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Iron plays a vital role in helping red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. It also helps muscle and brain function, keeps your energy levels up, and supports the immune system.
Although our body relies on this mineral for several important things, many of us aren't getting enough of it. Iron deficiency is the top nutritional disorder in the world. And contrary to popular belief, it's not just vegans and vegetarians that are lacking in it. The World Health Organisation suggests that around 80% of people aren't getting enough iron in their diet.
Individuals with low iron levels may struggle to concentrate, experience fatigue, and catch illnesses frequently. Periods, pregnancy, and breastfeeding are all factors that put an individual at higher risk of low iron levels and anaemia.
You can find naturally occurring iron in many plant-based foods, but you can find it in fortified foods like breakfast cereals, too. Supplements are an effective way to boost your iron levels, but you should continue to eat a balanced diet and obtain iron through diet as well.
So without further ado, let's have a look at a few of the top plant-based sources of iron!
Lentils are tiny, lens-shaped foods that pack a punch when it comes to nutrition. They should be a staple ingredient for anyone following a whole foods plant-based diet because they're an excellent iron source and many other essential nutrients like protein. This wonderfully varied legume originates from Asia and North Africa and comes in many sizes and colours, from red to yellow. You can purchase them dried, in tins, or even pouches. Lentils make the perfect addition to salads and stews.
Nuts are bite-sized bursts of nutrition. There are numerous varieties, and each one is packed with a bunch of health-boosting vitamins and minerals. In particular, almonds, cashews and pine nuts are varieties high in iron. The most obvious use for pine nuts is to create delicious pesto, and almonds and cashews work well in baking, garnishing, or a snack!
If this article proves anything, it's that you should never underestimate the power of tiny foods when it comes to nutrition. Seeds are another small but mighty plant-based ingredient. Like nuts and lentils, there are countless types, and they all have their own health benefits. The best seeds for iron include flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame and hemp. Because they're so small, seeds can be used in almost any recipe; smoothies, baking, as a topping, in cereal, etc.
Leafy greens are the superheroes of nutrition. They have numerous health benefits, and certain leafy greens are also good sources of iron, including spinach, kale, collard greens, and swiss chard. You can blend them up in smoothies, use them as a base for salads, add them into curries, pasta dishes, or a side dish.
Mushrooms are edible fungus that come in many shapes, sizes and colours. Each mushroom has its own nutritional profile, but oyster, button and morel are excellent sources of iron. Due to their texture and umami flavour, mushrooms make great meat replacements, and so they're often staple ingredients in a plant-based diet. Mushrooms can also be added to soups, curries, stews, pasta, on toast etc.
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