You’re a meat-eating, iron-pumping athletic woman who suddenly, because of illness, was asked to lay off eating red meat. Gone are the hamburgers, steaks, smoked meats, etc. you used to love! You wonder where you are going to get your daily recommended allowance of 18 mg of iron (men only need 8 mg). What to do?
Today’s meats from the supermarket have more steroids and hormones that are cancer-causing. And numerous scientific studies show that red meat causes more diseases than anyone can ever imagine.
But no worries! There are many plant-based sources of iron now. But as a vegetarian and vegan, you would need to eat more of it. That’s because there are two types of iron: heme and nonheme. Meat, seafood, and poultry have both forms, but plant-based or fortified foods only contain nonheme.
If you’re strictly plant-based, you need 1.8 more times the daily recommended value of iron. But as I said, no worries! The following plants can supply you with the iron your body needs – and other nutrients as well:
If you need the power and strength of Superman, you need to ingest half a cup of cooked spinach to absorb 3 mg of iron at only 21 calories. Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse: It supplies fiber and protein and a healthy dose of potassium, folate, calcium, as well as Vitamins A, C, and K. Spread in an omelet, salad, or smoothie.
* Red kidney beans
Two half-cup servings daily of red kidney beans provide 13 grams of fiber, 5 mg of iron, and 15 g of plant protein to keep you pumping iron daily. In fact, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study saying that one half-cup serving of beans, lentils and chickpeas can also help you lose weight and keep it off.
An amazing 3.5 milligrams of iron and roughly 9 grams of protein is supplied by just a half cup of cooked lentils. That could you get you through your day! Moreover, lentils are rich in polyphenols, a group of antioxidants that reduce your risk of chronic disease, compared to other legumes (quoting from a 2017 study).
* White beans
There’s a reason beans are always the go-to food for those who have no time to cook and are always on the go. One half-cup of white beans packs nearly 3.5 mg of iron, along with 8.5 g of protein, and 5.5 g of fiber. Other than a traditional veggie stew or the spicy chili, be creative and whip up the beans with cherry tomatoes, or saute with seared scallops if you’re into seafood.
Seafood can be a great substitute for red meat since it’s naturally lower in saturated fat and calories without missing your protein. Iron-rich oysters are one of those who can supply your daily iron needs. Just grill or boil six of them and you’ll get 4 mg of iron and 33 mg of zinc with that.
* Swiss chard
An alternative to spinach – just to make life interesting and a little less boring – is Swiss chard. Same with spinach, you can include them in your salads and smoothies. One cup of cooked swiss chard provides 4 mg of iron already, along with some fiber, calcium, protein, and Vitamins A and C. Swiss chard is also a fantastic source of potassium for the heart, offering a whopping 961 mg per cooked cup.
Quinoa is one of your vegetarian superfoods. For one, it’s a complete vegetarian protein, packed with 8 g of protein — and all nine essential amino acids that your body can’t produce on its own (usually found only in animal products). Moreover, it offers 3 mg of iron in two half-cup servings alongside the magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Quinoa also provides a unique nutty taste, so it’s a great way to substitute for your rice-based meals every day.
* Pumpkin seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds are one of my favorites – and you can have them all year round. Just 1/3rd of a cup of this already contains almost 3 mg of iron. They are also known to be high in healthy fats, potassium, protein, and magnesium.
In Thailand, salted chickpeas are a typical quick daily snack. You get 5 mg of iron in two half-cup servings, as well as an amazing 12 g of fiber with it too. Toss in a salad or serve as a snack.
* Dark chocolate
Yes, you can have your dessert and load up on iron too! Just 1 small of dark chocolate already provides about 3.4 mg of iron. And you get to satisfy your sweet tooth too ;).
Well, enjoy your non-meat sources of iron above! And tell us how it benefits you in the comments below.