Fe Fi Fo Fum – Where will my iron come from?
Iron is an important dietary mineral that is involved in various bodily functions, including the transport of oxygen in the blood. Many enzymes throughout the body also contain iron, including those involved in energy production. Enzymes are the catalysts that drive many of the cells’ functions.
One of the common questions we have people ask is how to get their recommended daily intake of iron on a raw diet. The answer is as simple as incorporating the following four of the below groups of raw foods in your diet.
About one-third of the world’s population is iron deficient, with menstruating women at greater risk than men and postmenopausal women. The Australian Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for iron is the amount of dietary iron required to meet the needs of most of the population. This amount is different for different age groups and life stages. For women, aged 19 to 50 this is 18mg, and for men over 19 and women over this is 8mg.
The type of iron found in plant-based products is called non-heme iron. Dr Neal Barnard nots that green leafy vegetables and sprouts and nuts are rich in a form of iron (non-heme) that is more absorbable if your body needs more iron and less absorbable when your body already has plenty of iron. Avoiding dairy products also helps, because they contain virtually no iron and can actually inhibit iron absorption.
We have identified, four easy ways of obtaining your iron needs below.
Seaweed in general is a great source of iron. Spirulina has one of the highest levels, with a five gram serving of Spirulina providing over 25% of the RDI of iron for women aged 19-50 years or approximately 5 mg.
2. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds in general are a powerhouse of nutrients, including iron. Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are particularly surprising with over 3 grams of iron per 25 grams. 50 grams of hemp seeds (approx. five tablespoons) provides approximately 2mg of iron or approximately 10% of the RDI for women aged 19 to 50 years. Sunflower seeds have over 3 mg of iron per 50 grams whilst hazelnuts and almonds have approximately 2.5 grams of iron per 50 grams.
All you raw fooders already know about the incredible benefits of including these live beauties in your diet, however did you know that all sprouts, in particular lentil and mung beans are rich sources of iron with over 3 mg per 50 grams.
Popeye had his spinach cooked, but 100 grams of raw spinach provides 2.7 mg of iron. 100 grams of dandelion also provides over 2.5 mg of iron, with the additional benefit of its liver tonifying properties.
There is currently controversy around the ability for high levels of oxalate found in spinach to iron to forming ferrous oxalate and rendering much of the iron in spinach unusable by the body, however some studies have also found that the addition of oxalic acid to the diet may improve iron absorption in rats over a diet with spinach without additional oxalic acid. Perhaps a good idea to get a variety of plant-based sources on iron so you are not relying on your spinach as the sole source of your iron.
Conscious Tip: To further boost your iron absorption add some orange or tomatoes to your greens, the vitamin C will increase iron absorption. Vitamin A (naturally high in carrots, spinach and mangoes) also helps to release stored iron, another reason to follow a rainbow diet.
 Nutritional Factors in Menstrual Pain and Premenstrual Syndrome
Neal D. Barnard, M.D.