So you are a vegetarian and are always being advised by your physician to get more iron? Fret not, for there are several delicious veggies with way more iron content than meat.
Readers' alert. After you are done with this piece you will no longer be able to blame your veggie diet for lack of iron. Whether you’ve switched to the veggie way of life thanks to your cholesterol levels or a vegan of long-standing, listen up: most green leafy veggies have way more iron content than meat. Thumb rule: your plate should be diverse, with different kinds and green and veggies.
The Fabulous Five
As per experts at the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, meat contains about 1.48 mg of iron per 100 g. But the humble bhaji or saag sold by the friendly neighborhood sabjiwala has always been superior on this count. Even greens used in seasoning and garnishing are powerhouses of iron. For instance, the curry leaf contains 8.67 mg iron per 100 gm; mint leaves about 8.56; fenugreek (5.69 mg), coriander (5.3 mg). Other locally grown greens like Amaranth or chaulai or rajgira in local lingo (4.6 mg) is also rich in iron.
Curry Leaf or Kadipatta: Apart from being zero fat, curry leaves are full of iron, magnesium, calcium, copper and minerals not to mention vitamins A, B, C and E. Ayurveda highly recommends it as being an anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and anti-carcinogenic. Besides, as per research conducted by the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Madras, Chennai, one of the finest health benefits of curry leaves is its use in diabetes control. Sure, one does not use more than 8 to 10 curry leaves per dish but one way to maximize it in your diet is to use it a variety of dishes including dal, sambar, poha, upma and sabzi across various meals, and chew it up instead of pulling it out chucking it out.
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Mint or Pudina: Similarly, pudina has a lot of health benefits for boosting your digestion and immunity apart from being a wonderful mouth freshener and anti-oxidant. From making yourself some detox water that contains cucumber, orange and pudina to drinking mint tea to adding it in salads, soups and lassis you can increase its presence in your diet in different ways. This is also a great way to add more flavour to your food without extra sodium.
Coriander or Dhania: This is another highly underestimated constituent of our fridge but is packed with more goodness than most people would believe. Get this: it has six types of amino acids, eleven essential oils, minerals and vitamins. From lowering cholesterol to helping cure diarrhea and regulating blood pressure, it also protects improves bone health and most significantly, protects you from salmonella, one of the most dangerous causes of stomach infection in the world. From garnishing dishes to using it in your curries and soups, one could also start one's day with a glass of coriander juice.
Also Read: How to Make Coriander Chutney at Home
Fenugreek or Methi: From managing diabetes to preventing weight gain, reducing heartburn and improving skin and hair, it is also great for the kidneys. Apart from iron, methi contains magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc and fibre. This wonderful winter veggie can be incorporated via parathas and different preparations like methi aloo or methi mutter or methi koftas. Add methi to besan chillas, or begin your day with a spoonful of methi seeds soaked overnight in water.
Amaranth or Rajgira: The leaves are high in calcium and full of minerals and vitamins. As per Ayurveda, amaranth is great for managing weight, excess menstruation and diarrhea. It reduces anaemia, keeps cholesterol in check and is heart healthy. Amaranth flour is gluten-free. You could add the leaves to your soup, dal, rotis. It is tossed with onions, ginger and coconut, or used in a raita, with yoghurt and cumin powder.
Why are They a Better Deal than Meat?
Apart from the fact that these greens are packed with iron and other nutrients, they are low calorie and pairing with pulses and cereals, further amps up their goodness. Seasonal and fresh, there are hundreds of delicious ways to cook these greens.
How to Absorb More Iron from your Diet
Iron needs to be combined with vitamin C to be absorbed easily by the body. Sure enough, concede the experts: absorption of iron from non-veg foods is relatively higher. But in an average Indian diet, cereals and pulses also add to the iron content. Simple culinary tricks like adding lime juice and other vitamin C rich fruits like amla or Indian gooseberry, guava and oranges to the diet can greatly help enhance absorption of iron from these foods.
As per the dietary guidelines by NIN, a plant-based diet provides about 18 mg of iron as against 35 mg provided by a meat-based diet.
Greens like coriander are naturally full of vitamin C which helps in absorption of iron. Cooking greens with tomatoes or potatoes that are naturally rich in vitamin C can enhance iron absorption. Use fresh greens within 2 to 3 days for peak nutritional benefits.
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