Top 15 Essential Vegetables High In Iron And Zinc

You might have heard about the major food groups, called the macronutrients; fats, carbs, and proteins, that are required by our body in large quantities.

But what about the other essential nutrients, which, even though are required by the human body in minute quantities, orchestrate a hoard of anatomical functions and are equally vital? They are called micronutrients.1

Usually referred to as ‘vitamins and minerals’ or ‘trace minerals’, these compounds are responsible for optimum cell functioning and growth and regulating metabolic functions. Two of the most important micronutrients are iron and zinc. Vegetables high in iron and zinc are essential for the optimal functioning of the body.

Though there aren’t many vegetables high in iron and zinc together, you can switch to other food items to complete the requirement of both iron and zinc.

Vegetables high in iron and zinc are very commonly used in your daily diet hence, adequate intake of these vegetables can recover the deficiencies or daily requirement of iron and zinc.

1. What is Iron?

Vegetables high in Iron and Zinc
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Iron is a crucial element for the formation of blood. It is estimated that approximately 70% is stored in Haemoglobin, a protein inside the red blood cells that carries oxygen to all parts of the body and in the myoglobin which is also an oxygen-binding protein in the muscle cells.

The rest is accumulated in ferritin which is a protein used as iron reserves. The ferritin levels also show the total iron content stored in the body.

Gradual decline in the levels of iron can lead to a condition called iron depletion which if left unchecked or untreatable can potentially cause anemia.

1.2. Iron-deficiency Anemia

Anaemia is a condition wherein your blood is unable to transport oxygen across the body, hampering its physiological functions. In most cases, it is a direct implication of having chronically low levels of iron.

This means that if there isn’t enough iron to support the production of haemoglobin, the delivery of oxygen from the lungs to the tissues will be hampered.

Several factors could be at play for someone to be iron-deficient. In some cases, it may be a result of a poor or restrictive diet.

In other cases, iron deficiency might happen due to blood loss, internal bleeding, injury, complications during pregnancy, or diseases like inflammatory bowel disease. Furthermore, pregnant women have a chance of running low on iron.

Staggeringly, iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies affecting almost 25% of individuals in the world.

1.2.1. Some Symptoms of Anaemia Are:

  1. Fatigue; tiredness, dizziness
  2. Craving to chew something hard like ice
  3. Brittle and pale nails
  4. Hair-loss
  5. Pallor
  6. Difficulty breathing
  7. Dry skin
  8. Restless leg syndrome

1.3. Dietary Iron

The human body is incapable of making iron on its own so it must be taken in via the foods we consume. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of iron that are incorporated into the diet:

  1. Heme iron: Obtained through the animal products like meat, poultry, pork, and fish
  2. Non-heme iron: Obtained through the vegetarian or vegan diet like fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts.

1.3.1. Iron Absorption

Heme iron can be absorbed easily by the body but the non-heme iron is usually partially absorbed. To increase iron absorption, it is recommended to eat vitamin-rich foods while eating to bolster the iron absorption process.

2. How Much Iron Is Too Much Iron?

The minimum daily requirement of iron for an adult is about 8.8 mg for women and about 15 mg for men. Even though the number is small, only 10-30% of our iron intake is what our body absorbs. This can put people at risk for iron deficiency.

However, an excess of iron consumption can cause an iron overload, in which the body stores too much iron. Just like anaemia, the condition must be treated before it gets serious.

3. Vegetables Which Are High in Iron

Vegetables high in Iron and Zinc
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In most cases, iron deficiency can be treated easily by increasing your daily intake of iron either through eating iron-rich food or by taking iron supplements.

3.1. Green Leafy Vegetables

The leafy greens often get a bad rep for tasting not so good among the children. However, it is important to understand the health benefits that come with eating them. They are good for weight loss and rich in essential nutrients.

The most displayed cruciferous vegetables with the highest content of iron are spinach, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and beet greens.

3.2. Spinach

Raw spinach is an excellent source of iron. It is estimated that 100 grams of spinach have about 3.7 mg of iron along with a vitamin that enhances iron’s absorption, making it a suitable option to get that daily dose of iron.

Furthermore, spinach also has some protein, calcium, dietary fibre, and vitamin A; nutrients that provide their own source of goodness. Spinach is one of the vegetables high in iron and zinc, as well as a great source of other minerals.

