Nutritional myth: spinach is very rich in iron

Verified on 12/13/2022 by PasseportSanté
Mythe sur l'alimentation : les épinards sont très riches en fer

Ever since Elzie Crisler Segar created Popeye, we’ve been convinced that spinach is rich in iron. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s how.

Myth: Spinach is very rich in iron

If your doctor has recommended an iron-rich diet, don’t throw yourself blindly on spinach. Spinach is clearly not the most iron-rich food you can find.

There’s no more than 3 mg of iron in 100 g of spinach; that’s not nothing, but it’s less than in lentils or beans, for example. What’s more, the body is less able to absorb iron from plants than from animals. Heme iron, found mainly in animal products, is up to 2.5 times more absorbable than plant iron. So if you’re suffering from iron deficiency or anaemia, spinach is the wrong choice.

Which foods are richest in iron?

For an iron cure, turn to animal products. If you like offal or calf’s liver, don’t hesitate, as they contain between 10 and 30 mg of iron per 100 g. Black pudding, for example, contains 23 mg of iron per 100 g. Red meat is also recommended: 100 g of beef contains around 5 mg of iron, twice as much as white meat.

You’ll also find plenty of iron in fish such as tuna, sardines, herring and mackerel. Eating them once or twice a week will be excellent for your health. Shellfish and oysters, in particular, are also very rich in iron: from 8 to 23 mg of iron per 100 grams.

Even though it’s less easily assimilated by the body, plant-based iron is just as important. You’ll find plenty of it in cocoa (12 mg per 100 g). In lentils, chickpeas or kidney beans, you’ll find just over 3 mg of iron per 100 g.

If there’s one plant rich in iron, it’s thyme: in 100 g, you’ll find almost 30 mg of iron, more than in black pudding! So don’t hesitate to flavour your dishes with this Provençal herb. And don’t skimp on cumin, curry, ginger or coriander, which contain 65 mg, 30 mg, 20 mg and 15 mg of iron per 100 g respectively.

How to increase iron assimilation?

What’s interesting is that certain foods enable the body to better assimilate iron from plant sources in particular. If we supplement our diet with fruit and vegetables rich in vitamin C, then we promote iron absorption. Adding lemon to your sauces, for example, will help your body better assimilate the iron contained in your vegetables.

On the other hand, the body’s absorption of iron will be reduced by drinking large quantities of tea or coffee. If you can’t do without it, we recommend you drink it between meals.

The daily iron requirement for adults is around 1 mg for men and 2 mg for women,  » between puberty and menopause, due to menstruation « , explains the French Health Insurance. A normal diet provides around 10 to 15 mg of iron per day, but only 5 to 10% is absorbed by the body. As a general rule, to avoid iron deficiency, choose foods rich in vitamin B12 (meat, eggs, dairy products) and vitamin B9 (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, peas).

If you love spinach, don’t deprive yourself! Rich in magnesium and antioxidants, it’s excellent for your health.