Iron is a mineral necessary for many bodily functions. But do you know that out of the 7.6 billion people in this world, around 30% are suffering from iron deficiency? If you’re one of those who looks for iron-rich foods to beat iron deficiency, this post will help you!

Causes and Signs of Iron Deficiency

Although common, iron deficiency is not talked about so often to the point that many people aren’t aware they are deficient. When our body is low on iron, it leads to abnormally low levels of red blood cells, a condition known as anemia.

There are many causes of iron deficiency, including the following:

  • Restrictive diets and poor diet
  • Blood loss due to internal bleeding
  • Increased iron requirements during pregnancy
  • Blood loss through periods

Since blood loss through heavy periods and increased requirements during pregnancy can cause iron deficiency, women are more likely to suffer from this condition. Meat is a common source of iron, that’s why those who undergo restrictive diets such as vegans and vegetarians are also prone to iron deficiency.

Depending on several factors such as your age, health state, and severity of the condition, the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency vary from person to person. In some cases, an individual may experience nothing at all.

Here are the most common signs and symptoms of iron deficiency.

  • Unusual and extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Paleness
  • Dizziness and headache
  • Restless leg syndrome or the strong urge to bounce or move your legs
  • Sore and swollen tongue and mouth
  • Frequent infections
  • Dry and damaged skin and hair

What to Do If You Suspect Iron Deficiency

If you think your body is deficient of iron, consider the following pieces of advice:

  1. Consult your doctor who will run some blood tests to confirm iron deficiency. If you’re confirmed to be deficient, he or she will then recommend increasing your iron intake through diet or supplements.
  2. Take iron supplements, only if it is recommended by your doctor.
  3. Increase intake of vitamin C, which boosts the absorption of iron.
  4. Consume real foods high in iron.

Plant-based Iron-rich Foods

To consider vegans and vegetarians who are more likely to suffer from iron deficiency because of the lack of meat in their diet, here’s a list of plant-based foods that are high in iron.

1. Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seed is a healthy, delicious snack for when you’re trying to lose weight. It’s high in iron and vitamin E. A cup of fresh sunflower seeds contains 47% of the RDI of iron.

2. Sesame seeds

Sesame seeds aren’t only a good source of iron but also copper. Due to its sesamin and sesamolin content, they are also suggested to help lower cholesterol.  Just ¼ cup of sesame seeds has 29% of the RDI.

3. Black beans

This healthy food has a high amount of iron that just half a cup of it contains 44% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of iron.

4. Soybean

Soybean and foods derived from it such as tofu and tempeh are packed with iron. A cup of soybeans has 49% of RDI of iron.

5. Oats

An easy and tasty way to boost your iron intake is by eating oats! Aside from supplying 19% of the RDI, oats also contain a significant amount of fiber, zinc, magnesium, and folate.

6. Cooked spinach

While many vegetables lose nutrients in the process of cooking, it’s a different story with spinach. Cooked spinach actually contains a higher iron quantity than when raw. A cup of it supplies 36% of the RDI, and 100 grams of it has more iron than the same amount of red meat.

7. Kale

If you want to increase your iron intake without having to worry about calories, kale is the vegetable in mind. Add kale into smoothies or make kale chips. A cup of kale contributes 5% of the RDI.

8. Potatoes

Potatoes are a healthy superfood that supplies the body with healthy fiber and energy. Not only that, but they also have high iron content. A medium-sized potato provides 18% of the RDI.

9. Mushrooms

Mushrooms, in general, are good sources of iron, but there are certain varieties like oyster mushrooms that are higher than others. A cup of cooked white mushroom contains 15% of the RDI.

10. Sun-dried tomatoes

Aside from containing antioxidants, this healthy and delicious food is packed with iron and lycopene. One cup of dried tomatoes contains 27% of the RDI.

11. Raisins

Among many other types of fruits, raisins have more iron content. It also enhances iron absorption because of its Vitamin C content.

12. Olives

Olives are fruits that are rich in iron and phytonutrient. One cup of olives has 25% of the RDI.

13. Prune juice

Besides its laxative effect, prune juice also offers a high amount of iron, Vitamin C, and potassium. A cup of prune juice has 17% of the RDI.

14. Dark chocolate

If you’re having sweet cravings and want to increase your iron intake, try dark chocolate. High-quality ones are healthy and contain a good amount of iron, with 1 bar containing 72% of the RDI.

15. Coconut milk

Though coconut milk contains a high amount of fat, it also is a great source of other nutrients such as copper, magnesium, and iron. A half cup of coconut milk provides 21% of the RDI.

Iron deficiency is a common condition, and if you think you’re iron deficient or if you want to boost your iron intake, consuming these plant-based foods can alter your symptoms and enhance your health. Improve your overall well-being by taking care of your body!

Do you know any other iron-rich food? Share with us in the comments below!