3.3. Broccoli

Categorized as one of the dark leafy greens, broccoli is an incredible source of iron. The food usually has 1mg of iron per cup since the iron content varies greatly on the cooking technique and method. Broccoli is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables you can find with a bonus of vitamins A, C, E, and K.

3.4. Kale

In a typical serving, Kale raw has about 0.98 mg of iron per cup (67 gms). Some other varieties of kale are abundant in iron, these include kale scotch raw (3mg), kale scotch cooked (2 mg), and kale scotch cooked and drained with salt (2mg).

3.5. Brussels Sprouts

These tiny green buds are low in calories but high in many nutrients especially iron, thiamine, and fibre. It has 1-2 mg of iron per 100 grams. This superfood can be cooked or in a salad.

3.6. Beet Greens

Another one of the dark leafy greens, Beet greens are also very high in iron content that is 4 mg per 100 gms, a little more iron than spinach. Apart from iron, greens are a great source of fibre, vitamin K and magnesium.

3.7. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are amazing sources of iron. Different varieties of mushrooms differ in iron content. Surprisingly, mushrooms are the only plant source where a whopping 90% of the iron profile can be completely absorbed in the body.

Cooked white button mushrooms, the most common and available form of mushrooms have about 3mg iron per cup. Moreover, it is high in Vitamin D and promotes the absorption of calcium thereby increasing bone density.

Other varieties of mushrooms that are iron-rich are cooked morels, cooked oyster mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms.

3.8. Lentils

Lentils are edible seeds of the legume family2 and constitute a nutritious bulk of a plant-based diet. Chickpea, natto, winged beans, white beans, and yellow gram are some examples of lentils high in iron. Cooked lentils contain 3-4 milligrams of iron in 100 grams.

A major source of protein around the world, kidney beans are perfect for a healthy dose of iron as well. It is estimated that the iron content per cup of cooked kidney beans is 4 mg-6 mg of iron.

Furthermore, a cup of cooked lentils is proven to complete an adult woman’s one-third requirement of daily iron intake.

They are also well known for being high in fiber and contain a broad range of plant compounds called phytochemicals3 which provide immunity against heart disease and lower cholesterol.

3.9. Sweet Potato

You might opt for sweet potato or yam only during the Thanksgiving season, but its tremendously healthy contents make it worthy of eating all year long. They come with a host of nutritious benefits and impart vitamins, carotenes, riboflavin, niacin, and essential minerals to your plate. Just a cup of sweet potatoes has about 4-5 mg of iron.

However, sweet potatoes are dense with polyphenols which are potent inhibitors and can inhibit iron absorption. It is therefore advisable to consume vitamin C along with it.

Apart from the above-mentioned vegetables, some chief sources of iron to match the recommended levels are baked potatoes, tofu, dried fruits, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, coconut milk, pine nuts, dark chocolate, and fortified cereals.

For heme iron, sources like other foods like red meat, eggs, and oysters make up an enormous chunk of iron in the non-vegetarian diet. Those who eat meat have substantially optimum levels of iron.

4. What is Zinc?

Zinc is another essential mineral required by our body in trace amounts to support enzymatic processes, immune function, and synthesis of a large number of structural proteins. It also plays an important role in the sense of taste and smell.

In human beings, zinc comprises less than 0.005% of the total body weight but zinc deficiency affects almost 2 billion people in developing nations and about 10% of the US population has less than half of what is the recommended level of zinc.

5. What Causes Zinc Deficiency?

Vegetables high in iron and zinc
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Zinc deficiency can be inherited or acquired. Acrodermatitis entropathica 4is a rare disorder arising from a transporter mutation.

Additionally, improper functioning in gastrointestinal and urinary losses can exacerbate the condition. The approved daily amount of zinc is 8mg for women and 11 mg for men. Pregnant women need 11mg-12mg per day of zinc.

A diet insufficient in zinc can also cause zinc deficiency and is prevalent in malnourished people who are unable to eat due to their condition.

A major proportion of zinc lies in meat, poultry, and seafood which makes it hard for consumers of plant foods to meet the requirement.

5.1. Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency Are:

  1. Skin lesions or rashes
  2. Hair loss
  3. Lethargy or dizziness
  4. Slow wound healing
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Frequent bone injuries
  7. Gastrointestinal problems

It is pertinent to know that despite a good consumption of zinc in your diet, you might not be meeting the requirement due to certain natural substances that inhibit the absorption like phytates. You can read more about them here.

