Plant Based Sources of Iron
Iron is an essential nutrient that helps to preserve many vital functions in the body, including general energy and focus, gastrointestinal processes, the immune system, and the regulation of body temperature. Iron is a mineral that is vital to the proper function of hemoglobin, a protein needed to transport oxygen in the blood. The benefits of iron often go unnoticed until a person is not getting enough. Iron deficiency anemia can cause low energy, fatigue, heart palpitations, headaches, irritability, pale skin, and breathlessness.
Iron can be found in two forms in foods — heme and non-heme. Heme iron is only found in animal products, whereas non-heme iron is only found in iron rich plants. The recommended daily intake (RDI) is based on an average intake of 18 mg per day. However, individual requirements vary based on a person's gender and life stage.
For instance, men and post-menopausal women generally require around 8 mg of iron per day. This amount increases to 18 mg per day for menstruating women and to 27 mg per day for pregnant women, and since non-heme iron tends to be less easily absorbed by our bodies than heme iron, the recommended daily intake (RDI) for vegetarians and vegans is 1.8 times higher than for meat eaters.
Here Is a List of 20 Plant Foods That Are High in Iron:
1. Tofu, Tempeh, Natto and Soybeans
Soybeans and foods derived from soybeans are packed with iron. In fact, soybeans contain around 8.8 mg of it per cup, or 49% of the RDI. The same portion of natto, a fermented soybean product, offers 15 mg, or 83% of the RDI. Similarly, 6 ounces (168 grams) of tofu or tempeh each offer 3–3.6 mg of iron, or up to approximately 20% of the RDI. In addition to iron, these soy products contain between 10–19 grams of protein per portion and are also a good source of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Lentils are another iron-filled food, providing 6.6 mg per cup cooked, or 37% of the RDI. Lentils contain a significant amount of protein, complex carbs, fiber, folate and manganese as well. One cup of cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein and covers around 50% of your recommended daily fiber intake.
3. Beans and Peas as Sources of Iron
Other types of beans contain good amounts of iron as well. White, lima, red kidney and navy beans closely follow soybeans, offering 4.4–6.6 mg of iron per cup cooked, or 24–37% of the RDI. However, chickpeas and black-eyed peas have the highest iron content. They provide around 4.6–5.2 mg per cup cooked, or 26–29% of the RDI.
4. Pumpkin, Sesame, Hemp and Flaxseeds
Pumpkin, sesame, hemp and flaxseeds are the seeds richest in iron, containing around 1.2–4.2 mg per two tablespoons, or 7–23% of the RDI. Products derived from these seeds are also worth considering. For instance, two tablespoons of tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, contain 2.6 mg of iron — which is 14% of the RDI. Similarly, hummus made from chickpeas and tahini provides you with around 3 mg of iron per half cup, or 17% of the RDI.
5. Cashews, Pine Nuts and Other Nuts
Nuts and nut butters contain quite a bit of non-heme iron as well. This is especially true for almonds, cashews, pine nuts and macadamia nuts, which contain between 1–1.6 mg of iron per ounce, or around 6–9% of the RDI. It is important to note that blanching or roasting nuts may damage their nutrients, so favor raw and unblanched varieties. As for nut butters, it's best to choose a 100% natural variety to avoid an unnecessary dose of added oils, sugars and salt.
6. Leafy Greens - the Iron Filled Plants
Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard and beet greens contain between 2.5–6.4 mg of iron per cooked cup, or 14–36% of the RDI. For example, 100 grams of spinach contains 1.1 times more iron than the same amount of red meat and 2.2 times more than 100 grams of salmon. This is also 3 times more than 100 grams of boiled eggs and 3.6 times more than the same amount of chicken. Yet due to their light weight, some can find it difficult to consume 100 grams of raw, leafy greens. In this case, it's best to consume them cooked. Other iron-rich veggies that fit in this category include broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, which contain between 1 and 1.8 mg per cooked cup, or around 6–10% of the RDI.
7. Tomato Paste - Great Concentration of Iron
At 0.5 mg per cup, raw tomatoes contain very little iron. However, when dried or concentrated, they offer a much greater amount. Half a cup (118 ml) of tomato paste offers 3.9 mg of iron, or 22% of the RDI, whereas 1 cup (237 ml) of tomato sauce offers 1.9 mg, or 11% of the RDI. Sun-dried tomatoes are another iron-rich source, providing you with 1.3–2.5 mg per half cup, or up to 14% of the RDI.
