Iron is needed by the human body to produce red blood cells (blood production) which help in smooth functioning of the body and provide fuel to it. Oxygen is produced by the red blood cells which keeps us alive. Lack of iron in the body can lead to low production of red blood cells. Iron helps make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen in the body especially the brain. Iron helps in muscle building and movement, storing oxygen and allowing muscles to move and strengthen. Especially in pregnant women, iron is an extremely important nutrient for the adequate development of the fetus and placenta, needed both by the mother and the child in the womb. Having a diet rich in Vitamin C like tomatoes, fruits and green vegetables helps in proper absorption of Iron in the body. Adequate iron in the body helps in faster healing of cuts and bruises and makes us more energetic, maintains and regulates body temperature. Iron called Heme is mostly found in poultry, red meat, fish etc and can be readily absorbed in the body. Non-heme iron which is available in plant based foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts etc need the help of foods high in vitamin C for better absorption.
Inadequate iron supply leads to low production hemoglobin, which affects transfer of oxygen in the body and our ability to work better, this is called Anemia. Anemia is very common in women due to loss of blood during menstruation, internal bleeding and pregnancy. Tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches, paleness, dizziness, palpitations, brittle fingernails, skin and hair damage etc are symptoms of iron deficiency in the body. Folic acid medicines are prescribed by doctors in extreme cases and especially in pregnancy to counter the lack of iron in the body.
THE TOP 5 IRON RICH VEGETABLES
For all the iron related deficiency, vegetables are a great source of iron. Most of the green leafy vegetables are a good source of iron along with red meat, beans, mushroom, raisins, prunes etc.
These are the top 5 iron rich vegetable as per their iron content:-
- Mushrooms: They are seasonal and available locally. They were mostly used in exotic dishes, but now due to the increasing fast food culture and its low calorie content, mushrooms have become a popular choice in pizzas, pastas and Thai curries. MOREL & WHITE variety of mushroom contains the highest iron content. Along with iron, mushrooms are a good source of minerals, vitamins and fiber as well. It has low salt and sugar level and is free from cholesterol.
- Spinach: Spinach is a rich source of iron and is one of the most popular and used variety of green vegetables. It contains many antioxidants and can be consumed raw or cooked. Cooking it though helps in more absorption of iron in the body. It also helps in prevention of cancer. Spinach contains insoluble fiber, which helps in digestion of food.
- Legumes: Legumes are a great source of iron. Chickpeas, beans, peas, lentils etc are all loaded with iron. Beans such black beans, soya beans, kidney beans also provide magnesium and calcium requirement along with being a good source of iron. They also help in reduction of belly fat and risk of many heart diseases and conditions. As compared to red meat, legumes contains more iron and is preferred by the vegetarians for their overall iron requirements. Split lentils also called as dals are popularly used in Indian households for preparation of various types of curry/rice preparations.
- Broccoli: Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family. It is known for its health benefits. Along with iron, broccoli is a good source of proteins, fibre and vitamin c as well. It is also called a super food. It can be eaten raw or cooked, but due to consumption of great quantities when raw, it is preferably cooked or steamed. It is extremely low in calories and is therefore preferred by people on weight loss. It improves eye sight and helps in reducing cholesterol.
- Green peas: Green pea or peas as it’s commonly called is a rich source of iron and is widely available throughout the year as a frozen /packed variety. Due to the antioxidants and fiber content in them they are a popular choice for consumption along with being pocket friendly. Basically green peas belong to the legume family, but they are widely used as vegetables. The fiber in them aids digestion as well as it is helpful in preventing heart diseases such as strokes and high blood pressure.
These are just some of the iron rich vegetables which when included in our diets fulfill our daily iron requirements and help us in getting a fitter body and mind.