One of the most common criticisms of the vegan diet is that plant-based foods don’t contain as much iron as meat. Iron is an extremely important nutrient for our body and definitely not one we can afford to skimp on. An astonishingly high proportion of the world today suffers from anemia, a form of iron deficiency. Lack of iron can make you weak, breathless and prone to fainting spells. Luckily, going vegan doesn’t mean iron-deficiency will be inevitable. Here are seven plant-sources of iron that can keep your iron levels up.
1. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and Swiss chard are one of the best sources of iron out there. Spinach has the most amount of iron, with 6.43 mg of iron per cup. However, it’s important to remember that greens need to be cooked in order to make their iron content available. Eating them raw hardly counts because it brings down their iron content drastically.
Tofu is a great source of iron as each serving contains 2.15 mg of iron. Tofu comes in a variety of forms, all of which make it an extremely versatile ingredient to cook with. The downside is that many varieties of tofu are made from GMO soybeans which could be dangerous in the long run. Always make sure that the packaging says your tofu has been made from organically grown soy.
If you’re trying to make your diet more plant-based, legumes are one of the most important foods you should include. Often overlooked, these beans are packed with protein and iron. Red kidney beans contain 3.93 mg of iron, making it one of the healthiest legumes out there. Other varieties like pinto beans, garbanzo beans and black eyed peas also contain impressive amounts of iron.
Seeds have for too long been ignored and thrown away. Today, people are slowly beginning to realize the importance of seeds and are adding them to their diets. Sesame seeds are one of the most iron-packed type of seed, with each spoon of sesame seeds containing 1.31 mg of iron. Make your own tahini paste out of roasted sesame seeds to get your daily dose of iron. Pumpkin seeds and squash seeds are also valuable sources of iron.
Spirulina is a type of algae which is packed with health benefits. It is most renowned for having high levels of biotin and iron. While it varies from brand to brand, on an average, each spirulina capsule contains 2 mg of iron. You can pop a spirulina supplement every day or add a spoonful of spirulina powder to your morning smoothie to keep your iron levels up.
6. Dried Fruits
Dried fruits like apricots, figs, peaches and dates are extremely high in iron. Peaches contain 6.5 mg of iron per serving, making them one of the best plant-based sources of iron. Dates also are commonly used to supplement iron intake as each serving contains 1 mg of iron. While dried fruits are a great source of iron, remember not to overdo it. They are also very high in sugar, so they’re best eaten in moderation. About 3 dates a day is all you really need.
7. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is one of the best (and most exciting) plant-based sources of iron. Chocolate may actually even be a better source of iron than meat. 3 oz. of beef contains 2.11 mg of iron while the same amount of chocolate contains 1.12 mg. Always choose dark chocolate because it’s the cocoa powder which contains iron. The more cocoa chocolate has, the more iron it contains. You could even add a scoop of raw cacao powder to your smoothie to get the most iron.