Last week I went in for my annual checkup (which is more like a once-a-decade checkup because I’ve convinced myself I’m allergic to doctors and hospitals and western medicine), and after getting some blood drawn discovered I’m anemic (I have low iron levels in my blood). I’m not surprised because it runs in one side of my family, and I’m honestly not at all fazed by it either. The main side effect of anemia is fatigue, and I have always had abnormally high levels of energy, so anemia shmanemia.
While I don’t feel the need to take iron supplements (as recommended by doctors), I am going to make a conscious effort to eat more iron-rich foods. When you think of food that’s high in iron, you probably think red meat, white meat, meat, meat and more meat. I … barely eat any meat with the exception of fish. Oysters and clams are packed with iron, which is great for me because I ADORE shellfish, but ultimately, I need to look elsewhere for iron.
Lucky for me, there are lots of vegetarian/vegan options (not that I’m either). Among the superstars are spinach, beet greens, dandelion greens, collards, kale, chard, strawberries, watermelon, sesame seeds, lentils and blackstrap molasses. I also learned that iron is more easily and effectively digested if eaten with Vitamin C. Convenient because the majority of foods I just listed are high in C as well.
Iron-Rich Green Smoothie
I debated whether or not to call this a “juice” or a “smoothie” because it doesn’t have the thick consistency you might expect from a smoothie, but it’s also got more body than juice. Just think of it as an iron-rich green concoction. And if the thought of putting blackstrap molasses in a smoothie sounds crazy, don’t worry—you can’t even taste it aside from a hint of sweetness.
- 2 cup packed spinach
- 1 cup packed kale
- 2 heaping cups chopped watermelon
- 1 banana
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- ½ tbsp blackstrap molasses
Throw it in a blender and enjoy!
Just how much iron is packed into this green smoothie? 41% of your daily iron needs. The percentage is based on a 2,000-calorie diet, and because I need fewer calories each day, the percentage is actually probably a little higher than that for me. So I’m pretty much getting half of my daily iron needs from this one smoothie.
How does that compare to red meat, often touted as the most iron-rich food out there? One strip steak of grass-fed beef, lean-only and raw (you’d never eat a raw steak, but there are more nutrients pre-cooking, so I’m trying to make this as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as I can) has 22% of your daily iron needs. Half of what was in this smoothie. Whoop! Plants win again.
Not that I think there’s anything wrong with enjoying a steak now and then, but it’s nice to know you don’t need meat to get the minerals you need—especially since I’ve never liked the taste of red meat.
—Calories from Fat: 48
Total Fat: 9.5g
—Saturated Fat: .5g
—Dietary Fiber: 9g
Woof. What a long-winded post. Gold star for everyone who actually read the whole thing. Have a great weekend!