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10 Ways To Eat Enough Iron (Besides Meat)

Everyone knows iron is an important part of any diet—but have you ever thought about why? Iron delivers oxygen to working muscles, making it necessary for blood flow and an essential component of a runner’s diet. Without enough iron in the bloodstream, you may suffer from iron deficiency anemia. Although it doesn’t sound too serious, the symptoms of iron deficiency are: these symptoms include extreme exhaustion, lightheadedness, headaches and frequent infections. Doesn’t sound fun, does it?

Related: Two Huge Causes Of Anemia In Female Runners

Unfortunately, iron from plants is not as well absorbed as iron from animals, so vegetarians and vegans are prone to developing anemia. That being said, it’s absolutely possible to get enough iron from plant sources if you eat a diet that is rich in the following 10 foods.

Spinach

There’s a reason Popeye used this leafy vegetable to make his magical muscles grow. Two cups of raw spinach—about the amount you would have in a large salad—has 15 percent of your suggested daily amount of iron. If eating veggies isn’t your thing, throw a handful into a fruit smoothie.

Lentils

Lentils rank pretty high on the list of plant-based iron-rich foods. With more than 35 percent of your daily value of iron in just a cup of cooked lentils, they serve up more of the oxygen delivering nutrient than most meats. Add lentils to your next Meatless Monday dinner recipe, like a meat-free bolognese or lentil loaf.

Pumpkin Seeds

The fall season calls for everything pumpkin, right? Just one ounce (about a handful) of this fall favorite delivers a good helping of iron. Munch on some of these nutrition-packed seeds as a pre-run snack.

Tofu

Not only is tofu a good source of protein: it’s also rich in iron. Just six ounces of this vegan favorite has about 20 percent of your recommended daily dose of iron. Tofu is pretty tasteless, so it easily takes on the flavors of whatever it’s marinated in. You can use it in place of eggs in a tofu scramble or chicken in a stir fry.

Dried Apricots

Looking for a sweeter way to get your iron in? Look no further than this fruity treat. One cup of dried apricots is a great source of iron, and they make delicious toppings for salads or oatmeal.

Amaranth

If you’ve never had amaranth, it’s an ancient grain that is higher in iron than quinoa. It also contains other important nutrients, such as phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. Substitute the amaranth in for the grain in your Buddha bowl.

Enriched Cereals

Want a quick and easy breakfast with iron? Many cereal options have iron added in, so just take a look at the nutrition label the next time you’re grocery shopping.

Flaxseeds

This tiny seed has big health benefits. With omega-3 fatty acids and about 10 percent of your daily iron requirement in two tablespoons, flaxseeds are a great addition to smoothies, salads and hot cereals.

Chickpeas

Everyone’s favorite legume is actually a good source of iron, with close to 10 percent of your daily value in one cup. You can use mashed chickpeas in baking, or toss them on a baking sheet and roast in the oven with some olive oil and salt for a crunchy snack.

Potatoes

White potatoes sometimes get a bad rap, but these tubers are loaded with beneficial nutrients, like 25 percent of your daily value of iron. Potatoes also make a great addition to practically any meal. Make a hash for breakfast, toss them in a salad for lunch or load up a baked potato for dinner.

Related:

A Strange Sign That You Might Be Suffering From Anemia

5 Questions Vegetarian Runners Are Tired Of Answering

Key Nutrients For Pregnant And Active Moms To Consume

Natalie Rizzo

Natalie Rizzo

Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and nutrition communications expert, specializing in sports nutrition. Natalie has written for many food and nutrition publications, such as Eating Well, Spright and Food & Nutrition Magazine, and she has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. Natalie received her Masters of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. When she’s not writing, she’s creating delicious recipes, running and helping other runners reach their peak potential through food. To learn more about Natalie and read about sports nutrition topics, visit her blog, Nutrition à la Natalie or follow her on Twitter.