Women need more iron than men, so it pays to eat iron-rich foods often to make sure you get your recommended 18 milligrams per day. One way to get some extra iron is to eat more green leafy veggies. These veggies are nutritional powerhouses, with significant amounts of fiber, calcium and vitamins A, C and K as well as iron.
Be like Popeye and eat your spinach. Spinach contains more iron than any other green, with each cup of boiled spinach providing 6.4 milligrams. Saute your spinach along with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sweet potatoes for a delicious side. Sweet potatoes pair well with spinach since they contain beta-carotene, a nutrient that helps improve iron absorption, according to a study published in "Food Chemistry" in October 2010.
Increase your iron intake by eating turnip greens. Each 1-cup serving of these green leafy veggies provides you with 3.2 milligrams of iron. Saute your turnip greens with garlic and lemon juice or cook them with red bell pepper, garlic and onion. Both red bell pepper and lemon juice provide vitamin C, which improves iron absorption.
Cooked beet greens provide 3.7 milligrams of iron per cup. Eat them with the beets, since these contain even more iron per serving than the greens. Make a pizza with a whole-grain crust, roasted beets, wilted beet greens and feta for a delicious main dish, or toss together a warm beet salad that includes the beet greens, walnuts and goat cheese topped with a vinaigrette dressing. If you aren't a fan of the beets themselves, use the beet greens in a frittata.
Eating a cup of cooked collards increases your daily iron intake by 2.2 milligrams. Serve roasted chicken and tomatoes with sauteed collard greens and onions, since eating an animal-based source of iron along with a your greens helps your body absorb more of the iron they contain. If you don't eat meat, wrap collard greens around a mix of tomatoes, brown rice and red beans for an iron-rich meal.
Add 1.9 milligrams of iron to your daily total by eating a cup of cooked dandelion greens. These greens taste bitter, so pair them with foods that will help mask some of the bitterness, including creamy cheeses, nuts or lemon juice. Add them to whole-wheat pasta along with toasted almonds and Parmesan cheese, toss a handful into your favorite soup or use them instead of spinach in a vegetarian lasagna.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 16: Iron, Fe (mg) Content of Selected Foods per Common Measure, Sorted by Nutrient Content
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- Food Chemistry: Influence of β-carotene-rich Vegetables on the Bioaccessibility of Zinc and Iron From Food Grains
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.