In my previous article I told you about my experience with iron deficiency and the one thing that really helped me. You can read and leave a comment here. Besides allopathic treatment, I believe iron rich foods are great to incorporate in any diet, whether or not you confront with anemia.
What is anemia?
To describe anemia better, I should first tell you more about haemoglobin, protein which is rich in iron. This protein helps red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. If there are not sufficient iron rich proteins, your body does not get enough oxygen for the blood cells and this is how anemia could be described in short.
Anemia or iron deficiency could be mild, moderate, severe, or could indicate the presence of some other conditions as kidney disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases etc.
There are some high risk categories for anemia: women during menstrual period, pregnant women, people who have chemotherapy for cancer or people who have a poor diet.
What are its symptoms?
The most common symptoms for anemia are: shortness of breath, tiredness, headaches, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, cold hands and feet, pale skin, chest pain etc.
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How anemia can be diagnosed?
The anemia diagnosis is performed based on the medical history, physical exam and, most important, the blood test results.
Your doctor should talk to you about your symptoms, medical history for you as well as for your family (including an anemia history) and then perform a physical exam. During this exam, the doctor will feel your abdomen and pelvic area, listen to the lungs and heart trying to see if something is not normal (like the size of the spleen or liver, uneven breathing, irregular breathing etc.).
Another step for anemia diagnosis would be the blood tests. These can confirm iron deficiency or a low amount of hemoglobin.
The most common blood tests for anemia are: a complete blood count (CBC), ferritin level, vitamin B12 and folate levels and some other vitamins level too.
Your doctor will decide how many of these test he will prescribe to you or if it is better to add some other ones.
If your anemia is mild or moderate, the doctor could recommend you iron supplements or some other iron therapies, and, in addition, minerals and vitamins.
To prevent iron deficiency or to help the body during that prescribed treatment, diet is also important.
Iron is better absorbed when taken with vitamin C
Whether you choose iron tablets, iron natural supplements or iron rich foods, keep in mind iron is better absorbed with vitamin C (supplements or/and natural sources).
Iron Rich Foods Great for Iron Deficiency – 11 Vegetarian Sources
Some of the most iron rich foods are chicken or beef liver, chicken, turkey, oysters, eggs, sardines or halibut, but what about vegetarian people?
That’s why we made a top 11 vegetarian iron rich foods. Hope you will find them useful and integrate in your diet. Yet, do not forget you should always listen to your doctor as anemia could require some other treatments too.
Navy beans are great for our health and have a lot of minerals and vitamins. For example, beans are high in iron, providing 24% of the dairy recommended dose, but it also contains protein, folate, magnesium and manganese. Chickpeas or red kidney beans are also a good source of iron.
Try our delicious recipe of Green Beans with Garlic
All dried fruits are high in iron, especially dried apricots. One cup of dried apricots has 8 mg of iron which is 42% of the daily recommended dose. Besides iron, dried apricots are a good source of protein, vitamin A, C, E and potassium. However, when it comes to dried fruits pay attention to the amount served, as they are rich in natural sugar. Therefore, try to limit your intake to 1 handful of dried fruit a day.
Sesame and pumpkin seeds
Actually, from the “seeds family”, not only pumpkin and sesame seeds are high in iron, but also hem, flaxseed, sunflower or watermelon seeds. Two tablespoons of such seeds contain between 1.2 - 4.2 mg of iron – around 15 - 25 % of the Daily Recommended Dose. And, if we are talking about the highest iron rich seeds, sesame, 100 g of sesame seeds contains 80% of the daily recommended dose of iron.
Pumpkins seeds are also rich in calcium, magnesium, selenium, zinc, protein and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Cashews, pine nuts and hazelnuts
Besides these, almonds, pistachios and walnuts are also a good source of iron. Yet, 100 g of cashews are 37% of the DRD, pine nuts – 31% and hazelnuts 26%.
Vegan Cashew Cheese Bruschetta
Delicious, versatile and very tasty, spinach is an important source of vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, manganese, magnesium and potassium. Regarding iron level, you should know spinach is another great alternative for iron deficiency. For instance, 100 g of spinach contains 15% of the Daily Recommended Dose.
Spinach Vegetable Food
Asparagus is becoming more and more popular due to its taste and versatility. Asparagus is used in all sort of elegant and delicious dishes, as well as in nutritious juices. As for its nutritional properties, asparagus is rich in iron (100 g – 12 % DRD), but also in antioxidants, vitamin K, folate and protein.
Choose organic and fresh mushrooms and you will have yourself some other iron rich foods. Oyster mushrooms are the highest in iron, but white mushrooms, the most common ones, also contain a certain amount of iron (1 cup of cooked mushrooms – around 15% of the daily recommended dose).
Mashed Potatoes with Mushrooms and Tomato Sauce
When cooked unpeeled, roasted in the oven, potatoes can be a great source of iron. For example, 300 g of unpeeled cooked potatoes give 3.5 mg of iron, which is around 18-19 % of the DRD. High in fiber and carbs, potatoes will also keep you full for a longer time. In addition, potatoes also contain potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
Sweet Potatoes and White Potatoes Fries
Oats are great especially for the gut, as they contain beta-glucan, a soluble fiber with all sort of beneficial proprieties like helping the gut health, reducing high cholesterol or blood sugar levels and increasing satiety. In terms of “iron level”, 1 cup of cooked oats contains 19-20 % of the daily recommended intake of iron. Oats are also a good source of protein, magnesium, zinc or folate.
Candies with Rolled Oats and Almonds
The type of milk I add in my cakes and breakfast, coconut milk is not only delicious, but also very tasty. You wouldn’t have guessed it, but yes, coconut milk is also high in iron: 1 cup of milk (250 ml) contains 23% of the daily recommended intake. Of course, coconut milk it is also high in some other vitamins or minerals, such as copper, magnesium and manganese.
Dark chocolate, cocoa powder or carob powder
If you go for dark chocolate, you would better choose the ones with a high amount of cocoa powder and, if possible, no sugar or milk. Dark chocolate as well as cocoa or carob powder is high in magnesium, but also iron. For example, 30 g of dark chocolate provides around 20 % of the daily recommended intake of iron.
Chocolate Avocado Mousse
These are our top 11 vegetarian iron rich foods you should include into your daily diet. They are tasty, healthy and versatile foods so it shouldn’t be hard to find delicious recipes. As we also provided you some alternatives, choose your favourites and make yourself the "iron rich foods" menu.