Adult women need about 18 mg of iron per day and pregnant women need 27. However, not all iron is absorbed equally. The body absorbs iron from animal sources (heme iron) much better then iron from plant sources (non-heme iron). For instance, 100 mg of egg has 2-3 mg of iron, all of which is absorbed by the body, 100 mg of boiled spinach has 4 mg, but only about 1.2 mg is absorbed.
Here are a few tips to absorb the maximum amount of iron from your source:
- Get your iron from real food instead of pills as much as possible.
- Enjoy vegetarian sources with some heme iron (animal product), like an egg.
- Eat iron with vitamin C like orange, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
- Do not eat iron with high calcium foods, tea, coffee, or red wine (contains tannins that bind with iron).
- If you need a supplement, my midwife recommends Spatone as a natural, gentle, and well absorbed source.
Lentils contain about 2 mg of iron per 100 mg of lentils. If we compliment the lentil with vitamin C, our bodies can absorb more than 0.6 mg. My need for iron and protein inspired the following dish.
Black Lentil Salad with Lemon, Ginger, and Noodles
The tiny black lentils are probably the fastest cooking whole legume, and, in my opinion, they are the tastiest.
Cook 1 or 1.5 cups lentils according to directions, but add a little extra water, which will cook the noodles. (I used my pressure cooker.) You can also make this without noodles. My kids actually liked the lentils but not the noodles.
|Green lemons are from right outside.||.|
While the lentils cook, mix the following dressing:
- zest of 2 lemons or 3 limes
- juice of two medium lemons or a lemon and two limes
- 1-2 cubes of crystallized ginger, grated
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- crushed red pepper flakes
When the the lentils are cooked, add instant noodles or leftover cooked pasta like orzo or stars. (I used two packs of low-fat Raman noodles and threw away the seasoning pack.)
Mix in dressing and cover until pasta is cooked. Optionally, you could add chopped, roasted red peppers. Serve hot or cold.
Looking for more sources of iron? Try
- Quinoa tabbouleh with extra parsley (8 mg iron per 100 mg parsley, 2.4 mg absorbed.)
- Tehina health cookies
- Chicken in Mushroom Shallot Sauce - Use dark meat chicken, white wine, and lemon juice.
- See lots more recipes with lentils.
- And check out my post "Are You a Poultry Racist?" about the benefits of dark meat over white.