Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide. Even the U.S. has high rates, especially in women of “childbearing age” (Am I the only one who’s vaguely annoyed by that term?), mostly because they lose iron through blood every month during menstruation. Fun stuff.

While I’m not someone who was traumatized by her period as a teenager, that doesn’t mean I sit back every month, smile through the pain and say, “I am such a goddess.”

Depleted iron stores can leave you feeling tired, weak, and even a little down in the dumps. Getting the recommended 18 mg of iron a day can be difficult as it is, especially for someone who follows a mainly-meatless diet. While it’s true that red meat is a very rich source of highly absorbable iron, many people  avoid it (even if not all meat altogether), and I can’t say yet whether I’d feel comfortable recommending red meat without stressing the importance of choosing organic or humanely raised or local options.

Beans and lentils are great vegetarian sources of iron!

Fortunately, there are many plant-based sources of iron available. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • lentils—perfect on a salad, in soups, over rice, served with roasted veggies, made into burgers…
  • beans—experiment with all kinds of varieties
  • leafy greens—kale, chard, spinach…
  • millet—try it cooked with a little coconut oil or grind it and bake it into breads
  • molasses—drizzle a tablespoon of molasses over oatmeal or swirl in during cooking. It’s also fantastic in chili.
  • cocoa—maybe the 4% of your daily iron needs per tablespoon of cocoa powder isn’t that much, but it’s a great excuse to add some to yogurt, ice cream, milk, and anything else that would taste could with chocolate.
  • fortified oats and cereals—it may sound like “cheating,” but sometimes it really is easier, especially during busy weeks.
A last note—try eating iron with vitamin C-rich foods to promote absorption. For more on iron-rich foods, click here

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