We are going on another nutrition exploration, and we are going to focus on Iron.
We are specifically going to talk about, why iron is important, what kind of functions it does inside of the body, the differences between the types of iron that are in our foods, and the last, we’re gonna be talking about the best vegan sources of iron.
We will also give you some recipe inspiration towards the end.
Without further ado let’s go ahead and dive into iron.
What Iron is and Why it’s important?
Iron is a mineral and it is arguably one of the most important for our body.
It’s also one of the minerals that a lot of people are deficient in or at least has a higher probability of being deficient in, especially if you follow a plant-based diet.
Iron is responsible for the production of haemoglobin in our bodies, and haemoglobin molecules are there to transport oxygen throughout our system.
Most of them can be found inside of our blood, and that’s where a lot of the iron is stored. About 60 to 70% of the iron in our body is found in our haemoglobin molecules.
Other places that iron is found inside of the body are things like our liver, our kidneys, and some of our other organs, and basically, it just lives there so that the haemoglobin can pull from those storage areas if it needs any extra.
Types of Iron
So there are two main forms of iron.
- Heme iron
- Non-Heme iron
Heme iron, which is more easily absorbed by the body is found in animal products.
So about, heme iron is about 10 up to 30% absorbable.
Whereas non-heme iron, which can be found in plant-based sources, is less absorbable, maybe about 8 to 10%. So that means if you are following a plant-based diet, you’ll have to be a little bit more careful about your iron, and getting inadequate amounts of iron and also ensuring that you’re absorbing iron.
So, if you are at all wondering if you’re deficient in iron, the only thing that we can recommend is that you need to get a blood test done.
Visit your doctor and have a blood panel done, and that will give you a sense of where you fall in the range.
Now let’s talk about the best vegan sources of iron.
Best Vegan Sources of Iron
Soybeans are beans, and also the base of a lot of plant-based protein options, for those of us who are following a plant-based diet.
Things like tofu, tempeh, edamame, those are all forms of soy, also soy milk and that is a really good way to get in some extra iron.
The one thing to keep in mind if you are somebody that consumes soy is that you wanna make sure that you’re buying organic and non-GMO varieties, just is a little bit easier on your digestive system. These are easier for your body to absorb and digest and just healthier for the overall world and your own health in general.
Molasses is a natural sweetener, but it is also, surprisingly high in a lot of minerals.
Molasses is that kind of dark, rich chocolatey flavour almost that you get in things like gingerbread.
Molasses is easy to find at almost every single grocery store. We suggest you buy an organic one but you can choose whichever one you want, and surprisingly it is high in iron.
Lentils and beans, in general, are great sources of iron and of course also plant-based protein.
What I love about lentils is they are incredibly versatile and there is a ton of different varieties.
So you can choose everything from green or brown lentils, which are kind of the more traditional lentils.
Black lentils or French lentils which are smaller and they have a little bit of a more, almost nutty, kind of crunchy texture, they’re awesome in salads. You can look for something like a red lentil which is more along the lines of a split pea, it kind of turns to mush as you cook but it’s so delicious in curries.
So lentils are an amazing source of iron, but also a really great source of protein and there are so many ways to add them into your diet.
The almighty quinoa. You guys know that I’m a fan of using quinoa pretty much every which way, and just like lentils, quinoa is incredibly versatile.
Not only can you find it in the whole seed form, so adding it into salads or things like that. Quinoa flour is also incredibly versatile. It can be used in pretty much any form of baked good that you want.
Quinoa flour has also been used in gluten-free pasta. So you might even find quinoa pasta at your grocery store, that’s another way to get quinoa into your diet, and of course, there are also quinoa flakes, which you can also use in a lot of your baking things like cookies, and granola, even just like a hot breakfast cereal.
Quinoa is a great source, not only of iron but also of protein and fibre. It’s a complex carbohydrate so it digests a little bit more easily in the system and it’s also high in a few other trace minerals like magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.
Pumpkin seeds are admittedly are not something that I honestly eat all that much. Although I know that they are incredibly nutrient and mineral-rich, they’re probably one of the most mineral and nutrient-rich seeds out there.
So they’re a really great thing to incorporate into your diet, I just personally kind of forget about them, even though I always have them in my cabinet.
You can just do something as simple as sprinkling them on top of your salad or top of your oatmeal. You can also add them into your smoothies and they are a great source of plant-based protein.
They’re full of healthy fats and also full of things like iron as well as a few other traces of minerals. So pumpkin seeds are something that I definitely recommend that you pick up the next time you’re at the store.
Just keep it in your pantry to like use here and there as a simple way to get in a little bit of extra iron into your plant-based diet.
Another ingredient that I use a lot in my cooking, pretty much all the time every week. Love chickpeas, everything from hummus to crispy chickpeas on top of the salad. Soups with chickpeas, blending them up to use in baking.
I think chickpeas are one of those beans that are just incredibly versatile. I don’t find that they have as strong of a taste like the other beans.
Chickpeas are kind of mild, they’re high in protein, high in fibre, and again, also very high in iron as well as a few other traces of minerals, including calcium.
I was doing some research online and I was looking for some of the highest sources of iron in the plant-based diet.
I get surprised to come along Swiss chard because I don’t feel like Swiss chard makes many lists, although it is a very healthy ingredient.
Swiss chard is great because not only it is the highest green source of iron. So in the greens world, it has the highest source of iron, but it’s also kind of mild in terms of flavour unlike kale or things like collards or some of the more spicy greens like mustard greens.
I would say that chard is more taste-wise, along the lines of spinach.
Easy to incorporate into things like smoothies. You can saute it and it’s absolutely delicious, with like some olive oil, lemon and garlic.
You can stir it into salads, you can chop it up finely into ribbons, toss it into your salads or you could add it into a tofu or egg scramble.
There are no end of ways to use Swiss chard, and it’s also just incredibly good for you and it tends to be a little bit on the cheaper side versus something like kale.
So maybe next time you’re at the store, try picking up a bunch of Swiss chard instead of kale Or spinach, which is our next one.
Spinach is my one true love when it comes to greens, I buy spinach every single week. Spinach is fabulous, and you will love the taste of spinach.
You can use spinach in many different ways like –
- Adding it into your smoothie bowls.
- Putting it on sandwiches, you will love sauteing it.
Actually, spinach is one of those things that you can use in probably a million different ways. Even just blending it up into like a green muffin or something like that. It is so easy to use and incredibly healthy.
Of course, spinach is high in protein and fibre which is great, packed with chlorophyll, which is great for detoxifying.
It’s also high in calcium, it’s high in iron, of course. Like I said it doesn’t have much of a taste, so it’s incredibly like, versatile in terms of how you wanna use it.
So, if you’re not already on the spinach train, hop on because spinach is fabulous.
Tahini can be used in salads dressings, it’s an amazing thing to just drizzle on top of roasted sweet potatoes, you can stir it into a dip, you can use it in smoothies, you can use it on top of toast.
It is so good, and it has such an awesome flavour too. If you’ve never tried tahini it isn’t quite a sweet as something like almond butter.
Figs are great, not only are they just delicious like they are sweet.
Dried figs specifically are high in iron, and you luckily can find dried figs at pretty much every single grocery store.
My personal favourite way to eat figs, which might sound a little bit weird, is honestly just to take one dried fig, spread it with a little bit of peanut butter, maybe if I have some chia jam in my fridge, do a dollop of that on top of it, and eat it like peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
It’s honestly so good, I know it sounds a little bit weird but they are such an awesome snack.
Figs are also really nutritious. They’re super rich in fibre, and they’re great for digestion. They also have some natural sugars in them, So they’re a little bit energizing, which is really great, and in addition to all of those amazing properties. They’re also high in calcium and they’re high in iron.
So, they’re one of those things that you could just throw in your bag, bring with you on the way to work or just while you’re travelling.
Or you could chop them up, throw them into a salad, or like a quinoa salad or something like that. There’s a lot of different ways to eat figs.
That is our list of the 10 best vegan sources of iron. I hope you enjoyed this article.
If you have any questions for me, definitely leave them in the comments down below.