Iron Rich Food

April 21, 2011

Iron, Minerals

Iron is an essential nutrient for the body and deficiency of iron leads to anemia. If you are vegetarian and wondering which foods can help you to maintain a healthy level of iron in the body, then here you can find the list of iron rich foods especially for vegetarians.

Iron is one of the vital minerals required by human body for blood formation. It is a trace mineral needed by the body to promote good blood health especially in the avoidance of diseases such as anemia triggered by iron deficiency. Iron is vital element in any healthy vegetarian diet. Women needs more iron supply than men as their monthly period can offset their iron supply. It is an important component of haemoglobin that transports oxygen through the blood to all parts of the body. Also, it contributes in many metabolic reactions of the body. In the USA and in Britain, iron deficiency is the most common mineral nutritional deficiency. Although vegetarians are no more likely to be iron-deficient than meat-eaters, sometimes the iron stores of vegetarians are reduced.

Mostly, vegetarian people who are on restriction diet can be associated with iron-deficiency anemia. Adequate iron nurture depends not only on the amount of dietary iron taken but it also depends on the amount absorbed. Vegetarians who eat variety of foods have a better iron status than who eat a limited diet based on unleavened, unrefined cereals. Western vegetarians have healthier iron status due to consumption of variety of foods and also the greater amounts of vitamin C which acts as an important enhancer of non-haem iron absorption.

Iron deficiency results in anemia. In iron deficiency anemia, a person has inadequate amounts of iron to meet body demands. Anemic may have symptoms of tiredness, headaches, lack of stamina, insomnia, breathlessness, and loss of appetite.

Types of Dietary Iron:

Dietary Iron is of two types: haem iron and non-haem iron. Non-haem iron is less easily absorbed by the body than haem iron and the amount of iron absorbed ranges from about 1-10 percent from plant foods and 10-20 percent from animal food. Heme iron exists only in animal tissues, while plant foods contain only non-haem iron.

Recommended daily intake of iron:

  • Females ages 11 to 50: 18 mg
  • Females over age 50: 10 mg
  • Pregnant women: 30 to 60 mg
  • Males ages 10 to 18: 18 mg
  • Males over age 19: 10 mg
  • Children from birth to age 6 months: 10 mg daily
  • Children from ages 6 months to 4 years: 15 mg daily

Factors enhancing Non-Haem iron absorption

  • Vitamin C(Orange)
  • Sugars
  • Haem iron
  • Low body stores
  • Hydrochloric acid in the stomach

Factors inhibiting Non-Haem iron absorption

  • Full body stores
  • Oxalic acid (e.g. in spinach)
  • Phytic acid (in dietary fibre)
  • Reduction in stomach acid
  • Tannins (e.g. in tea)
  • Calcium and phosphorus in milk

Iron Rich Foods for Vegetarians:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Oats
  • Hazelnuts
  • Raisins
  • Dates
  • Apricot
  • Prunes
  • Asparagus
  • Parsley
  • Watercress
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Lentils
  • Chick peas
  • Soybeans
  • Red kidney beans
  • Artichokes
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Millet
  • Sprouts
  • Kale Cabbage
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almond
  • Tofu
  • Soy yogurt
  • Alfalfa
  • Figs


Lettuce contains fairly good amount of iron and so it is used as a tonic in case of anemia and also in general case of weakness. It is easy to digest and also easily absorbed in the body.


Almost everyone knows that spinach or palak is a good source of high grade iron. Thus, this leafy vegetable helps in formation of hemoglobin. During pregnancy, anemia and constipation is very common and palak is helpful in both these conditions.

Sesame seeds:

Especially black sesame seeds are high in iron. You can take this seeds by soaking in the warm water for 2-3hours. Then ground this seeds and strain water from it. This extract can be taken with milk and for taste; you can add sugar or jaggery.

Fenugreek leaves:

They are also a good source of iron and you can consume it directly or by cooking. This is helpful in women having excessive menstruation. Fenugreek seeds are also advantageous in iron formation in blood.

Benefits of Iron:

  • The primary function of iron in the body is to form hemoglobin that transports oxygen throughout the body. About 67% of body iron is present as haemoglobin and myoglobin.
  • Iron regulates body temperature and contributes to the proper functioning of body muscles.
  • It is highly important for the growth and development of brain.
  • It also finds a great role to play in the catecholamine metabolism.
  • Iron is found in myoglobin, that helps in taking oxygen from hemoglobin and so, facilitates the diffusion of oxygen through muscle cells.
  • It facilitates the binding of oxygen to the blood cells, which in order contributes to cell respiration.
  • It is necessary for the formation of collagen, which is a kind of connective tissue.
  • The mineral is also known to enhance the concentration power of an individual.
  • It also helps in the production of amino acids, a health beneficial protein.
  • It helps to boost the immune system of the body. Thus, consuming it in proper quantity can help an individual to battle against infections.

In the body, excess of iron is also damaging and so a well-balanced diet is very important. Well-balanced diet should consist of seeds, nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables. In formation of red blood cells, sunlight is very important and so it is vital for those who want to boost iron in the body.

This site is for information and support only and NOT a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment!
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