Best Sources of Iron and Protein Without Resorting to Tofu
There’s nothing “wrong” with tofu, but the flavorless white jello can get old from time to time, especially if you haven’t mastered cooking it properly. The thought of having tofu at every meal can even be enough to scare a person out of trying to go veg. Many people think that tofu is the only way for vegetarians to get enough protein and iron. Luckily for us, there are other foods that provide enough of iron and protein to get to your recommended daily value.
First see how much protein you need a day by checking out this article on how to get enough protein. You might be surprised to know that most Americans eat over 50% of their recommended daily value. People need about 10-30mg of iron a day depending on their gender, if they’re pregnant, and other factors. Now that you know how much iron and protein you really need, you will be able to better plan out your meals using these delicious non-soy ingredients.
3.5oz of Cashews contains 6.2 mg of iron and 15 g of protein. Cashews can be pureed in to a sauce like a faux-alfredo or mac and cheese. You can also include them in a stir fry, cereal, or baked goods.
If you’re already baking with cashews, incorporate Blackstrap molasses to your recipe for an extra boost of iron. Now I wasn’t too sure what to do with Blackstap molasses when I read that for every 2 Tbsp there are 7.2mg of iron. So I found a webpage with a few recipes to get us started. You can see it here.
Molasses is great for ginger bread cookies, biscuits, even baked beans!
Speaking of baked beans, beans contain over 40g of protein in 1 cup and about 3.5mg of iron! (even without molasses)
Beans are my main go-to protein substitute. There are dozens of ways to prepare beans and can be used at breakfast, lunch, dinner, as a main course or a side dish.
Don’t like beans? Check out this article from the Cheap Vegan archive on how to sneak beans into your meals without noticing.
Thyme and Rosemary
Both Thyme and Rosemary are great seasonings for preparing beans AND contain a bit of iron. There are 124mg of iron in 3.5oz of ground thyme and 30mg in rosemary.
1 cup of quinoa contains 6.3mg of iron and 8g of protein. Quinoa is a great nutrient packed replacement for grains. It’s gluten free and commonly considered a staple in a healthy vegan diet. Check out recipes and facts about quinoa here
Last but not least, we have Spinach. 1 cup of frozen spinach has about 6.5mg iron and actually 7.6g of protein. I love adding a bed of raw baby spinach to pasta, or in to my smoothies, or even blended into a sauce.
Incomplete and Complete Protein
An important thing to note is that vegetable protein sources are known as incomplete proteins because they do not have all of the essential amino acids. However this does not mean you can’t combine vegetable protein to get all of your daily needs. Pair protein packed veggies like like whole grains with spinach and beans and you have a tasty complete protein combo.
(A quick note in defense of tofu: Tofu is a great source of protein and iron. Because it is relatively flavorless, you can make it taste like just about anything you want. So to help you out, coming soon to Cheap Vegan: Recipes To Help You Tolerate Tofu)