I am frequently asked about how to get as much iron as possible from green smoothies.
Iron is an important mineral that is required for healthy blood, oxygen distribution throughout the body, energy production, and immune system support.
Deficiency in iron causes anemia. Those at risk for iron deficiency include pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and blood donors. Some vegetarians and vegans (including raw food vegans) must take precautions to ensure adequate iron intake.
The good news is that green smoothies can provide a super dose of bio-available iron that can help keep deficiency away.
Whether you are at risk for iron deficiency, or you simply want to ensure that your body maintains healthy levels, using iron-rich leafy greens in your smoothies can be beneficial.
How Much Iron Do You Need?
According to guidelines set by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Science in 2000, these are the iron intake guidelines for adults:
- Adult men & Post-menopausal women: 8 milligrams per day
- Adult women under age 50: 18 milligrams per day
- Adult vegan/vegetarian men: 14 milligrams per day
- Adult vegan/vegetarian women: 33 milligrams per day.
- Iron intake varies in children depending on age, as well as for women who are pregnant or nursing.
A woman’s iron requirements surge during pregnancy. Vegetarians and vegans have a higher iron requirement than omnivores because plant-sourced (non-heme) iron is less efficiently absorbed than heme iron from red meat.
A strictly vegan, 32 year old female will require more than three times the amount of iron in her diet (33mg per day) than a 32 year old, omnivore male (8mg/day).
Top 5 Iron-Rich Green Smoothie Ingredients
The best way to pack some iron into your green smoothie (or green smoothie cleanse) is to use the most iron-rich dark leafy greens.
#1 – Parsley: Fresh parley is the top green for iron. With 3.7 milligrams of iron per cup, parsley boosts the iron content of your green smoothie while adding a fresh, green flavor. It blends best with pineapple and citrus fruits, as well as mangoes and banana.
Use no more than one cup of parsley in a recipe, and mix it with another iron-rich leafy green to boost the iron content further.
#2 – Dandelion Greens: The number two green for iron is dandelion. Two cups of dandelion greens provide 3.4 milligrams of iron. I use up to four cups of dandelion in a large, green smoothie meal for a total of 6.8mg of iron – just from the greens!
Since dandelions are bitter, blend them with enough sweet fruit like banana, mango, pineapple, and citrus to mask the bitterness.
Learn more about the nutrition and health benefits of dandelion greens.
#3 – Kale: Kale is rich in both calcium and iron. Two cups of kale provide 2mg of iron. Whether curly kale or “dinosaur” kale, this iron-packed green is a staple in my green smoothie lifestyle.
Learn more about the health benefits of kale, and try these recipes.
#4 – Spinach: Spinach is famous for its iron content, but it is actually not the most iron-rich leafy green out there. Two cups of fresh spinach contains 1.6mg of iron.
Since spinach has such a mild flavor, you can add it to a green smoothie with dandelion, kale or parsley to boost the iron content.
#5 – Raw Cacao: This is one instance where chocolate is really good for you. Different brands and cultivars of the cacao bean will provide different iron levels, but they can range from .8mg per serving to a whopping 24mg per serving.
Sunfood brand cacao boasts 314% daily value of iron per ounce.
What Other Foods Contain Iron?
One more iron-rich green smoothie food is broccoli. You can add fresh or frozen broccoli florets to a green smoothie with banana, citrus, mango and/or pineapple. I recommend using frozen broccoli since it has a milder flavor than fresh.
Besides green smoothies, there are lots of other plant-based sources of iron out there from nuts and seeds, certain vegetables and legumes (and hummus!).