Biologically speaking, iron is a trace mineral and an essential nutrient that your body requires to function properly. It helps with immune function, detoxification, and the creation of several proteins and enzymes. One of these proteins is hemoglobin, a complex protein used by red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.
Iron deficiency anemia is a condition that occurs when your blood doesn't contain enough iron, hemoglobin, or red blood cells to transport the oxygen you need from your lungs to your tissues. While there are several types of anemia, iron deficiency is by far the most common. Over 1.6 billion people worldwide are anemic. Of these, several hundred million have iron deficiency anemia. If you suspect that you have an iron deficiency, consult your health care provider.
They may want to check your hematocrit levels, which is a test to see if you have too few red blood cells. There are two types of dietary iron-heme and nonheme. Heme iron comes only from animal sources-meat, poultry, and seafood. Plant sources contain only nonheme iron, which isn't as easily absorbed by your body as heme. This may be because certain phytochemicals in plants, including oxalates, polyphenols, tannins, and phytates promote slower, more controlled iron absorption.
Despite this, vegans and vegetarians don't suffer from iron deficiency at any greater rate than meat-eaters do. There may be two reasons for this. First, plant-based diets tend to be high in vitamin C, which acutely increases iron absorption. Second, because vegetables are relatively low in calories and high in nutrients, vegans and vegetarians take in significantly more iron per calorie consumed. In other words, 100 calories of spinach contains as much iron as 1700 calories of steak.
Plant-based, iron-rich foods for healthy energy levels: Some of the most potent plant sources of iron are fortified cereals and flour. However, fortified foods and enriched flour are heavily processed and carry their own health risks. It's always best to get your nutrition from natural sources. Fortunately, there are plenty of plant-based foods that you can incorporate into an iron-rich diet. Here are the top vegan food sources of iron.
Spirulina: A favorite in green juices and smoothies, spirulina is blue - green algae rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. One tablespoon of spirulina contains 2 mg of iron.Spinach: The list of health benefits from dark leafy green vegetables seems endless. They contain an abundance of antioxidants, folate, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. Most dark leafy greens also have high iron content. Salad greens, mustard greens, Swiss chard, and bok choy are all excellent choices, but when it comes to iron, spinach brings the muscle. One cup of cooked spinach contains over 6 mg of the mineral.
Dried beans: Beans are an excellent source of iron, though the exact content varies by type. White beans have one of the highest iron concentrations with almost 8 mg per cooked cup. One cup of cooked lentils provides 6.6 mg of iron, and the same quantity of kidney beans or chickpeas nets you about 5 mg. Other iron-rich beans include cowpeas, lima beans, and navy beans.
Green peas: They belong to the same family of legumes as beans, so it's no surprise that green peas are a respectable source of iron-2.5 grams per cooked cup
Sesame seeds: Sesame seeds are a boon to both heart health and overall wellness. They're a natural source of several potent antioxidants, containing vitamin E, flavonoids, and lignans, particularly sesamin and sesamolin. These phytochemicals provide many health benefits. Sesame seeds are also a great source of iron. Just one ounce of the seeds contains 4.18 mg.
Dried fruit: Fruit is a very good source of iron. Dried fruit may be even better, as it concentrates the nutrients in a small, non-perishable package. A half cup of dried fruit has the same nutrients as a cup of fresh fruit. Just make sure that you choose dried fruit with no added sugar. Some fruits sold as "dried" are actually "candied," which means they were heated in a sugary syrup. Avoid "dried" dates, pineapple, and cherries for this reason. Good choices include apricots, raisins, and prunes. Ten dried apricot halves contain 2 mg of iron while five prunes have 1.2 mg. One-half cup of raisins has 3 mg of the trace mineral.
Dark chocolate: Good news! Dark chocolate has wonderfully high iron content. Per ounce, dark chocolate has a higher iron density than steak. One 100 gram bar of 70-85% cacao chocolate contains 12 mg of iron. Unfortunately, this isn't a free pass to eat all the chocolate you want. Eat dark chocolate in moderation, but when that irresistible sweet tooth hits, you could do a lot worse.
Pumpkin seeds: Already a favorite autumnal treat, there are good reasons to start eating pumpkin seeds year-round. Also known as pepitas, one ounce of pumpkin seeds contain 4.2 mg of iron. They're also a concentrated source of zinc, magnesium, and fatty acids.
Whole grains: Refined grains use only the endosperm of a grain. This improves shelf life but robs the grain of many nutrients, including iron. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel? bran, germ, and endosperm, because of this, whole grains retain a much higher nutritional value. Brown rice, oats, and barley are all excellent choices for iron.
Coconut: Coconut water and coconut oil are enjoying an all-time high in popularity right now, but what about coconut meat? Raw coconut meat packs in about 2.5 mg of iron per 100 grams. That's around 10 mg for a whole coconut. Try it with a little lime and chili for a tart and spicy treat.
Curry leaves: Curry leaves are a wonderful staple of Indian cooking and feature a high iron content. When used as a spice, curry is not consumed in large enough quantities to add a significant iron boost. However, curry leaf extracts are frequently used in high-quality, natural, vegan iron supplements. But don't let that stop you from adding curry leave to your cooking. Curry leaves, like most spices, also contain a wealth of other beneficial phytonutrients.
Blackstrap molasses: Blackstrap molasses is thick, dark syrup created as a byproduct of extracting sugar from sugar cane. While refined sugar has been completely stripped of its nutritional content, blackstrap molasses retains all the vitamins and nutrients found in the original plant.
Basically, molasses is all the nutritional content that was stripped from refined sugar. Because of this, blackstrap molasses has a very high nutrient density. Just one tablespoon contains anywhere from 3.5 to an astonishing 12.6 mg of iron-twice as much as a rib eye steak! It's also a significant source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
The writer is a professional researcher and nutritionist. The write-up has also appeared on www.globalhealingcenter.com
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