Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the United States, despite having easy access to food. When you’re iron deficient, you can feel tired, weak, pale and cold. That’s because iron is so critical to our overall health as it’s involved in making red blood cells and in carrying oxygen throughout the body. It’s also an essential nutrient to our diet as iron is something our body doesn’t produce by itself—we have to obtain it from food.
Most of the time, people associate iron-rich food with meat, particularly red meat. That’s why there's a big misconception that vegans and vegetarians are susceptible to iron deficiency. That, however, is far from the truth! Think about it—when Popeye needs a boost of energy, he doesn’t reach for a burger. Instead, he reaches for a can of spinach!
Why? Because spinach and other leafy greens like kale, collard greens, Brussel sprouts, and broccoli contain substantial amounts of iron. They also contain Vitamin C, which helps our body better absorb iron!
Legumes like lentils, kidney beans, and chickpeas are another fantastic source of iron. One cup of cooked lentils contains 37% of our daily recommended intake! Because Vitamin C helps increase iron absorption, we recommend pairing your favorite legume with a source of Vitamin C in the same meal. Try adding a bit of lemon juice to your chickpea hummus next time!
Seeds and nuts are also especially rich in iron. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of other essential nutrients like vitamin K, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. As Fall is pumpkin season, consider roasting pumpkin seeds for a delicious snack after carving jack-o-lanterns!
Our favorite source of iron, however, is dark chocolate! We’re already fans of dark chocolate for its high antioxidant content, so its high iron content is a sweet added bonus. That’s one reason why our Nutrient Packed Power Snack is chocolate flavor.
With all the readily available sources of iron in fresh, natural food, there’s no reason to fear iron deficiency when switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet, as long as you eat a balanced, colorful diet. That’s why Just Add Water founder and holistic nutritionist Serena Poon champions eating the rainbow! However, if you find yourself still exhibiting signs of iron deficiency despite a healthy diet, do consult a doctor to rule out more serious health issues.
What’s your favorite iron-rich vegan recipe?
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