17 ways to add more iron to your diet

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dispelling a myth: Vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike are often looking for ways to increase their iron levels. Many pregnant women (maybe as many as 85%) struggle with low iron or anemia, as well. I have heard it said that it is hard to get enough iron when eating a vegetarian diet because the plant form of iron (non-heme) is not as readily absorbed as iron from animal foods (heme). That is only half true: non-heme iron is less available to our bodies, however, it is quite possible to get enough iron despite that.

Here are 17 ways to increase your intake of iron:

  1. Blackstrap molasses: Add molasses to baked good, hot cereal, or pancakes and waffles. When I was a kid, we used to drink molasses mixed with warm milk. I have been on a chai tea kick lately and I think it might be good there as well.
  2. Cast iron: Cooking with cast iron pans, especially for acidic foods like tomatoes sauces, increases the iron content of those foods.
  3. Edamame (soybeans): Enjoy edamame (soybeans) as a snack or added to salads.
  4. Fortified foods: Look for cereals, pastas, and bread products that have been iron-fortified.
  5. Hemp seeds: Add 1-2 Tbsp hemp seeds to your breakfast cereal (hot or cold), rice or other grain, or salad.
  6. Lentils or beans: Add cooked lentils or beans to salads, soups, and pasta dishes.
  7. Nuts: Add nuts to baked goods, cereals, or salads or enjoy them as a snack.
  8. Oatmeal: Have oatmeal or oat bran hot cereal for breakfast. Serve with strawberries or orange juice for extra vitamin C.
  9. Pumpkin seeds: Add raw pumpkin seeds to salads, baked goods, and smoothies.
  10. Quinoa: Quinoa is a quick-cooking and super nutritious grain. Use in place of rice, add to salads, or serve soup over quinoa for a hearty meal.
  11. Raisins and dried fruit: Add raisins and/or other dried fruit to cereal, rice and grain dishes, and baked goods.
  12. Sesame seeds: Add sesame seeds to salads, cereals, hummus, grain dishes, baked goods, and stir fries.
  13. Spinach: Add fresh spinach to a smoothie, saute it with garlic, or add to pasta dishes or soups.
  14. Split peas: Enjoy split pea soup served over quinoa with some fortified whole grain bread.
  15. Tofu: Make a tofu stir fry with broccoli. The vitamin C from the broccoli with aid in iron absorption.
  16. Vegetables: Many veggies are good sources of iron. Enjoy a wide variety veggies each day.
  17. Wheat germ: Add wheat germ to baked goods, smoothies, or hot cereal.
Tip: Eat iron-rich foods with foods that contain vitamin C to increase iron absorption. Avoid eating iron-rich foods with coffee, tea, or calcium-rich foods as those things may inhibit absorption.

From my experience: Even though I do not eat any meat, I am able to maintain normal iron levels (even when I was pregnant) by ensuring that I eat a variety of iron-rich foods every day. Both of my children are vegetarian and have normal iron levels as well.

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