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Healthy Gardening: Top Five Easy To Grow Sources of Iron

Updated on July 14, 2011

Iron is one of the body's most important nutrients, especially for women and girls. Iron plays a major role in the body's production of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying part of red blood cells. Iron is therefore hugely important to the health of the circulatory system and the body as a whole.

Sadly, iron deficiency is one of the common nutrient deficiencies in the world, and it can lead to anemia and other, more serious health complications if left untreated.

Although the best known iron-rich foods are meats (heme iron), there are also a number of plant sources of iron. Most can easily be grown in the average backyard vegetable garden, and are both nutritious and delicious.

Here are five of the most nutrient dense and easy to grow plant sources of iron:

The beauty of a red spinach leaf, by Stewart
The beauty of a red spinach leaf, by Stewart

Top Five Easy To Grow Sources of Iron

  1. Thyme. Many common herbs are not only delicious, aromatic, and easy to grow, they are also surprisingly dense sources of a number of nutrients. Thyme is a good source of iron, calcium, manganese, and vitamin K. Other easy to grow herbs with high iron levels include: dill, parsley, oregano, basil, and rosemary.
  2. Spinach. The most famous of the iron-rich greens, thanks in parts to Popeye the Sailor's famous love of it, spinach is also rich in many other valuable nutrients, including folic acid, magnesium, calcium, potassium, protein, dietary fiber, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, K, and most of the B vitamins. Spinach likes cool weather, but is easy to grow and makes a delicious addition to salads, soups, and many other dishes. Don't like spinach? Some of these spinach recipes might change your mind! Other easy to grow leafy green vegetables with high levels of iron include swiss chard, Romaine lettuce, turnip greens, mustard greens, and kale.
  3. Green beans. Green beans are not only healthy for you, they're also healthy for your garden! As nitrogen-fixing legumes, they improve the quality of the soil and can reduce or completely eliminate the need for nitrogen fertilizers. In part because of their built-in self-fertilizer, green beans are so easy to grow that you'll probably have more trouble controlling them than growing them! In addition to being a good source of iron, green beans also offer high levels of vitamins A, C, and K, manganese, dietary fiber, folic acid, calcium, potassium, magnesium, protein, and more.
  4. Broccoli. Your mother always told you to eat your broccoli, and with good reason! Broccoli is a good source of iron, and a great source of vitamin C (one cup of lightly steamed broccoli contains more than 200% of your daily allotment of this important vitamin), vitamin K, vitamin, A, folic acid, dietary fiber, magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids, protein, and more. Not a broccoli fan? Some of these broccoli recipes might just change your mind!
  5. Asparagus. Asparagus has a bit of a fancy reputation but it's not hard to grow and the rewards include high levels of many nutrients, including iron, folic acid, dietary fiber, protein, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins, A, K, C, B1, B2, B3, and B6.

Heme Iron Sources From Your Garden

If you live in an area that allows livestock, you can also raise sources of dietary heme iron at home. Chickens, rabbits, and other backyard livestock can add iron to your diet, as well as providing manure to enrich your soil. Although young seedlings and transplants must be protected from them, chickens and other poultry will also take care of any insect pests plaguing your garden, and will also turn weeds and other greens into delicious eggs and meat.

Venison, one of the most iron-rich meats in the world, can also be "raised" in your backyard with help from a food plot to provide food and shelter for deer, wild turkeys, and other game animals.

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