Potatoes contain significant amounts of iron, mostly concentrated in their skins. More specifically, one large, unpeeled potato (10.5 ounces or 295 grams) provides 3.2 mg of iron, which is 18% of the RDI. Sweet potatoes contain slightly less — around 2.1 mg for the same quantity, or 12% of the RDI.
Certain varieties of mushrooms are particularly rich in iron. For instance, one cooked cup of white mushrooms contains around 2.7 mg, or 15% of the RDI. Oyster mushrooms may offer up to twice as much iron, whereas portobello and shiitake mushrooms contain very little.
10. Palm Hearts - the Nutrient-dense Food
Palm hearts are a tropical vegetable rich in fiber, potassium, manganese, vitamin C and folate. A lesser-known fact about palm hearts is that they also contain a fair amount of iron — an impressive 4.6 mg per cup, or 26% of the RDI.
11. Prune Juice
Fruit is not commonly the food group that individuals turn to when wanting to increase the iron content of their diet. Nevertheless, some fruits are surprisingly high in iron. Prunes are one of these fruits. Prune juice, in particular, offers about 3 mg of iron per cup (237 ml). That's around 17% of the RDI and is twice as much iron than the same quantity of prunes.
Olives are another fruit with a good amount of iron content. They contain around 3.3 mg of iron per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), or 18% of the RDI.
Mulberries are a type of fruit with a particularly impressive nutritional value. Not only do they offer around 2.6 mg of iron per cup — 14% of the RDI — but this quantity of mulberries also meets 85% of the RDI for vitamin C.
The Iron Rich Grains
Amaranth is a gluten-free ancient grain that doesn't grow from grasses like other grains do. For this reason, it is technically considered a "pseudograin” or “psuedocereal." Amaranth contains around 5.2 mg of iron per cup cooked, or 29% of the RDI.
Spelt is another iron-rich ancient grain. It contains around 3.2 mg of iron per cup cooked, or 18% of the RDI. Moreover, spelt offers around 5–6 grams of protein per portion, which is approximately 1.5 times more protein than more modern grains, such as wheat.
Oats are a delicious and easy way to add iron to your diet. A cup of cooked oats contains around 3.4 mg of iron — 19% of the RDI — as well as good amounts of plant protein, fiber, magnesium, zinc and folate.
Like amaranth, quinoa is a gluten-free pseudocereal rich in complete protein, fiber, complex carbs, vitamins and minerals. It offers around 2.8 mg of iron per cup cooked, or 16% of the RDI.
18. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk can be a tasty alternative to cow's milk. Although very high in fat, it's a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, copper and manganese. Coconut milk also contains a good amount of iron — more specifically, around 3.8 mg per half cup (118 ml), or around 21% of the RDI.
19. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains significantly more nutrients than its milk chocolate counterpart. Not only does it offer 3.3 mg of iron per ounce (28 grams), meeting around 18% of the RDI, but it also contains a good amount of fiber, magnesium, copper and manganese.
20. Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is a sweetener often claimed to be healthier than table sugar. In terms of iron, it contains around 1.8 mg of iron per two tablespoons, or around 10% of the RDI.
The Link Between Low - Chlorophyll Diet and Anemia
Many people seeking to improve the amount of iron in their diet are likely concerned about anemia—a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body's tissues, making you feel tired and weak. Anemia is largely attributed to iron deficiency, however, there is another factor worth considering.
Chlorophyll is a pigment that gives plants their green color, and is used by plants along with sunlight to gather nutrients. Interestingly, Chlorophyll is chemically similar to hemoglobin, a protein that is essential in red blood cells as it carries oxygen around a person's body. Researchers have suggested that adding more chlorophyll to one’s diet may be helpful in treating hemoglobin deficiency disorders, such as anemia and thalassemia. Chlorophyll exists in all green plants; however, chlorella, spirulina, and wheatgrass are known to be the richest sources of chlorophyll.
Iron is an essential nutrient that helps to preserve many vital functions in the body. It is a mineral that is vital to the proper function of hemoglobin, a protein needed to transport oxygen in the blood. Iron deficiency anemia can cause low energy, fatigue, heart palpitations, headaches, irritability, pale skin, and breathlessness.
Iron can be found in two forms in foods — heme and non-heme. Heme iron is only found in animal products, whereas non-heme iron is only found in plants rich in iron. Ensuring that you have adequate amounts of iron in your diet can provide energy and focus, whereas a lack of iron may lead to anemia. Another factor to consider for those who are anemic, is the consumption of chlorophyll-rich foods, as chlorophyll may play a helpful role in the production of hemoglobin.