According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, anemia is the most common blood disorder in the United States, affecting more than 3 million Americans who are vegans and meat eaters.
Usually, anemia can be caused by iron deficiency, as well as vitamin B12 deficiency, pregnancy, or health problems. Signs that you may be at risk of anemia include chronic fatigue, pale or yellowish skin, weakness, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, headache, chest pain, and cold hands and feet, according to the American Mayo Clinic. If you think you are at risk for iron deficiency anemia or vitamin B12 deficiency, see your doctor.
Here are 13 of the most iron-rich plant foods you can include in your diet. Be sure to eat plenty of vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits, cauliflower and broccoli to increase iron absorption by up to 300%.
According to the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG), beans such as chickpeas and beans have the highest iron content in beans, with cooked beans containing 4,2 to 4,7 mg of iron per cooked cup. Dried beans made from scratch have the highest iron content, but you can also opt for a convenient canned option.
Like all beans, lentils contain a decent dose of iron. One cup of boiled lentils contains about 6,6 mg of iron. There are many varieties of lentils: brown and green lentils are best for dishes such as curries, red lentils cook well and are good for soups, black lentils are firm in texture even after cooking, making them ideal for salads with iron-rich dark greens.
3. Soy products
Like soybeans themselves, soy-based foods such as tofu, tempeh, and soy milk are a good source of iron. Make porridge with soy milk. Make a tofu omelet or bake tempeh.
4. Nuts, seeds and nut butters
Nuts, seeds, and some nut butters are good sources of iron. According to Healthline, pumpkin, sesame, hemp, and flax seeds contain the most iron. Cashews, pine nuts, almonds and macadamia are also good sources. Butter, nut and seed spreads, including tahini, also contain iron, but be aware that roasted nuts and nut butter have less iron than raw.
5. Dark green leaves
Don’t neglect the greens. Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, beet greens, and Swiss chard are all great sources of iron. In fact, 100 grams of spinach contains more iron than the same amount of red meat, eggs, salmon and chicken. You can add leafy greens to smoothies, eat a salad, stir it into soups and curries, or snack on kale chips. Don’t like kale? Vegetables are fine too. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are also good sources of iron.
A humble potato contains a decent amount of iron if not peeled. A large unpeeled potato can contain up to 18% of your daily iron requirement. So boil, bake, puree, but remember – with the peel. Sweet potato contains about 12% of the daily value.
Mushrooms can be a good source of iron, but only if you eat certain varieties, such as button mushrooms and oyster mushrooms. Portobello and shiitake do not contain much iron. Combine mushrooms with tofu and herbs, or mix them with beans and lentils.
8. Palm heart
Palm heartwood is an edible product obtained from the bud or innards of the stem of the coconut or acai palm. One cup of this tropical vegetable contains about 26% of the daily value of iron. Palm hearts have a firm texture and neutral flavor, making them popular for making “marine” vegan dishes as well as creamy spreads.
9. Tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes
Raw tomatoes may not contain much iron, but tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes provide 22% and 14% of the DV for a half cup, respectively. Use tomato paste to make homemade spaghetti sauce, or add chopped sundried tomatoes to salads and cereals.
Usually fruits do not contain much iron, but there are still a few. Mulberries, olives (technically fruits), and prunes are rich in iron. These fruits are also a good source of vitamin C, which helps the body absorb iron.
11. Whole grains
Eat a variety of whole grains and eat them often. According to Healthline, amaranth, oats, and spelt are all good sources of iron. Cook cereals and healthy cookies from them.
12. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is rich not only in antioxidants, but also in iron – 30 g contains about 18% of the daily value. It also contains manganese, copper, and magnesium, making it something of a superfood. This is a good reason to indulge in a piece or two of dark chocolate daily.
Molasses or molasses, a by-product of sugar production, has 7,2 grams of iron per 2 tablespoons, according to VRG. However, not everyone can eat it with spoons, so try adding it to vegan baked goods.