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“But what protein do you eat? What plant-based iron rich foods even exist?”
If you’re following a vegetarian lifestyle, signed up to Veganuary or plant-based diet, this is a question that you’ll probably get asked by every omnivore you come across.
They do have a point – these nutrients are essential for things to tick along nicely. But while most vegans and vegetarians are now pretty well-educated in plant based protein (tofu, lentils, and ALL the nut butter), iron is often overlooked in nutritional info.
Iron rich foods are essential for the diet as the mineral transports oxygen to the blood, keeping you energised and alert. If you’re constantly feeling fatigued, a lack of iron could be the problem.
It also maintains healthy skin, hair and nails, so is a good boost to use during the winter when the cold weather can cause skin and hair to become dry.
And if you’re on your time of the month, try and up your intake of iron rich foods, as you lose a lot of iron when you lose blood during your period.
While most people think that red meat is the best source of iron, it’s not your only option.
The FSA recommends an average of 14.8mg iron daily for women. Skip this and you’ll be left feeling tired, miserable and in more serious cases anemic.
Put the rump steak (with a measly 2.5mg/100g) back in the fridge and pile your plate with our top pick of vegetarian foods that have more iron than red meat.*
Best Iron Rich Foods To Start Eating Now
If you’re looking for iron rich foods this is a great go-to. A satisfying texture and hearty substitute to meaty dinners, just 4 tbsp of cooked lentils contain a whopping 4½mg iron.
This sweet fruit has 2mg iron in just one raw fig. And with a paltry 45 calories, it’s a delicious low-guilt way to get your daily dose of iron.
3. SESAME SEEDS
If you’re into Asian food, the cuisine is a haven of iron rich foods. These seeds may be tiny but their power is mighty. With a nutty flavour and 3mg iron in a 20g handful, they’re a perfect addition to salads, stir-fry’s or even muffins.
Not just for protein-seekers, tofu is low in fat and contains 3.5mg iron per 100g. Add it to your burger or even use it to create a chocolate mousse.
Tip: Grab a glass of orange juice with your lunch because the vitamin C significantly increases the absorption of iron in your iron rich foods.
5. PISTACHIO NUTS
Another source of plant based protein, these tasty green nuts also tick the box for iron rich foods, with 14mg iron per 100g. Bonus: they also contain vitamin E, calcium and magnesium. Eat them alone or crush them onto yoghurts or desserts. One of the quickest iron rich foods to boost your intake of iron (and everything else apparently).
Didn’t think that sweet iron rich foods existed? Think again. Vegetarian sources or iron are in nearly every supermarket isle. Start with sweets. A small 50g bag of liquorice sweets has 4mg iron, so are a good chocolate substitute for when you need a sugar fix. Who said sweets can’t be good(ish) for you?
7. CURLY KALE
Crisped, stir-fried, or tossed in a salad. It doesn’t look like our obsession with this tasty versatile veggie is going away anytime soon. And with 3mg iron in every 150g portion of curly kale this is one of the most readily available sources of iron.
Feeling run down? Check the signs of B12 deficiency or whether you’re at risk of magnesium deficiency.
*Source: NHS Nutrition and dietics.