Iron, an essential mineral, is necessary for normal human growth and development. Many women in childbearing years can be iron-deficient. If you are a vegetarian, you may have even more difficulty obtaining enough iron, which your body uses for oxygen transport and for cell growth and differentiation. Dietary iron can come from two sources, heme or nonheme iron. Vegetarians consume only nonheme iron, which is found in plant sources.
Daily Recommended Value
The Food and Nutrition Board states that women prior to menopause need 18 milligrams of iron per day. After menopause, women need only 8 milligrams of iron per day -- the same amount that adult men need. However, because your body does not absorb nonheme iron as well, vegetarians should consume more iron per day. The Vegetarian Resource group states that vegetarian women need 33 milligrams of iron per day prior to menopause. Vegetarian adult men should consume 14 milligrams of iron per day.
A great way for vegetarians to get iron is from beans and legumes. Soybeans are the best resource of iron. One cup of cooked soybeans contains 8.8 milligrams of iron. Tofu and tempeh, both made from soy, are high in iron. Because many vegetarian products such as vegetarian burgers or hot dogs are made from soy, they are high in iron. Other beans that contain iron include lima, black, kidney and pinto beans. Lentils are also high in iron. A 1-cup serving of cooked lentils has 6.6 milligrams of iron.
Fruits and Vegetables
Some of your favorite vegetables are good sources of iron, especially dark, leafy green vegetables. Spinach, fresh parsley and Swiss chard are all good sources of iron for vegetarians. A 1-cup serving of cooked spinach contains 6.5 milligrams of iron. Sun-dried tomatoes also contain 5 milligrams of iron in a 1-cup serving. Other good sources of iron include dried apricots, dried coconut, raisins and olives. Many other vegetables and fruits also contain iron in trace amounts.
Grains, Nuts and Seeds
Many vegetarians eat a diet that includes grains, nuts and seeds, which often contain iron. Quinoa, a whole grain, is grown in South America. It is a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids. It is also high in iron. A 1-cup cooked serving of quinoa contains 6.3 milligrams of iron. The United States requires manufacturers to fortify white rice with iron, so rice is also a good source of vegetarian iron. Other sources include almonds, cashews, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, which can make a healthy vegetarian snack.
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