With all the talk about carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, it’s easy to forget that other nutrients are also essential to our diet. Minerals, vitamins, and water all play a role in keeping our bodies functioning properly. One mineral, in particular, iron, is often overlooked, but it’s vital for health.
Iron is a mineral found in food and is necessary for our bodies to function properly. It’s used to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. It’s also used to make myoglobin, a protein that helps muscle cells store oxygen.
This blog post will explore the different iron-rich foods to add to your diet. We will also look at the health benefits of iron and the different ways you can get more of this essential mineral. Let’s get started.
Legumes like soybeans and lentils are excellent sources of iron. A cup of cooked soybeans provides 9.9 mg of iron, while the same amount of cooked lentils contains 6.6 mg. Also, tofu and tempeh are good sources of iron, providing 2.56 mg and 4.48 mg per 6-ounce serving, respectively.
2. Beans And Peas
Other beans like lima beans, navy beans, chickpeas, and black-eyed peas also contain significant amounts of iron. For instance, a cup of cooked lima beans provides 4.2 mg of iron, while the same amount of cooked black-eyed peas contains 4.7 mg. However, red kidney beans and white beans have the highest iron content, with 5.2 mg and 6.6 mg per cup cooked.
3. Nuts And Seeds
Some of the best sources of plant-based iron are nuts and seeds. These small but mighty foods are packed with nutrients essential for health, including iron. The richest sources of iron in nuts and seeds include pumpkin, sesame, hemp, and flaxseeds. These seeds contain 1.7-3.9 mg of iron per ounce or 9-22% of the daily value (DV).
Products made from these seeds, such as tahini and hummus, are also excellent sources of iron. For example, two tablespoons of tahini paste provide 7% of the DV, and half a cup of hummus contains 17% of the DV. Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds.
4. Leafy Green Vegetables
For leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and beet greens, 1 to 5.7 mg of iron per cooked cup is provided, which is 6 to 32% of the recommended daily value (RDA). These vegetables are rich in iron, but because of their bulk, some people may find it difficult to consume 100 grams of raw leafy greens. It is best to consume them cooked.
Other iron-rich vegetables in this category include broccoli and Brussels sprouts, which have 1 to 1.8 mg of iron per cooked cup or 6 to 10% of the daily value. By eating various iron-rich fruits and vegetables, you can easily reach the recommended daily value for iron intake.
With 0.5 mg of iron per cup, raw tomatoes may not seem like they offer much of this essential mineral. However, dried or concentrated forms of tomatoes offer a much greater amount – 1/4 cup of tomato paste, for instance, contains 2 mg of iron, which is 11% of the daily value (DV). Similarly, 1 cup of canned tomato sauce contains 2.4 mg of iron or 13% of the DV. Sun-dried tomatoes are another excellent source of this mineral, providing you with 2.5 mg per half cup – that’s 14% of the DV.
Not only is this fruit a great source of iron, but it’s also packed with vitamin C. This nutrient is essential for iron absorption, making tomatoes a doubly valuable food for people who need to up their intake of this mineral. Additionally, tomatoes are rich in lycopene – an antioxidant linked to reduced sunburn risk.
Some fruits are surprisingly high in iron. Here are the best sources of iron in this category:
Prune Juice: Prune juice is a good source of iron, offering about 2.9 mg of iron per cup (8 ounces, or 237 mL). It is also high in fiber, potassium, vitamin C, B6, and manganese.
Olives: Olives are a good source of iron, with black olives containing around 6.3 mg of iron per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), or 35% of the DV. Fresh olives are also a great source of fiber, good fats, and fat-soluble vitamins A and E.
Mulberries: Mulberries are a fruit with a particularly impressive nutritional value. They offer around 2.6 mg of iron per cup—14% of the DV—and this quantity of mulberries also meets 57% of the DV for vitamin C. Mulberries are a great source of antioxidants as well, which may offer protection against heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Health Benefits of Iron
Iron is an important mineral for many reasons, including:
Growth And Development: With a role in the production of hemoglobin, myoglobin, and enzymes, inhibit iron absorption is critical for growth and development. In case of reduced iron absorption and iron deficiency, anemia may be caused.
Cognitive Function: Iron is necessary for the proper functioning of the brain and cognitive development. Also, iron deficiency has been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Energy Levels: Iron is required for the body to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is responsible for cell energy production. Also, low iron levels can lead to fatigue and decreased physical performance.
Pregnancy: Iron is essential for the development of the fetus and placenta, and it plays a role in preventing birth defects. Iron deficiency during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, and increased risk of infant mortality.
Postpartum: After childbirth, iron stores must be replenished to prevent iron deficiency and fatigue.
Immune Function: Iron is involved in producing white blood cells and antibodies, which are important for the immune system. The deficiency can lead to an increased risk of infection.
With all the information, it is safe to say that many iron-rich fruits and vegetables can help people meet their dietary requirements. Eating various foods is the best way to benefit from them. Some people may need to supplement their diet with iron pills or other forms of supplementation, but getting iron in the natural form is the best bet.
Do you have any other questions about iron-rich fruits and vegetables? Please share in the comments below!