An iron deficiency, or anemia, forces the anemic person to follow a strictly regimented diet or medication. Ultimately, they take oral supplements and seek specific kinds of foods. These foods often share the same qualities: plants look a dark, leafy green, and meats and fish are high in healthy fatty acids and oils. Green foods—especially bright or dark green foods—also supplement other vitamins and minerals they may lack. This is because the chlorophyll found in dark green plants will stimulate the body to produce more iron, even though chlorophyll actually contains no iron by itself.
If left untreated, the anemic person can develop symptoms like sporadic blood sugar-level changes, faintness, nausea and an irregular blood pressure.
Spinach is often toted as the most common iron-filled leaf vegetable. Spinach, however, does not always suit everyone’s tastes. Let’s look at alternative vegetables and supplements that re-introduce iron into the bloodstream:
The hidden gem made famous by its unpopularity among children, this green superfood is a compact and more nutrient-rich version of its cousin, the cabbage. Raw sprouts, a common salad ingredient, contain folic acid, fiber, and most daily-required vitamins and minerals. Dating back to Belgium in the 13th century, Brussels sprouts outdo its relatives in most vitamin and mineral categories—even broccoli, collard greens and kale.
Soybeans and soy products contain one of the highest levels of iron recorded from a vegetable. Servings of soybeans contain anywhere from 8.8-29.9 mg of iron. Women especially absorb more iron from soybean intake. This proves a plus, because soy tends to be the active ingredient in many supplementary meat products, for vegetarians. Additionally, soybeans contain vitamins A-D, calcium and magnesium. Rely on soybeans for iron, but also for a balanced diet. Incorporate the bean itself into your diet—properly classified as an “oilseed”—or seek soy-based options for dairy or meat products like ice cream, milk, and chicken. Tofu is also made from soy and can be baked, grilled, or pan-fried with spices.
Spirulina is a complete protein that contains all nine amino acids and is comprised of about 60% protein. Spirulina also contains 2 mg of iron and can be used as an iron supplement for patients with anemia. Long used by Aztec nations in the 16th century, Spirulina belongs in the bacteria family and can be used in powder form as a food ingredient. Spirulina is a good source for iron, but also other vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, calcium, and beta-carotene.
Chard is a green superfood that neutralizes toxins in the blood and stimulates iron development. Chard combats high sugar, inflammation, and promotes skin cell rejuvenation. Like chicory, chard also contains more than thirteen polyphenol antioxidants.
Parsley is a common garnish, but most recently has been used as a sweet component to juices and smoothies. Parsley contains iron-stimulating chlorophyll, but also 2.6% of the iron content required by the RDA per two tablespoons. Parsley also contains vital nutrients that regulate cell growth and also help to prevent tumors. Parsley can be widely incorporated into many dishes, from drinks to salads to garnish with meat.
Green Barley Grass
The barley grain is well known for its baking properties and commonly used in mealy dishes. The grass, however, espouses uses all its own. The grass contains eight amino acids and clarifying vitamins and minerals, like iron. The minerals detoxify the skin and blood, according to beliefs dating back to 7000 BC and scientific publications since. The grass can be juiced, used as a powder supplement, or ingested as a tablet.
Pistachios come with high iron and sodium and qualify as an alternative green superfood. As with most green foods, pistachios help expel metals lurking in blood, including mercury. In addition, related to pine nuts, pistachios contain six varieties of Vitamin B and minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. Pistachios can be eaten raw, roasted, or chopped and incorporated into many recipes.
Like Spirulina, Chlorella is a member of the algae family and derives its name from its intense chlorophyll concentration. Also like Spirulina, Chlorella can thank chlorophyll and its properties for many of its most beneficial uses, including detoxifying metals and poisons from blood. Unlike Spirulina, Chlorella helps regenerate skin tissue, helping its users look younger and healthier. Chlorella is high in iron, but if used as an iron supplement, should be used in moderation. Choose your favorite supplement to use as a once-daily vitamin tablet, or as a powder additive to salad dressings, juices and smoothies.
All mushrooms contain high quantities of iron, but chief among those are the morel mushrooms. Morel mushrooms contain a whopping 12 mg of iron. Their honeycomb inner texture and starchy exterior make them flavorful and widely used in cooking. Gourmet chefs prize the morel for its umami flavor and versatility. Buy morel mushrooms in season; they might be purchased out of season, but they are rare and thus more expensive.
Lentils are often seen as beans, or seeds, but are scientifically referred to as “pulses.” They are a member of the legume family and, like other beans and legumes, possess high iron content. They are best served boiled, but can be ingested in other capacities, or used as a garnish. Lentils contain many other vitamins and nutrients, but contain 6.6 mg of iron.
Iron traditionally comes in small doses in most foods, but by incorporating many different kinds of iron-rich foods into our diet, we can avoid symptoms of low iron, or stave off iron deficiencies altogether. The chlorophyll in many of our green cuisines boosts the foods with vitamins and proteins we seldom receive in large concentrations and boost iron production in the body. Compared to meats, vegetables are also more easily processed and the iron absorbed and put to use more quickly. Vegetables can also be incorporated into all three meals of the day, and other snacks, making their versatility commendable. Other than those listed here, which vegetables or supplements do you use to fight low iron?