Health is an aspect of life that no one can ignore. A healthy and balanced diet is the key that links you to a healthy and active life. Therefore, including foods high in nutrition is vital to keep deficiency of nutrients at bay. The deficiency of nutrients can lead to several diseases. For instance, iron deficiency anaemia is caused due to a lack of iron intake or iron absorption. Iron takes centre stage in performing cross-functional roles to maintain good health and fight numerous diseases. It is the primary nutrient responsible for producing haemoglobin that delivers oxygen to various body parts through the bloodstream.
Hence, it is critical to incorporate iron into the daily diet. The daily recommended dietary allowance for iron among adults is 18 mg. As non-vegetarians have fewer food choices, they can fulfil their daily iron requirements through various sources. This article will enlighten you about the best and easily available vegetarian foods high in iron to make sure vegetarians do not fall short of options for iron-rich foods. So, stay tuned to learn more about the 10 best vegetarian iron-rich foods-
Why Do We Need Iron?
Iron deficiency can give rise to various health concerns and may even lead to serious diseases such as chronic anaemia. Iron helps produce red blood cells that perform the critical function of delivering oxygen to various body parts. Iron deficiency can lead to weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, etc. To avoid these symptoms and strengthen metabolism, everyone needs iron. Though iron needs vary depending upon age, health condition, gender, etc., one must include at least one iron-rich food in the daily diet.
Iron Rich Vegetarian Foods
There are two primary forms of iron, namely heme and non-heme. Heme iron is essentially found in animal products and is easily absorbed by the body; however, the body cannot properly absorb non-heme iron present in most vegetarian foods. Non-heme iron needs vitamin C for appropriate absorption. Due to the low absorption capacity of non-heme iron, vegetarians are advised to consume 1.8 times more iron than non-vegetarians or meat consumers. Being easily available, the iron-rich vegetarian foods given below will satisfy your daily iron requirements efficiently-
Soybean and its allied foods such as tofu, natto, and tempeh are popular as vegetarian sources of iron. A single soybean cup contains 8.8 mg of iron that can fulfil up to 49% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI). Natto is an easily available soybean product produced through the fermentation of soy and offers 15mg of iron. Similarly, tofu and tempeh of around 150 grams offer up to 20% of the RDI of iron. What’s more? Soybean and soy products also provide protein alongside iron. Moreover, vegetarian food is also a host of multiple minerals, namely magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.
Lentils are another iron-rich food that offers 6.6 mg of iron per cup, 37% of the RDI. Lentils are an easily available vegetarian staple food that also provides a remarkable amount of protein, complex carbs, and fibre.
3. Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are one of the best and easily available sources of high iron. Spinach, kale, fenugreek, lettuce, etc., have an iron content ranging between 2.5-6.4 mg of iron, making up around 14-36% of RDI. Surprisingly, just 100 grams of spinach contains 1.1 times more iron than red meat. Green leafy vegetables also contain other essential nutrients such as sodium and potassium alongside iron. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage also provide decent amounts of iron.
4. Beans And Peas
It’s time to have some peas and beans! Red kidney beans, white beans, as well as navy beans are easily available foods high in iron. They offer around 4.4-6.6 mg of iron per cooked serving. Chickpeas and black-eyed peas also contain an excellent amount of iron. Along with iron, beans and peas are fine sources of minerals like potassium, manganese, folate, etc. Thus, these foods help deal with health concerns such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
5. Tomatoes and Potatoes
These are staple veggies that people consume globally. Potatoes contain most of their iron content in their skin, so a big and unpeeled potato can offer 3.2 mg of iron. Potatoes also bring you vitamin C, fibre, vitamin B6, etc. Although not as high as potatoes, tomatoes also offer a good amount of iron; the high vitamin C content enables the optimum non-heme iron absorption through tomatoes.
6. Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, cashews, pine nuts, etc., have their iron content within the range of 1-1.6 mg per ounce. Along with iron, they offer a hoard of vitamins, protein, and healthy fats. However, try consuming these nuts in their best form to derive the best of their nutritional value. Although the list is long, pumpkin, sesame, hemp, and flax seeds are stuffed with iron when it comes to seeds. Just two tablespoons of these seeds contain around 1.2-4.2 mg of iron, comprising around 7–23% of the RDI. Seeds also offer many nutrients such as fibre, calcium, magnesium, several antioxidants rich in omega 3 fatty acids, and omega 6 fatty acids.
7. Fortified kinds of cereal
Many kinds of cereal, such as oats, contain a high amount of iron as manufacturers tend to add iron during processing. Therefore, you can easily find cereals with an excellent amount of iron; you just need to check the cereal’s label to be sure. Cereals are thus a good vegetarian as well as a vegan choice as an iron-rich food.
8. Whole Grains
Whole grains like quinoa, hulled wheat, and amaranth are incredibly rich in iron. These whole grains also have a high fibre content making them an ideal food for people with digestive issues.
Vegetarian foods, thus, can satiate your iron needs optimally. In addition, it is best to consume iron-rich foods with vitamin-rich foods, particularly vitamin C, as it enhances the absorption of nonheme iron. Therefore, people who eat a pure vegetarian or plant-based foods can satisfy their iron needs with these vegetarian foods. To further ensure the right amount of iron for your body, consult a doctor or dietician to seek the best advice.