This Iron-Rich, Blood-Sugar-Balancing Food Is A Nutritional One-Stop Shop
Iron is one of the most important nutrients, affecting a number of functions in the body. Just ask integrative family physician Madiha Saeed, M.D.: "It supports your energy levels; it helps your cognitive function and supports development and growth overall," she says on the mindbodygreen podcast. "It supports the immune system and even positive mood."
In terms of the best foods high in iron, your mind may fixate on animal sources, like fish and organ meats, or perhaps beans and spinach for a plant-based option. But according to Saeed, one famously rich source is commonly overlooked: spirulina.
How spirulina can help you hit your iron goals.
"One of my favorite sources of iron is spirulina," Saeed declares. "You don't even need that much—1 ounce has 8 milligrams of iron, which is awesome." (For reference, 1 ounce converts to 28 grams.) And just 1 tablespoon (which equals 7 grams) contains 11% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron1, "whereas 3 ounces of organic beef liver has about 4.05 milligrams2, so these plant-based foods can actually have a lot of iron in them," Saeed continues.
Not to mention, spirulina is chock-full of important minerals, like magnesium3, potassium, and manganese4. To quickly summarize this mineral trio: Magnesium plays a significant role in supporting muscle and nerve function, as well as maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and blood pressure in the body; potassium aids in nerve function and muscle contraction; and manganese helps your body develop and function properly throughout your life.
The point is, spirulina boasts a large share of essential nutrients for whole-body health, iron included—in fact, many experts even consider the blue-green algae a nutritional "one-stop shop."*
How to incorporate it into your meals.
Here's the thing: Spirulina isn't exactly present in any foods. It's a form of algae that is typically freeze- or sun-dried once harvested and sold as a blue-green powder or tablet. That said, you can find nutrient-rich spirulina in a host of supplements on the market—most notably in greens powders to sprinkle on top of smoothies, salads, and soups. Take a peek at this spirulina quinoa salad and spirulina smoothie for some recipe inspiration.
According to Saeed, spirulina is an iron-rich superstar with a glowing résumé of health benefits.* For what it's worth, she also loves lentils and dark chocolate to get even more of a nudge toward her iron goals. "Then you can really optimize your overall health," she says.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.