Iron is an essential mineral that is critical for many of the body’s functions. It is needed to make proteins, such as hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein present in red blood cells that carries oxygen from our lungs to our tissues, while myoglobin helps supply oxygen to our muscles.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), men over the age of 19 have a recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 8 mg of iron. Premenopausal women have a much greater iron requirement than men. Women aged 19-50 have an RDA of 18 mg. After age 50, the number falls in line with men at 8 mg/day. Requirements are different for children under 18, as well as for pregnant or lactating women.
Plant-based (vegan) sources of iron aren’t absorbed as easily as in diets that include meat. As such, vegans need almost twice as much dietary iron each day as omnivores because of the lower intestinal absorption of iron from plant foods. Eating the following 10 foods packed with iron, together with sources of vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, will improve your body’s absorption of iron. For more information iron in a plant-based diet, read this article.
1. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder
Attention chocolate lovers! Dark chocolate (70-85% cacao solids) contains more iron, ounce for ounce, than beef – a lot more! A 3 oz. portion of cooked ground beef (70% lean meat, 30% fat) contains 2.11 mg of iron, while 3 oz. of dark chocolate boasts 10.12 mg. Chocolate pairs beautifully with oranges, so this is an easy way to group your iron and vitamin C consumption for maximum absorption.