Iron is an essential mineral for our health. Its main role is to transport oxygen around the body in the red blood cells. When we eat it, it combines with a protein in the red blood cells called haemoglobin. As we breathe oxygen it is attracted to the iron and combines to the protein to create oxyhaemoglobin. So as you can see it’s pretty important. Iron deficiency can lead to numerous health problem such as anaemia, which causes headaches, dizziness, fatigue and shortness of breath. If we are not mindful we might not get enough iron in our diets. However, with a little thought and research, we can get all we need from a well-selected vegan diet. So without further ado, let’s get into these Top 10 Iron-Rich Vegan Foods!
Tofu is often a go-to for vegans as it has many of the macro and micronutrients we need for our bodies. Not only is it a great source of iron but it also contains protein, calcium, minerals, manganese and phosphorus. A lot of people also love using tofu as a meat substitute as, chameleon-like, it takes on any flavour very well giving you literally endless possibilities for incorporating it into your meals.
Consuming nuts and seeds is a great way to add iron into your diet at any time of the day. Pistachios have a whopping 14mg of iron per 100g. Cashews, pistachios, almonds and peanuts are a great source of iron too, and perfect for either snacking or adding to a variety of dishes such as stir fries, curries and sweet desserts.
Spinach is one of those underrated superfoods. It is packed with nutrients and is very low in calories, not to mention it also tastes delicious with pretty much anything you do with it. A cup of raw spinach contains 3.5mg of iron. Now while this iron is non-heme iron (iron that is poorly absorbed in the gut, spinach also contains vitamin C which helps with iron absorption. (There’s a reason why it was Popeye’s superfood of choice too!)
A cup of chickpeas can give us a fair amount of our RDI of Iron with 4.7mg in 100g. It also is another source of vitamin C so we can really absorb that iron with maximum effect. Chickpeas are fantastic in a salad as they come or in a tagine. If you haven’t got time for dinner then you can always fit in your iron-packed chickpeas with a dollop of hummus. Yummy!
5. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are super seeds that are crammed full of nutrients. They are rich in fibre, high in protein, full of omega-3 fatty acids and yes, you guessed it, they’re a great source of iron. With an impressive 7.7mg of iron per 100g, a quick chia seed overnight breakfast bowl will get you well on your way to boosting those levels of this important mineral in your body.
Spelt is another on the ancient food list that has high nutritional properties. Spelt is a grain that is a subspecies of wheat. Spelt has high fibre, protein and iron content as well as having key minerals and vitamins such as copper, thiamin, niacin, manganese, Vitamin B3, B2 and phosphorus. Spelt is so universal, you can use it as a flour substitute or as a whole grain for risotto or complex salad.
7. Acorn Squash
Acorn squash is sweeter than your average butternut squash but comes from the same family. A cup of cooked acorn squash contains 11% of your DRI. Perfect for winter comfort meals; cube and roast it in the oven and top many dishes such as risotto, salad, curry or stew, with it.
Another legume to make the list is lentils. There are many varieties of lentils with varying amounts of nutrients. The RNI varies between the different types of lentils between 6-15%, with Masoor lentils scoring the highest for iron content. Masoor dal is a very popular dish in Southern India known for its iron-boosting properties.
9. Dried Apricots
Dried fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre which makes them a great sweet treat snack. Dried apricots are also rich in iron, containing 4.1mg per cup. Chopped up, they are delicious on top of muesli, porridge or a hearty tagine. (Be aware to only buy dark brown dried apricots as the the ones appearing a bright orange colour are blasted with sulphur dioxide rendering them nutritionally useless.)
Quinoa is a fantastic food to add to your vegan diet. It is one of the most protein-rich foods you can have and even better, it has all the essential amino acids, lysine, magnesium, vitamin B2 and fibre. It also contains iron with 2.8mg per cup of cooked quinoa. There are many quinoa recipes out there which will allow you to seamlessly add this fantastic food to your diet.