Ever since I was really young I have avoided most meats, and now I only eat fish and chicken. This has health benefits such as lower cholesterol, decreasing your calorie intake, making your body less acidic, feeling less bloated, and decreasing your cancer risk. But it also deprives my body of iron, which is why I want to talk about some healthier iron packed options! I wanted to know why iron was so important and found out that iron is a component of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to transport it throughout your body. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. A lack of red blood cells is called iron deficiency anemia. Iron is clearly super important so here are four healthy iron packed food options!
The first iron filled food I’m going to talk about are legumes. The most common types are beans, lentils, chickpeas, and soybeans. Legumes are also rich in potassium, magnesium, and folate. One cup of cooked lentils contains 6.6 mg of iron. Legumes may also help you lose weight. They’re very high in soluble fiber, which can increase feelings of fullness and reduce calorie intake.
The next food is quinoa. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 2.8 mg of iron as well as folate, magnesium, copper, manganese and many other nutrients. Quinoa is also gluten free, and has more antioxidant activity than many other grains. Antioxidants help protect your cells from the damage done by free radicals, which are formed during metabolism and in response to stress.
As for a portable, great tasting snack food containing iron pumpkin seeds are a great option. One cup contains 4.2 mg of iron. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of vitamin K, zinc and manganese. They’re also one of the best sources of magnesium which many people are deficient in. Magnesium helps reduce your risk of insulin resistance, diabetes and depression.
Spinach is another amazing iron rich food is spinach and in general most dark, leafy greens. 3.5 ounces of spinach contains 3.6 mg of iron and contains few calories. Spinach is also rich in vitamin C which is important since vitamin C significantly boosts iron absorption. Spinach is full of antioxidants called carotenoids that can reduce your risk of cancer, decrease inflammation, and protect your eyes from disease. Consuming spinach and other dark leafy greens with fat helps your body absorb the carotenoids, so try to eat a healthy fat like olive oil with your spinach.
Hopefully this displayed the importance of iron and gave you some options that are healthier than just having red meat. These items are all great in salads, but the legumes, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds can all be consumed on their own and are actually all really delicious. I am going to work more to increase my iron intake in a healthy way, and hopefully you’ve been inspired to do the same!