give you around 2.7 milligrams of iron! Cacao contains antioxidants called flavonoids as well, which have been shown to reduce bad LDL cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating chocolate can also help you stabilize your mood and sleep cycle because of its large amount of magnesium. As you can see, the health benefits of consuming chocolate go far beyond getting your fill of iron, so feel free to indulge your taste buds!
Try these Pistachio Coconut Dark Chocolate Truffles and these Dark Chocolate Brownies With Zucchini and Walnuts. You also won’t regret making this Galaxy Dark Chocolate With Raspberries and these Salted Dark Chocolate Macadamia Ganache Bars!
Did you know that only a 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds gives you as much as 16 percent of your daily needs for iron? They do — and that’s not all! Pumpkin seeds are also packed with heart-healthy omega-3s, zinc, magnesium, amino acids, and fiber. As such, they have the power to protect you from heart disease, strengthen your immune system, and support healthy hormone production. Plus, they’re a good source of protein with 5 grams for every ounce.
Wonder how to include pumpkin seeds in your diet? We suggest you try the Best Quinoa Veggie Burgers with Pumpkin Seed-Onion Cream and these Kidney Bean and Pumpkin Seed Sliders. Also check out these 10 Ways to Cook With Pumpkin Flesh and Seeds and these 12 Recipes Using Pumpkin Seeds! Last but not least, you have to make this Cauliflower and Pumpkin Seed Crust Pizza and these Pumpkin Seed Cannellini Meatballs With Zucchini Spaghetti. These recipes prove that you can easily get your iron and eat delicious food!
This tiny seed was a staple in the diet of the Aztecs and with reason — it’s a total superfood! Only one cup of amaranth will give you a whooping five milligrams of iron. This grain is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and B-vitamins. Lastly, amaranth contains a good amount of amino acids, protein (nine grams for a cup), and it’s naturally gluten-free as well. Talk about a win-win!
If you’re not familiar with how to prepare this ancient grain, here’s Your Guide to Cooking Perfect Whole Grains. Then, give this Popped Amaranth Cereal, this Quinoa Amaranth Porridge With Blood Orange Syrup, and this Zucchini Stuffed With Amaranth a try. These Red Lentil and Amaranth Protein Patties With Spicy Avocado Mayo and this Vegetable Coconut Amaranth Pilaf are pretty amazing too! Also, check out these 35 Brand Spanking New Recipes Featuring Trendy Ancient Grains.
Dates may be nature’s candies but they’re far from being only a sweet treat — these babies are packed with essential nutrients. A handful of dates will provide you with B-vitamins, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, fiber, and 11 percent of your daily needs for iron. If that wasn’t enough, they can also help you improve your digestion, reduce your risk of getting heart disease, and evidently protect you from iron-deficiency.
Get your fill of iron and indulge in your sweet tooth with this Date Caramel Banana Pie and this Date-Sweetened Pumpkin Pie. You can also give this Healthy Date Caramel a whirl with some apples for a quick snack. Last but not least, check out You Can Do What With Dates? 10 Decadent Date Desserts.
If you’re not familiar with seaweed, it’s time to get acquainted because all types of algae are rich in iron. Case in point, this beautiful Edamame Seaweed Salad would give you around 2.18 milligrams of iron. And that’s only in one meal! Consuming seaweed on a regular basis, either as a snack or as part of a meal, will also give you a good dose of omega-3s, iodine, and vitamin B12. All of which are essential for optimal cognitive functions and brain health. Seaweed is also a great source of calcium since 100 grams gives you over 10 percent of your RDA!
Are you sold on seaweed but not sure how to prepare it? Then, check out our guide on All You Ever Wanted to Know About Sea Vegetables and give this Wild Garlic and Seaweed Pesto, this Seaweed and Tofu Poke, and this Umami Rice Breakfast Bowl a try.
There are few things better than a steaming hot plate filled with potatoes and that’s especially true when it comes to meeting your iron needs. One large potato will give you almost three milligrams of iron. The well-loved starch is also packed with B-vitamins, zinc, folate, potassium, and fiber. Not to mention, potatoes are naturally filling, low in fat, and high in fiber, which helps with stabilizing your blood glucose and weight management. In other words, it’s a healthy choice in more ways than one!
There are about a thousand different ways to enjoy potatoes but if you’re lacking inspiration we suggest you give these Baked Potato Roses a try. You can also check out these 20 Incredible Recipes That Show Why Potatoes Are the Perfect Comfort Food and these 15 Vegan Recipes For the True Potato Lover.
This sesame seed butter, an important part of traditional Lebanese cuisine, deserves to get more recognition. Why? Because only two tablespoons of tahini will give you 15 percent of your RDA for iron! Sesame seeds (from which tahini is made) also contain copper and zinc which are minerals that play an important role in maintaining your immune system strong. Tahini is a good source of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium as well.
This rich and creamy condiment can go on (almost!) everything but it’s especially good in this Spinach Falafel With Tahini Dressing. Tahini also pairs well with vegetables like this Roasted Spiced Carrots recipe proves. Want more inspiration? Check out these 15 Tasty Tahini Recipes You’ll Love and these 15 Vegan Recipes That Show You Can Do More With Tahini Than Make Hummus.
This green never seems to quit being trendy and that’s a good thing! Kale is incredibly nutrient-rich and tasty (have you tried this Kale Salad With Grilled Eggplant, White Beans and Fresh Figs?) Two cups of cooked kale will give you around 2.34 milligrams of iron as well as a good amount of vitamin A and C, B-vitamins, calcium, manganese, copper, potassium, magnesium, and fiber! Not to mention, it also contains a wide variety of antioxidants that fight off free-radicals and prevent inflammation.
Fuel up on this Spicy Kale and Quinoa Black Bean Salad and this Kale Waldorf Salad to get your fill of iron. Want something a bit more comforting? Try this Spicy Peanut Mushroom Kale Soup, this Pumpkin Polenta With Wilted Spiced Greens, or this Creamy Baked Penne With Kale and Fennel. You should also check out These 21 Recipes That Go Beyond Kale Salad and these 20 Ways to Enjoy Kale, The King of Greens.
Looking for more info on how to integrate more plant-based sources of iron in your diet? Here are a few articles that might interest you:
- Meeting Iron Needs from Plant Foods: The Vitamin C Connection
- 10 Plant-based Foods Packed with Iron
- 15 Mind-Blowing Recipes Packed With Plant-Based Iron
- Easy Ways to Add Iron to Your Meals Without Meat
- 5 Ways to Gain Strength and Stamina on a Vegan Diet
- Nutrients Found in Meat That You Can Get From Plants Instead
- 35 Brand Spanking New Recipes Featuring Trendy Ancient Grains
- Popular Types of Kale and Their Health Benefits
If you’re looking for more delicious and seasonal iron-rich recipes, then we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
Lead Image Source: Galaxy Dark Chocolate With Raspberries