Looking for a delicious and nutritious way to boost your iron levels? This post highlights the importance of iron in a plant-based diet with an iron rich smoothie recipe. Frequently, iron is one of the concerns for people before they go vegan. Rest assured that you can get plenty from a plant-based diet.
If you think you may have low iron, visit your primary care provider to complete your yearly lab work and create a plan for your health. Do not use the information in this post for diagnosing or curing diseases; it is intended for educational purposes only.
Look no further if you’re craving a rich and creamy drink to satisfy that sweet tooth. All of the ingredients heavily emphasize boosting your daily intake of plant-based iron. This iron-boosting smoothie contains fiber from spinach, fruit, and protein from tofu and pumpkin seeds, keeping you satisfied for longer.
Satisfy your taste buds and support your body’s essential functions with tasty, health-forward ingredients. Whether you want to increase your iron intake or crave something chocolatey, this iron-rich smoothie is the perfect start to your day.
What Even Is Iron?
Iron is an essential mineral vital in various physiological processes within the human body. It is one of the most abundant elements on Earth and is found in a wide range of foods. Iron is a critical component of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. It also plays a crucial role in myoglobin, a protein that facilitates muscle oxygen storage.
These functions make iron a must-have for maintaining healthy oxygen transport and energy production.
Besides its involvement in oxygen transport, iron is also necessary for properly functioning enzymes and metabolic processes within cells. It participates in the synthesis of DNA, supports immune function, and aids in producing certain hormones.
Why is Iron Important in Plant-Based Eating?
Plant-based individuals are at higher risk for developing iron deficiency because the main source of iron intake among Americans is animal proteins. But don’t be fooled. New research has found that 30% of women and children in the United States, whether they are vegan or not, have been considered iron-deficient.
Plants do have iron, but they have a different type of non-heme iron that is not as effectively absorbed. Both can be absorbed. It’s just done at different rates. You can absorb iron by eating only plants; you may have to be more mindful of it.
Types of Iron
So, what’s the major difference between heme and non-heme iron?
Heme iron is found in animal products. One of the distinguishing characteristics of heme iron is its high bioavailability, meaning it is easily absorbed and utilized by the body. This is due to its chemical structure, similar to the iron found in hemoglobin and myoglobin, the proteins responsible for oxygen transport and storage in the body.
We predominantly get from plant-based foods and fortified products. Non-heme iron is a crucial mineral vital in maintaining overall health and well-being. Non-heme iron is an essential nutrient for the human body, primarily responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the bloodstream and supporting energy production.
It is particularly important for individuals following a vegetarian or vegan diet, as it provides a viable source of iron without relying on animal products. The downfall is that non-heme iron is absorbed at half the rate of heme iron. Therefore, you need more and should know tips and tricks to maximize the absorption rate.
What is Iron Deficiency?
Iron deficiency, known as anemia, is a prevalent global health issue. It can lead to fatigue, weakness, decreased immune function, and impaired cognitive function. Iron is one of the most important minerals in the body, fundamental in delivering oxygen to the body’s tissues and in brain and immune function.
Poor iron intake can lead to iron deficiency anemia, a condition in which your body does not have enough iron to transport oxygen to your cells.
Signs of Iron Deficiency
- Pale skin
- Hair loss
- Brittle nails
- Shortness of breath
- Cravings for non-food items (i.e., dirt)
Contact your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or have concerns, and for changes in diet, you can work one-on-one with a dietitian.
The RDA for iron is 8 mg per day for men and 18 mg per day for women. Unfortunately, plants produce natural compounds known as “anti-nutrients,” which can inhibit the body’s absorption of iron and other nutrients. So vegans and vegetarians need to eat 1.8 times the iron recommended in the dietary guidelines.
Equating to 14.4 mg/day for men and 32.4 mg/day for women under 50.
This iron-rich smoothie provides 60% of daily iron needs for men and 27% for women. Drinking this gives you a headstart meeting your iron needs. Don’t forget to choose other iron-rich foods throughout the day, too.
Iron-rich idea: make an iron-rich trail mix with dried apricots, prunes, and pumpkin seeds! Or choose iron-rich proteins such as beans and lentils at meals.
Improving Iron Absorption
After reading about iron needs for vegans, you may be thinking, how am I ever going to get enough iron…I get it. But there is no need to worry. You can meet your iron intake with a carefully planned plant-based diet, especially if you learn these tricks to increase iron absorption.
- Pairing iron-rich foods with vitamin C can tremendously increase iron absorption. Make a citrus-based dressing for your spinach salad, or serve your hummus or white bean dip with colorful bell peppers.
- Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages with iron-rich foods. The caffeine in your morning cup of Joe (and tea, too) can inhibit your body from absorbing the iron in your tofu scramble.
- Avoid taking calcium supplements with your iron-rich meals, as high amounts of calcium can also prevent your body from utilizing the iron from your food.
- Cook, soak, and sprout foods with iron-inhibiting nutrients (whole grains like wheat bran, beans, and lentils). For example, if you’re cooking dry chickpeas, soak them first to reduce the phytic acid. Or, if you’re buying quinoa, choose sprouted quinoa.
Iron Rich Ingredients
Including various non-heme iron sources in the diet is essential to meet the recommended daily intake. Some excellent plant-based sources of non-heme iron include legumes, such as lentils and beans, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, fortified cereals, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and cocoa powder.
This iron-rich smoothie has higher-iron ingredients to boost your levels. Here are some ingredients and the amount of iron they each provide.
Note: These aren’t all the ingredients, just a highlight of the top iron sources.
Silken tofu: adds 3.7 grams of iron
Spinach: adds 6 grams of iron
Cocoa Powder: adds 3.98 grams of iron
Pumpkin Seeds: adds 3 grams of iron
Iron Rich Smoothie | Vegan Chocolate
First, drain the liquid from your silken tofu. You don't need to press your tofu just remove the water from the container.
Add all the ingredients to a blender except the chocolate for the topping. Blend well, gradually adding more water until the desired consistency is reached.
Pour it into a glass, and enjoy!
Serving Size 1
- Amount Per Serving
- Calories 370kcal
- % Daily Value *
- Total Fat 19g30%
- Saturated Fat 4g20%
- Sodium 430mg18%
- Total Carbohydrate 40g14%
- Dietary Fiber 13g52%
- Sugars 12g
- Protein 26g52%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Texture: If you want your milkshake to have a thicker consistency, ensure that your spinach and banana are frozen. You can also add ice instead of extra water.
Serving: Serve in a tall glass and garnish with dark chocolate shavings or chocolate sauce.
Make it a Meal: If you want a meal instead of a shake, add it to a bowl and top with fresh fruit, granola, and nut butter to make a smoothie bowl.
Add Sweetness: naturally, sweeten your smoothie + enhance iron by garnishing with a square or two of dark chocolate or topping with dried apricots or prunes.