This Iron-Rich Green Smoothie Bowl is full of plant-based ingredients and tastes amazing too!
Iron-deficiency anemia can cause all sorts of problems including the most common complaint: fatigue. If you're feeling rundown and can't pinpoint another cause, it could certainly be attributed to anemia. When we have low blood iron levels our body's red blood cells can't bind oxygen properly. This could become serious if it progresses without treatment. It's important to be getting regular checkups with a healthcare provider to make sure your iron levels are within the normal range. It's common for women who are menstruating to have lower iron. Sometimes iron supplements are necessary, but if you can add iron-rich foods into your diet it can also help. The body does a pretty good job of absorbing the iron consumed as part of a healthy, varied diet.
Two Types of Iron
There are two types of iron: heme iron from animal sources (meat, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood), and non-heme from plants (see list below). We like to focus on plants here at SGS. A lot of the ingredients we blend up in our smoothies naturally include non-heme iron, but if you're like us and need a bit more of an iron boost, then you'll want to check out this Iron-Rich Green Smoothie Bowl recipe at the bottom of this blog post.
Heme iron is more readily absorbed by the body, but can only come from consuming animal products. If you're vegan or vegetarian, or don't eat other animal products very often, you'll want to make sure you eat plenty of the plant-based non-heme iron foods listed below.
Symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia
As I mentioned before, anemia usually starts by making you feel rundown or extra tired. Anemia also affects the skin (paleness), finger nails (brittleness), tongue (soreness and inflammation), and extremities (coldness in hands and feet). But it may also progress further and cause chest pain, heartbeat irregularities, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, unusual cravings (pica), and poor appetite. (source)
It's important to note that there are other types of anemia that affect the body in similar ways and have common symptoms. These forms of anemia are caused by deficiencies in vitamins B6 and B12, which is why a blood test is so important to distinguish between the different types of anemia as the treatments are not the same.
Iron supplements are typically needed to help combat anemia, but changes to lifestyle and diet can also aid other treatments.
Females aged 19-50 years need 18mg/day or iron. The number goes down to 8 mg/day from age 51 and older. Males require less; ages 19 and older need 8 mg/day. Children need much less. It goes without saying, but having too much iron is just as bad as having too little—so don't go overboard.
Plant-Based (Non-Heme) Iron Sources
Getting plant-based iron into your diet is fairly easy. Chances are you're already eating some of these foods:
- Dried fruit – especially prunes and apricots, and raisins; the only drawback is that dried fruit is high in sugar and calories so moderation should be exercised. Add some to a trail mix or top salads or breakfast cereals and porridges with dried fruit for a little iron boost.
- Molasses – a by-product of sugar processing, molasses is naturally high in iron. Taking a tablespoon by mouth daily has been the method of many moms. 😉
- Herbs – spearmint, thyme, parsley; add these herbs fresh or dried to meals to increase iron
- Seeds – especially sesame and pumpkin seeds; add to salads, porridges, smoothies, trail mixes, etc.
- Quinoa – a pseudo-grain, and technically a seed, 4 ounces of quinoa contains 4 mg iron
- Legumes – lentils, peas, and beans; also high in protein, beans and legumes are a great way to get plenty of plant-based iron into the diet, especially for vegans and vegetarians
- Iron-enriched grains – enriched grains have long been used to help prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Spirulina – this blue-green algae is one of the very best sources of non-heme iron and protein ounce for ounce; use powdered spirulina and mix with water, juice, or in a smoothie, or consider taking a high-quality spirulina supplement; downside is that it tastes like pond water but 1 tablespoon of spirulina (or the equivalent supplement) contains 11% of the RDV
- Dark chocolate and cacao powder – besides boosting your mood, dark chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and cacao/cocoa powder is high in iron; 1 tbsp. cacao contains 5% of the recommended daily value (RDV)
- Spinach and other leafy greens – 1/2 cup cooked spinach contains 3.2mg of iron
- Sea vegetables – kelp
- Tofu and cooked soy beans (edamame)
- Tomato paste
- Maca – the roasted, dried, and ground root of a plant native to South America that is used for natural energy, but also contains a good amount of iron
If you're already drinking green smoothies, it's easy to up the iron by adding a little extra of this and that. Every ingredient in our Iron-Rich Green Smoothie Bowl was chosen to be delicious as well as nutrient-dense. This is a great smoothie for women to drink during their menstrual cycle. Besides the boost of iron, this smoothie is also hydrating and energizing. And the most important part: it contains a high amount of vitamin C which aids the body's absorption of iron, both heme and non-heme types.
Iron-Rich Green Smoothie Bowl
Boost your iron intake with this plant-based iron-rich green smoothie bowl.
- 3 cups fresh spinach
- 2 cups coconut water unsweetened
- 1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds) (2 ounces)
- 1 cup strawberries frozen
- 1 cup cherries tart or sweet, frozen
- 2 bananas medium-sized
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 2 teaspoons maca powder (.25 ounce)
Place spinach, coconut water, and pepitas into blender jar. Puree until smooth.
Add remaining ingredients and blend again until smooth.