20 Vegetarian Foods That Contain Iron

Health and Nutrition
23.10.2019

Iron is one of the most important minerals found in the body. Though there is less than 5 grams which is as much as a tea spoon of iron present in the whole body, the role it plays is very important.  Most of it is found in haemoglobin in the form of heme which is found only in animals and not in plants (1). 

 

Dietary sources of iron

Dietary iron occurs in two forms in foods, heme and non-heme iron (2). The primary sources of heme iron are haemoglobin and myoglobin from animal sources such as of meat, poultry, and fish. Heme is part of haemoglobin in red blood cells and in muscles it is part of myoglobin. 

Animal foods contain both heme and non-heme iron and are good sources of heme iron (1). 

Here are 20 vegetarian foods that provide iron

  1. Beans

On an average, different types of beans like kidney beans, red beans, mung beans etc have 6.7 mg to 9.35 mg of iron per 100 grams of beans (3). Since they are eaten in substantial amount as they are the primary source of protein for vegetarians, they can be considered as a good source of iron. 

  1. Soybeans

Not only are soybeans one of the best sources of complete protein for vegetarians they also provide good amount of iron. Soybeans contain 15.7 mg of iron in 100 grams (3), which makes them one of the best sources of iron at least for vegetarians. 

  1. Lentils

Lentils are another source of protein which is very important for vegans and vegetarians. Lentils provide about 7.39 mg of iron per 100 grams (3). Since they are eaten in a reasonably good amount, they can be counted as a good source of iron.

  1. Peas and pigeon peas

Green dried split peas contain 4.73 mg and pigeon peas (red gram) contain 5.23 mg iron per 100 grams (3). They are good sources of protein and iron for vegetarians

  1. Nuts 

Nuts in general are fair sources of iron, 100 grams of nuts provide about 4.2 mg of iron. They are also good source of protein and healthy fat. Cashew nuts contain 6.6 mg of iron in 100 grams (3).

  1. Mushrooms

Though mushrooms are considered to be vegetarian foods not many vegetarians like their texture. But for those who eat mushrooms they are a good source of iron, providing 12.18 mg of iron per 100 grams of mushrooms (3).

  1. Amaranth grain

Amaranth grain is clubbed under pseudo-cereal group. They are used both as grain and flour. They contain about 7.6 mg of iron per 100 grams of grain (3).

  1. Quinoa

Quinoa also is a pseudo cereal which is one of the few sources of complete protein for vegetarians and it is gluten free. It also is a good source of iron, 4.57 mg in 100 grams of quinoa (3).

  1. Ground turmeric

Turmeric contains curcumin which has several health benefits when consumed. It also provides 55 mg of iron per 100 grams (3). Therefore, make sure you use it regularly in cooking as well as while making beverages such as turmeric latte.

 

  1. Ground ginger

Ginger is used in several recipes and also to make pickles and chutneys. Ginger provides about 19.8 mg of iron per 100 grams (3). Keep fresh ginger at home and use it regularly.

 

  1. Dried peaches

 Peaches which are dried contain about 3.6 mg iron per 100 grams (3). Along with micronutrients fruits are good sources of antioxidants which have several health benefits.

 

  1. Prunes

They are dried plums and these contain about 3.5 mg of iron per 100 grams (3). For a plant source 3.5 mg per 100 grams can be considered a very good source of iron. 

 

  1. Peanuts

Peanuts are used in several recipes such as bars, chutneys, powders and so on. 100 grams of peanuts contain 4.58 mg of iron (3). Keep your kitchen stocked with peanuts as they can be used in innumerable recipes and are also a good source of protein and energy.

 

  1. Raisins

These are very commonly found in almost all kitchens. Raisins contain 2.6 mg of iron per 100 grams (3). They can be easily incorporated into desserts, added to breakfast muesli and even recipes which are savoury in nature. They can be eaten as such too.

 

  1. Oats 

Oats are grouped under cereals and are known to be good dietary fiber source. They also provide about 4.72 mg of iron per 100 grams (3) and since they are eaten in reasonable amounts per serving can be considered as a fair source of iron

 

  1. Berries

There are many types of berries available, from goji berries which contain 6.8 mg iron per 100 grams to mulberries which contain 1.85 mg per 100 grams. Raspberries and blackberries contain about 0.6 mg iron per 100 grams (3). Berries are good sources of antioxidants too. 

 

  1. Tamarind

The pulp of tamarind is used in many cuisines including Indian. Tamarind contains about 2.8 mg iron per 100 grams (3). It adds sourness to the food preparation it is added to.

 

  1. Green leafy vegetables

Green leafy vegetables are fair sources of iron. For example, 100 grams of spinach contains 2.7 mg of iron (3). Green leafy vegetables are good sources of other micronutrients and dietary fiber too.

  1. Cumin seeds 

Cumin seeds are loaded with iron, 66.36 mg iron per 100 grams (3). But since cumin is used as a spice it is used in small quantities. Make sure you have cumin seeds and also roasted, ground cumin powder in your kitchen. Use it regularly in food preparation so that you get at least some amount of iron and of course all the other phytochemicals it provides.

  1. Spices

Pepper to coriander seeds, cardamom to mace contain anywhere between 13 mg to 16 mg of iron per 100 grams (3). And they are good sources of phytochemicals which exhibit several health benefits. Keep your spice rack always filled and use them regularly.

 

Final word

Most dietary non-heme iron is from plant sources like cereals, pulses, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Non-heme iron is the primary source of iron for humans (1, 4).

 

References

 

  1. Wildman, R. (2009) The Nutritionist-Food, Nutrition, and Optimal Health, Second Edition; The Minerals of Our Body 233; Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, New York and London.

 

  1. Abbaspour, N., Hurrell, R. and Kelishadi, R. (2014) Review on iron and its importance for human health, Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences.19 (2).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3999603/

 

  1. United States Department of Agriculture, USDA Food Composition Databases.

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list

 

  1. Yeung, D. and Laquarta, I. (2003) Copper.132. Heinz Handbook of Nutrition, Ninth Edition. Distributed by H.J. HeinzCompany.

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