If you have made a decision to try out a vegetarian or vegan diet, or you already are practicing this lifestyle, you may come across this popular topic. Iron in your diet. I recently had a friend tell me that she was going vegetarian but was afraid that she wasn’t going to sufficiently have enough iron in her diet. This inspired me to share with everyone the important role that iron plays in bodily function and what plant-based foods you can find it in.
The role of iron in the body:
The chief role of iron is to form hemoglobin in the body. Hemoglobin is a protein which carries oxygen from our lungs to the rest of the body (i.e. the tissues) where it then releases the oxygen to burn nutrients for energy, which in turn powers the functions of our body. It also plays a vital role in collecting the resultant carbon dioxide and brings it back to the lungs to be dispensed through exhalation. This is the main function of how our body receives and utilizes oxygen to fuel us.
Iron is present in the muscle tissues and helps in supply of oxygen required for contraction of muscles.
Development of the brain is also one of the many benefits of iron. Since oxygen supply to blood is aided by iron and the brain uses approximately 20% of the blood oxygen, iron is directly related to brain health and its functions.
Iron also aids the immune system and of course increases our body’s overall energy. A large factor in daily fatigue for many people is due to an insufficient amount of iron being ingested. This is why I would like to provide you with a list of plant-based fruits and vegetables that have high iron content.
Long used for medicinal purposes, herbs are packed with nutrients and iron is no exception. Thyme contains the most with 124mg per 100g serving, or 687% of the DV. That is 3.7mg (21% DV) of iron per tablespoon of Thyme. It is followed by Parsley (11% DV per tblsp), Spearmint (10% DV per tblsp), Black Pepper, Marjoram, Cumin Seed, Dill, Oregano, Bay Leaf, Coriander, Basil, ground Tumeric, ground Savory, Anise Seed, Fenugreek Seed, Terragon, Chervil, and Rosemary (5% DV per tblsp).
Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef.
Pumpkin seeds, sometimes known as pepitas, have a surprisingly high iron content: 14 mg per 100-g serving. They’re also rich in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Beans and lentils are collectively known as legumes. Their iron content ranges from 5 mg per 100-g serving for whole boiled soybeans to about 2 mg for cooked kidney beans.
A 100-g serving of cooked spinach contains 3.6 mg of iron, or about 20 percent of a day’s recommended supply. Spinach is also a great source of calcium, magnesium and potassium, as well as vitamins A, C and B6, riboflavin and folate.
Chocolate is showing more and more health benefits and dark chocolate is coming into vogue. In the case of iron it is pure cacao powder without any cacao fat, milk, or sugar that provides the most iron with 36mg in a 100g serving, or 200% of the DV. That is 1.8mg of iron per tablespoon of cacao powder, or 10% of the DV. Unsweetened baking chocolate provides 17.4mg per 100g (97% DV), or 23mg (128% DV) per grated cup.