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Our body requires several nutrients for its proper functioning. These are the macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Deficiency of micronutrients is rare. The exception to this is the deficiency of iron, being extremely widespread around the world. In case of iron, the best food sources are non-vegetarian meals. This presents a particular problem for vegans, who exclude these sources from their diet. To compensate, they need to consume vegetarian foods having a high iron content.

Iron-rich Vegetables
It is well-known that green, leafy vegetables are a rich source of iron. Although, there are vegetables other than these also that contain good amounts of iron. Some vegetables, though, contain substances that inhibit iron absorption, like Phytic acid, Tannic acid, fiber, and some minerals. Certain substances, on the other hand, enhance iron absorption. Vitamin C and citric acid are well-known examples of these.

VegetableProcessingIron (mg/1 cup)
Soybeansmature, boiled, cooked, unsalted8.84
Soybeansgreen, boiled, drained, cooked, unsalted4.50
Spinachboiled, drained, cooked, unsalted6.43
Spinachcanned, with solids drained4.92
Spinachfrozen, boiled, drained, cooked, unsalted3.72
Spinachraw0.81
Tomatoessun-dried5.00
Parsley raw4.00
Swiss Chardcooked3.96
Pumpkincanned, unsalted3.41
Pumpkinboiled, drained, cooked, unsalted1.40
Turnip greensfrozen, boiled, drained, cooked, unsalted3.18
Turnip greensboiled, drained, cooked, unsalted1.15
Beetscanned with drained solids3.09
Beet greensboiled, drained, cooked, unsalted2.74
Beetsboiled, drained, cooked1.34
Collardsboiled, drained, cooked, unsalted2.20
Collardsfrozen, boiled, drained, cooked, unsalted1.90
Dandelion greensboiled, drained, cooked, unsalted1.89
Kalefrozen, boiled, drained, cooked, unsalted1.22
Kaleboiled, drained, cooked, unsalted1.17
Broccolifrozen, boiled, drained, cooked, unsalted1.12
Broccoliboiled, drained, cooked, unsalted1.05
Broccoliraw0.64
Asparagusfrozen, boiled, drained, cooked, unsalted1.01

Why is Iron Important?
Iron is a component of hemoglobin, the protein found in red blood cells that binds with and carries oxygen to every cell of the body. Iron is also a component of the muscle protein myoglobin. Iron is stored in the liver, from where it can be harnessed if the diet proves insufficient in providing it. Iron-deficiency anemia, a condition caused due to insufficient production of RBCs, is common in women, especially those who are of child-bearing age. Anemia hampers one's ability to function. It leads to headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, pallor, etc.

Recommended Dietary Allowance
How much iron a person needs depends upon the age, sex, and special nutritional requirements (the kind that arises during pregnancy), and lactation. There is a lot of variation in iron requirement after taking the above factors into consideration, and the RDA for iron reflects this. Pregnant females between the age of 14 - 50 require the highest amount of iron (27 mg/day). Women between the age of 19 - 50 require 18 mg/day of iron (owing to loss of blood during menstruation). Lactating women require less iron than the aforementioned groups (about 10 mg/day). Males above 19 years of age need 8 mg/day of iron. Apart from these, the rest of the age groups need a level of iron usually found in a complete diet. It ranges from 7 to 11 mg/day.

Although vegetables are non-heme sources of iron, they are valuable for those who have to avoid meat or poultry for a variety of reasons. Vegetables also have the advantage of having good fiber content, vitamins, other minerals, and some other substances like antioxidants. Consuming enough vegetables that are high in iron content ensures that individuals, especially vegans, do not miss out on this vital mineral.