Iron is an important nutrient that plays a significant role in many human body functions. An iron lacking diet can result in anaemia, low energy, shortness of breath, irritability, headaches, and dizziness. Two forms of iron are found in the food — heme and non-heme. Animal sources of iron give us Heme iron, whereas plants are the only source of non-heme iron.
The recommended intake of iron varies for human beings on the basis of their gender as well as various life stages they are going through. Men and women go through menopause require 8 milligrams of iron per day. While menstruating women require 18 milligrams of iron and pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron every day.
Non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed as heme-iron in the human body so the recommended daily intake for people taking a vegetarian diet it 1.8 times more than ones making meat a regular part of their food.
Legumes include beans, peas, and lentils, and are considered rich sources of iron.
1. Tofu, Tempeh, Natto, and Soybeans
Soybeans and derivatives of soybeans are full of iron. Soybeans contain about 8.8 mg of iron per cup that makes almost half of the recommended daily intake. The same portion of natto offers even more i.e. 15 milligrams of iron.
Similarly, 6 ounces (168 grams) of Tofu or tempeh can give us 20 per cent of the recommended daily intake of iron. In addition to iron, the soybean products mentioned above are a good source of protein calcium phosphorus and magnesium.
Lentils are another rich source of iron. They provide 6.6 mg per cup that makes 37% of our recommended daily intake. Lentils contain a substantial amount of protein, carbs, folate, fiber, and manganese as well. One cup cooked lentils have 18 grams of protein in it and can fulfill almost half of our recommended daily fiber needs.
3. Other Beans and Peas
Various types of beans also contain good quantities of iron as well. White and red kidney beans, lima, and navy beans closely follow soybeans when it comes to containing iron. Chickpeas have the highest iron in it. One cup of cooked chickpeas contains about 29 percent of our daily iron requirements.
Gram per gram ratio of iron is high in certain vegetables than foods typically linked with high iron e.g. meat and eggs. Vegetables contain non-heme iron, which is not as easily absorbed as the heme-iron, but the vegetables are also generally high in vitamin C, which helps increase iron absorption. The following vegetables offer the most iron per portions. But, if you do not like to eat veges, you can take vegetarian iron supplements instead.
4. Leafy Greens
One serving of vegetables with green leaves, such as spinach, kale, collard, swiss chard, etc. contain 14 to 36 percent of daily requirements of iron. A hundred grams of spinach contains 1.1 times more iron than 100 grams of red meat and 2.2 times more than the same amount of salmon fish usually identified for being a rich source of iron.
The said amount of iron in spinach is also 3 times higher than the same amount of boiled eggs and 3.6 times more than 100 grams of chicken.
5. Tomato Paste
Raw tomatoes contain very little iron i.e. 0.5 mg per cup. However, in the dried or concentrated form, they offer a much greater amount. Half a cup (118 ml) of tomato paste contains 3.9 mg of iron that makes 22% of our daily requirements. Sun-dried tomatoes are also iron-rich. They provide us with up to 14% of the daily requirements. Tomatoes also have a good amount of vitamin C, the presence of which increases iron absorption.
Potatoes contain substantial volumes of iron, mostly present in their skins. For example, one large, unpeeled potato contains 3.2 mg of iron, which is 18% of our daily requirements. Sweet potatoes offer around 2.1 mg for the same quantity. Potatoes also provide a good amount of fiber. Additionally, one portion of potatoes can give us 46% of vitamin C, B6, and potassium needed daily.
Some kinds of mushrooms are exceptionally rich in iron. For example, a cooked cup of white mushrooms holds around 2.7 mg i.e. 15% of the iron we need daily. Oyster mushrooms may contain up to two times as much iron. On the other hand, portobello mushrooms contain very little amount of the nutrient.
People usually don’t turn towards fruits when they want to increase their iron levels though some of the fruits contain surprisingly high amounts of iron. Best sources of iron in fruits are:
8. Prune Juice
Prunes are usually known for the mild laxative effects they have, this helps to treat constipation. What is not commonly known is that they are also a rich source of iron. Prune juice, in specific, contains about 3 mg of iron per cup. That makes 17% of our daily requirements. Prune juice is rich in other nutrients such as fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and manganese, too.
Olives in technical terms is a fruit, and one having a good iron content. They have around 3.3 mg of iron per 100 grams, which makes 18% of the daily requirements. Along with the iron content, fresh olives are also rich in fiber, Vitamins A and E and good fats.
Mulberries are a kind of fruit with an exceptionally remarkable nutritional value. They contain around 2.6 mg of iron per cup i.e. 14% of our daily required iron intake but the same cup also contains 85% of our daily requirements of vitamin C. Vitamin C supports the absorption of iron from non-heme sources so its presence in mulberries makes the fruit a valuable package of nutrients.