Sick of spinach but need to up that iron? Never fear, there’s hope for you yet. Don’t default to supplements or walk around with green spinach specks in your teeth — there’s a better way. Read on for some simple and exciting ways to add more iron to your diet with ease.
Why Worry About Iron At All?
You might not be particularly worried about it right now, but if you’re experiencing fatigue, unusual headaches, or having trouble catching your breath, low iron may be the culprit. Iron helps oxygen move around the body, so if you’re not getting enough of it, you may be in for a world of discomfort. The National Institute of Health’s recommendation is that women between the ages of 19-50 get at least 18 milligrams of iron every day, while men (and women over 51) should be ingesting at least 8 milligrams daily.
Even if you’re not struggling with an iron deficiency (like anemia) or experiencing low-iron symptoms, iron is awesomely powerful. It makes your hair, skin, and nails healthier while making sure that your body has enough oxygen flowing through its veins to do all of the things you love without a second thought.
How Can You Boost Your Iron Intake?
Iron can be kind of tricky, especially for vegetarians or reluctant meat-eaters. The body absorbs way more iron from meat sources than it does from plant sources, but even if you’re not interested in a steak or an oyster, don’t lose hope. Pair your iron-rich veggies with some Vitamin C, and the iron will absorb into your bloodstream in no time.
Lots of foods have trace amounts of iron in them, but if you’re really looking to boost that iron, try to enjoy any or all of the following foods on a regular basis, with or without spinach.
Lentils are tiny little legumes popular all over the world, and for good reason. About five ounces of lentils will give you one third your daily recommended intake of iron, and they’re delicious and easy to make, too!
If you’re new to lentils, don’t let them intimidate you. Rinse them, simmer them for 15-20 minutes in water or stock, and enjoy. Whether you plan an entire meal around lentils (like lentil Bolognese) or add lentils to your favorite dish (like lentil and turkey lettuce wraps), they provide an easy and healthy way to boost that iron.
Of course, meat is towards the top of the list and red meat is the animal product with the highest iron count around. About 17 ounces or so of red meat a week should be plenty to keep your stomach and iron count satisfied.
Instead of sticking with your standard steak, consider breaking out of the norm and preparing some nice lamb or a pork chop. The possibilities are endless and all full of iron.
Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween anymore. One small handful of pumpkin seeds on their own can give you almost twenty percent of your daily recommended iron intake, and they require zero preparation. Pumpkin seeds don’t only provide you with a ton of iron, they are also full of other super healthy and handy nutrients, like magnesium and antioxidants.
If digging into a bag of seeds isn’t your jam, try throwing pumpkin seeds into your morning granola or on top of your yogurt for a healthy afternoon snack. Pumpkin seeds can also be blended to make a peanut butter type spread for your favorite toasts or sandwiches.
Finally, some straightforwardly delectable news. Dark chocolate also packs a punch of iron: about twenty percent of your daily recommended intake in one small square. Just try not to enjoy the entire bar at once.
If you really want to get crazy, try coating your roasted pumpkin seeds in dark chocolate for a double-iron snack.
If you’re looking for an iron boost in Red Lobster, you’re in the perfect place. All varieties of shellfish are high in iron (the best ones being oysters, clams, and mussels), so enjoy!
Intimidated? You shouldn’t be. Quinoa may take a minute to prepare, but once it’s done it’s fantastic and versatile. Much like some of the other items on this list, there is more than meets the eye in this little grain. Make sure you rinse it first and then cook it in water or stock. It’s so easy to add quinoa to all of your favorite dishes — before long, you’ll wonder what you did before you discovered it.
Quinoa salads are fantastic, with or without spinach, and quinoa makes a wonderful addition to any main dish of meat or roasted vegetables.
If the pumpkin seeds just aren’t doing it for you, try some pistachios. Crushed or whole, mixed with yogurt or enjoyed on their own, pistachios have nearly four times the amount of iron of most other nuts, so make sure they are a part of your next nut mix.
You can use crushed pistachios to coat or crust savory dinner dishes, like fish and meat, but that’s not where their usefulness ends. Pistachios are delicious in granolas, scones, biscotti, and, of course, ice cream.
Tofu, best friend of vegans and vegetarians everywhere, is a handy block of iron-rich soy. Flavor it up, fry it or bake it, do whatever you want with it, because not only will it give you a ton of iron, it may even decrease your risk of heart disease.
Whether you’ve recently discovered some anemia or are just overall concerned with your health and well-being, this list of iron-rich foods is for you. Nutrition doesn’t have to be a chore — in fact, eating right should be delicious. Use this list of ingredients and food options in any way you want: amaze your family with pumpkin seed desserts, sprinkle crushed pistachios over your steak, eat your veggies with quinoa instead of rice, and you’ll be an iron-rich foodie in no time.