So last week I gave a rundown of protein-rich smoothie ingredients, and this week I’d like to share with you a similar array of (relatively) iron-rich smoothie ingredients and how different ingredients can be used together in one smoothie to boost your iron intake.
The list I’ve put together this week comes from, of all places, the website of a company that makes a prescription-only iron supplement (reference below).
Tofu: 6.6 mg per ½ cup serving
Oatmeal: 13.9 mg per cup cooked
Pumpkin seeds: 4.08 mg per 1 oz
Sunflower seeds: 1.49 mg per 1 oz
Strawberries: 0.62 mg per cup halved
Watermelon: 0.36 mg per cup diced
Kale: 1 mg (regular) to 2 mg (Scotch) per cup chopped
Pineapple: 0.48 mg per cup of chunks
Source: Ferralet 90, Sources of Dietary Iron.
(If you would like to know more about dietary iron in general, the above website will take you to several exhaustive lists by food category.)
But we’re here to talk specifically about how smoothies can help you get the iron you need to perform well and keep iron-rich blood flowing to your muscles while they work! So with that, prepare to get acquainted with a few new ingredients and re-acquainted with others!
Yes, tofu! It’s high in protein, calcium AND iron! What’s not to love?
Last week I talked about how tofu works well in a smoothie in which fruit juice is the liquid of choice instead of a plant milk. In addition to the protein content discussed earlier, tofu also contains 6.6 mg of iron – that’s about a third of the 18 mg minimum recommended for women of childbearing age and about 80 percent of the recommended daily minimum (8 mg) for adult men! The creaminess of blended tofu helps to thicken the smoothie, too. So many good reasons to give tofu in smoothies a try!
Oatmeal might not be the first thing you think of as a smoothie ingredient, but it works surprisingly well. The starch comes out of it and helps to thicken the smoothie as the oats are ground down, and of course, it’s rich in iron. Just one cup cooked of oatmeal will pretty much hit your RDI, but don’t use that much unless you want to end result to resemble cold-soaked oatmeal. According to my big cylinder of Great Value oatmeal, half a cup contains 10 percent of your daily iron (assume either 1 or 1.5 mg), so use that as a starting-off point and consider adding other things to meet your own needs. If you’re not using a powerful blender or food processor, you might get a better result by pulsing the raw oats into a coarse flour before adding the other ingredients.
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are considered somewhat of a superfood these days as they are rich in antioxidants and minerals such as magnesium, zinc and yes, iron. To incorporate into a smoothie, simply grind them in a dry food processor (as suggested with oatmeal above) before adding other ingredients. If you have one of the more powerful (than my 8-cup Hamilton Beach) food processors on the market, you can drop them in along with your other ingredients and your result should still be perfectly smooth.
Strawberries in a smoothie are a no-brainer, as long as they are frozen. At room temperature, they liquify quickly and you won’t have a smoothie unless something else in the mix is frozen. My recommendations are to either do a strawberry-banana smoothie with almond or soy milk (and a teaspoon of cinnamon – yum!) OR have other frozen berries (such as blueberries) on hand and make a smoothie with frozen berries, tofu and about two cups of strawberries.
Watermelon isn’t terribly high in iron but is considered one of the more iron-rich fruits at 0.36 mg per cup diced. For a frozen smoothie, you can double this amount, but in my experience you’ll also end up with a lot of smoothie, maybe even enough for two. It all depends how hungry or thirsty you are! If only using a cup, you might consider combining with another iron-rich ingredient to get to the amount you want or need in one meal or enjoy the smoothie as an evening dessert. Chop your watermelon relatively small, one-inch cubes or less, before freezing to make it easier to grind.
We touched on kale last week and the benefits in terms of protein. Well, now you also know that it’s a good source of iron! Regular kale contains 1 mg, and Scotch contains 2 mg of iron. We also discussed combining it with pineapple to take the edge off, and what do you know? Pineapple’s next on the list!
Like watermelon and most other fruits, pineapple isn’t one of the rock stars of this category, but it does rank higher than most other fruits for its iron content at 0.48 mg per cup of pineapple chunks. You can increase this by using 1.5 cups frozen in your smoothie in addition to the cup of kale for a total of 2 or 3 mg iron depending on the kale variety.
So now that you know a few ways to both rehydrate and increase iron in your diet that perhaps you didn’t before reading this post…
I challenge you to come up with your own “Iron Man” or “Iron Woman” smoothie combo and tell me about it in the comments below!
What’s the biggest challenge you currently face as a plant-based runner? Have some foods been harder to let go of than others? Not sure if you’re getting what you need or have concerns about your athletic performance? If so, please let me know in the comments below or email me at plantbasedrunning (at) mail [dot] com and I will be happy to talk through some of it with you.
Stay strong, stay lean, and stay tuned for next week’s smoothie post!