Additionally, an inadequate intake of protein can slow the process of zinc uptake. There are a variety of vegetables high in iron and zinc that you can start incorporating into your diet for the appropriate functioning of the systems.

6. Vegetables Which Are High in Zinc

6.1. Spinach

Spinach is the most abundant source of zinc. In addition to being one of the iron-rich foods, spinach has quite a reputation for containing a plethora of vitamins and minerals. Spinach is one of the few vegetables high in iron and zinc together.

6.2. Shiitake Mushrooms

A cup of shiitake has about 2mg of zinc. It is also a powerhouse of vitamins like B5, and folate and has a whopping 11% copper.

6.3. Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that is also low in calories yet abundant in minerals. This giant veggie is also high in folic acid, and fibre and is an incredible source of potassium as well as thiamin. It has about 0.7 mg of zinc per cup.

6.4. Garlic

Commonly used as a seasoning food, garlic has about 0.2-0.5mg of zinc per cup. The levels of zinc are dependent on the species and cooking style.

6.5. Okra

A cup of okra has about 0.5 mg of zinc. Moreover, it is rich in vitamins A and C and can reduce the risk of serious conditions like cancer, stroke, and heart disease.

6.6. Lima Beans

Cooked lima beans have excellent quantities of zinc, dietary fibre, vitamin C, and protein. It contains approximately 0.8 mg of zinc per cup.

6.7. Sweet Corn

As one of the whole grains, corn has a variety of nutrients known to curb Diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. There is an estimated 0.7 mg of zinc per cup of sweet corn.

6.8. Zucchini

Known for its versatility as a culinary ingredient, Zucchini is high in antioxidants and vitamins. It contains about 0.32 mg of Zinc per cup.

Other foods that are high in zinc are dairy foods, tofu yoghurt, watermelon seeds, hemp seeds, berries, and oatmeal. For the inclusion of zinc in a non-vegetarian diet, foods like oysters, eggs, shellfish, and lobsters do wonders for appropriate levels of zinc intake.

Vegetables high in Iron and zinc
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7. The Bottom Line on Vegetables High in Iron and Zinc

It cannot be more emphasized that it is of invariable importance to consume vegetables high in iron and zinc. Iron and zinc are both indispensable micronutrients required by our bodies in small quantities. The deficiency of iron can cause anemia while that of zinc can cause zinc deficiency.

A balanced meal includes iron and zinc as well as other essential macro and micronutrients. The recommended levels of each of them can be satisfied by supplements, nutrition, and in dire cases by blood transfusion.

The most accessible way, however, is managing our dietary intake. Monitoring the consumption of vegetables which are high in iron and zinc can help hit the right levels. Not to mention, it is always suggested to consult a doctor first for signs and symptoms of any deficiency.

You can read more such articles at Icy Health


Q1. What Vegetables Are High in Zinc and Iron?

Do nutritious vegetables like mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, kale, and garlic contain zinc and other important vitamins and minerals? According to the USDA, one cup of sliced ​​raw mushrooms contains 0.36 mg of zinc.

Q2. What Foods Have the Most Iron and Zinc?

If you are looking for a low-calorie solid way to meet your zinc (even iron) nutritional goals, take notes from the Academy of Food and Nutrition and consider supplementing your diet with eggs; soybeans; black, pinto and garbanzo beans; wheat oats; blue rose; crow; pomegranate; even avocados.

Q3. Do Bananas Have Iron and Zinc?

Only one study (Wall, 2006) reported similar data on a fresh weight basis for bananas. In the same study, Fe content varied from 0.35 mg/100 g to 1.04 mg/100 g, and Zn level varied from 0.17 mg/100 g to 1.04 mg/100 g.

Top 7 Fruits That Are High In Zinc
Icy Health
  1. Shenkin, Alan. “The key role of micronutrients.” Clinical nutrition 25.1 (2006): 1-13. ↩︎
  2. Doyle, Jeff J. “Phylogeny of the legume family: an approach to understanding the origins of nodulation.” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 25.1 (1994): 325-349. ↩︎
  3. Craig, Winston J. “Phytochemicals: guardians of our health.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 97.10 (1997): S199-S204. ↩︎
  4. Perafán‐Riveros, Claudia, et al. “Acrodermatitis enteropathica: case report and review of the literature.” Pediatric dermatology 19.5 (2002): 426-431. ↩︎

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