Vitamin C is one of the most crucial vitamins for your immune system and for healthy nervous system function. It also helps support healthy skin by protecting skin tissue and aiding in collagen production. Vitamin C helps reduce stress mentally and physically, helps protect the body from illness, and can even help relieve inflammation in your joints. Since Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in the body, increasing your intake can only help you out.
Iron is a critical mineral needed for energy, a healthy metabolism, healthy red blood cell function, and providing adequate oxygen to the body. There are two forms of iron: heme and nonheme iron. Since plants come in the form of nonheme iron, some people believe that a vegan diet isn’t adequate in providing enough iron for optimal absorption. While this isn’t true, it is important to eat in a way that optimizes iron intake for ultimate absorption.
Pairing Vitamin C with iron has been shown to improve absorption and support the body better than not pairing the two together. The good news is this isn’t hard to do. Many vegan foods that contain Vitamin C also contain iron, or they pair perfectly with vegan foods that do contain iron.
Here are 5 Vitamin C rich foods to pair with iron-rich foods:
Lemon is a top source of Vitamin C and it goes great with iron-rich foods such as: spinach, quinoa, chia seeds, lentils, oatmeal, spirulina, soybeans, tomato paste, white beans, and kale.
You can make a green smoothie or green juice with lemon and greens, add a squeeze of lemon zest or juice to chia pudding, quinoa salad or lentils, use lemon juice to make quinoa cakes, add lemon juice to a smoothie with spirulina, or top your bean salad with some fresh-squeezed juice as well.
2. Camu Camu
Camu camu berry powder is my go-to source for Vitamin C. It contains more Vitamin C than any other food in the world with 1667% in just one teaspoon! Plus it has an awesome tangy taste so it’s perfect in a smoothie or a breakfast cereal like oats or quinoa porridge. You can also make energy bars using camu camu berry, nuts, chia, hemp and sesame seeds, cacao nibs, and raisins or prunes. Cacao and cocoa, along with raisins and prunes are all rich in iron, as are sesame, chia, and hemp seeds.
3. Spinach and Kale
Both spinach and kale are rich in both Vitamin C and iron, so they’re ideal all the way around. Pair them with lentils, lemons, quinoa, white beans, or soybeans as a savory dish, or with some fresh fruit and cacao in a smoothie for optimal absorption.
Strawberries contain more Vitamin C than any other North American berry. They go lovely in any smoothie you choose or served on top of a fresh salad at lunch. You could also pair them with oatmeal or quinoa for breakfast or perhaps even make a strawberry and tahini sandwich in place of your usual peanut butter and jelly combo. Tahini (sesame seed butter) is rich in iron and has a delicious nutty flavor. Need more ideas? Here are 25 recipes with strawberries you’re sure to love.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes actually have more Vitamin C than an orange, more potassium than a banana, and more magnesium than many nuts and seeds. They’re also a wonderful source of Vitamin B6 too. Pair sweet potatoes with lentils, quinoa, kale (like in these yummy patties), use the puree in a smoothie with kale or spinach, top a sweet potato with beans for lunch, or squeeze some blackstrap molasses over one for dessert (which is another rich source of iron.) You can also add them to your hummus recipe since chickpeas and tahini are both good sources of iron.
Oranges, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, almost all leafy greens, apples, limes, broccoli, papaya, pineapple, goji berries, and kiwi are also all great sources of Vitamin C.
Get creative with your meals and do the best you can. It’s completely possible to eat a whole foods vegan diet and obtain plenty of iron, but optimizing your absorption whenever you can is never a bad idea.
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