12 Plant Foods With More Iron Than Meat
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Why do we need iron?
Contrary to mainstream beliefs, a plant based diet is ideal for everyone! A well balanced, whole food, plant based diet will provide all the nutrients and minerals your body requires. The bonus is that will get everything you need without the harmful saturated fats and cholesterol found in meat and dairy products.
Iron is an essential mineral. “The major reason we need it is that it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body,” says Paul Thomas, EdD, RD, scientific consultant to the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.
Iron is also crucial in maintaining a healthy immune system. It helps create energy from nutrients and contributes to the transmission of nerve impulses.
Some of the symptoms of iron deficiency include:
- Concentration problems
- General feeling of weakness
Eating adequate calories and incorporating lots of leafy greens and legumes in your daily diet will most certainly ensure that you are getting enough iron. Moreover, studies have demonstrated that people on vegan or vegetarian diets tend to absorb iron more efficiently.
The need to eat animal products in order to get sufficient nutrients is a complete misconception and all the modern scientific literature helps debunk this myth.
In fact, eating a whole food, plant based diet, not only provides your body with essential vitamins and minerals but also helps prevent, treat or in some cases even reverse some diseases which are the leading causes of deaths, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. I will leave links to some of the literature below so be sure to check them out.
Moreover, studies have repeatedly shown that heme iron from animal foods, increases the risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.
12 Plant Foods With More Iron Than Meat
So many plant foods have large doses of iron in them. Numbers don’t lie so let’s get straight to them!
100 g of spinach provides around 15% of your daily iron requirements! Beef on the other hand provides 14% of your daily value. But there is a catch! 100 g of beef comes with 90mg of cholesterol and 15g of fat of which 7.1 are saturated and trans fats!
How much cholesterol is in 100g of spinach? You guessed it! There is no cholesterol! And how much saturated does it contain? Virtually zero (0.4%) !!
So go ahead and make that big, leafy green salad bowl!
Broccoli is one of those foods that I usually have with every meal! It’s filled with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, magnesium, and surprise surprise, iron!
100g of broccoli provides around 4% of your daily requirements of iron which is about the same as 100g of chicken breast.
The difference is that chicken comes with the added burden of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. The only thing that accompanies broccoli is the huge amounts of the all-important, all-beneficial dietary fiber!
Lentils are the king of all iron-packed foods! They are tiny but mighty powerful! They say great things come in small packages and that is certainly the case with lentils!
100g of lentils provides a whooping 36% of the recommended daily iron dosage! In addition, it’s an excellent source of dietary fiber – 11g per 100g.
What’s great about lentils is that they are so versatile! You can use them in any recipe you can imagine. The taste and texture of cooked lentils resembles that of meat. Opt for lentils instead of meat in all your favorite dishes like for example spaghetti bolognese and watch your health improve and your waistline slim down!
Kale is a nutrient powerhouse! 100g of kale can provide you with 200% of the daily recommended value for Vitamin A and Vitamin C as well an outstanding 880% of Vitamin K!
Kale is also an excellent source of calcium, copper, manganese and potassium! Every time someone criticizes your plant-based diet just bring up kale! Enough said!
100g of kale can provide you with 8% of your daily iron needs! Kale is great to have raw in your salads as well as cooked in soups and stews!
Swiss chard is another amazing plant food that can do wonders for your health! It’s packed with Vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin C and yes, you guessed it, iron!
Not only is Swiss chard extremely low in calories but 100g gives you about 9% of your daily iron requirements! Are you starting to see a pattern? Yes, dark leafy green salads are the answer to everything!
Bok choy, otherwise known as Chinese cabbage, is a member of the cruciferous vegetables family. It contains health-promoting nutrients (glucosinolates) that help rid your body of potential toxins and energize you.
Coming in at only 13 calories per 100g, it’s ideal for daily consumption! It’s packed with Vitamin A and C. It also contains a very descent amount of iron, around 4% of the recommended daily value.
Who doesn’t love potatoes? This wonderful starchy crop should be a stable in your diet! Iron should not be an issue if you can include leafy greens and starchy vegetables in your diet.
With high dietary fiber and virtually no fat, potatoes can be the highlight of your dishes! As far as iron is concerned, 100g of potatoes equals to 6% of the recommended daily value. Delicious and nutritious. Who can say no to that?
I highly advice you to start consuming some sesame seeds if you are not already! A single tablespoon of sesame seeds provides around 7% of your daily iron requirements! How is it would it be to just sprinkle some on your salad?
Sesame seeds are a fantastic source of healthy fats and dietary fiber as well as copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, molybdenum, and selenium. The list is endless!
They contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin. Both of these substances belong to a group of special beneficial fibers called lignans, and have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans, and to prevent high blood pressure.
Nuts in general are a great source of essential minerals as well as healthy fats. Cashews are no exception. A mere 30g of cashew nuts can provide you with over 20% of daily value of copper, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. They are also a great source of selenium.
Just a handful of cashew nuts can add up to over 10% of your daily iron needs. Be careful not to over do it in terms of portion size as they are quite high in saturated fat.
If lentils are the king of iron-packed foods, soybeans are the emperor!! 100g of soybeans provides an impressive 87% of the recommended daily value for iron!
Soybeans are a tremendously nutritious plant food providing huge amounts of dietary fiber, potassium, calcium and magnesium! Did I mention that they are also an excellent source of plant protein? There are 36g of protein per 100g. Pretty amazing!
‘But where do you get your protein?’. Chickpeas. I get my protein from chickpeas! This delicious plant food is packed with protein, dietary fiber, magnesium and that’s right, iron!
100g of chickpeas supplies your body with more than 34% of your daily iron requirements. Coupled with the fact that they are filling and tasty, chickpeas can be used in a variety of recipes. Their unique texture makes them a great meat substitute.
Non-Dairy Dark Chocolate
Need another excuse to consume small amounts of dark chocolate every day? Well, now you have one! For as little as 50g of dark chocolate you can provide your body with almost 22% of your iron needs!
Not only is dark chocolate a good source of iron, but it also contains essential minerals such as magnesium! Be careful though! Dark chocolate is relatively calorie dense and high in saturated fats. Include dark chocolate in your daily diet but in small amount. A little goes a long way!
Many More Plant Sources of Iron
There are many more plant sources of iron. These include: pinto, navy, lama and other beans and peas. Sunflower, hemp, pumpkin and other seeds and herbs like thyme and parsley. Not to mention a myriad of leafy greens such as arugula and collard.
As long as you are consuming enough calories and your diet is made up mostly of wholefoods, you should be able to get enough daily doses of iron!
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Scientific Literature sources: