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Try these iron-rich vegan recipes for the ultimate energy boost

One third of women are anaemic, meaning that loads of us are training while in a state of iron deficiency. The result? Feeling flat-out exhausted 24/7. Give your iron levels a healthy boost with these warming, plant-based dishes which are packed with blood-lovin’ leafy greens and pulses.

When it comes to nutrition, some vitamins and minerals get more attention than others. Who doesn’t love a super-simple protein snack recipe? We all need vitamin D-rich dish in our lives right now. But what about iron? With a third of women globally living with anaemia (according to the World Health Organisation), it’s pretty wild how infrequently we hear about iron – especially given its role in helping us to stay strong. 

Iron is an essential component of haemoglobin, helping to transfer oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. It supports muscle metabolism and healthy connective tissues. We also need it to make certain hormones. Without enough iron, you’ll start to feel fatigued, weak, dizzy and inflamed – everything that you don’t want if strength is your ultimate goal. 

Often people think that iron only comes from animal products (liver and kidneys are really high in the stuff), but there are plenty of plants that also boast plenty. We need around 14.8mg a day of iron; 100g of lentils contains 3.3mg, pinto beans have 5.1mg per 100g and chickpeas have a whopping 6.2mg per 100g. But who wants to eat bowls of beans? Instead of munching on cans of legumes, have a go at one (or all!) of these vegan, iron-rich recipes. They’re packed with all kinds of other nutrients and they’re delicious. Cook and recipe creator, Gemma Ogston, says: “Three hero ingredients of mine are chickpeas, lentils and leafy greens, which are all rich in iron and are all versatile; you can easily add them to soups, stews or sauces for a boost.” Gemma adds seasonal green veg as a side dish for every meal, sauteeing whatever green she has in a bit of coconut oil, fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt. “Greens such as kale and spinach are great to add to a breakfast smoothie too!” she reminds us.

So, if you’re still looking for a fitness commitment for 2021, why not make it to eat more iron?

Super green nourish soup

With spinach, kale and watercress, this soup is high in iron, calcium, folate, vitamin K and vitamin A – a combination that can help to reduce tiredness while aiding restful sleep. Think of it as a bowl of recharge.


Glug of olive or 1tsp coconut oil

1 leek, sliced

2 potatoes, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1tbsp tamari

150g spinach

150g kale, stalks and ribs removed

100g watercress

1 litre veggie stock

400ml tinned coconut milk

1 bunch of parsley, chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

A swirl of plant-based yoghurt

Seeds and chilli to garnish (optional)

Bread (to serve)


Heat the oil in a large saucepan.

Fry the leek on a low heat for a few minutes until soft.

Add the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and stir through the nutmeg and tamari. Cook for five minutes.

Add the spinach, kale and watercress and put the lid on. Leave on a low heat for five minutes.

Pour in the stock and cook for 15 minutes, until the potato is soft.

Add the coconut milk and, using a blender, blitz until smooth (you can use a Nutribullet). Add more water if you like a thinner consistency.

Warm through for a few minutes, then serve with lots of chopped parsley, fresh lemon juice squeezed over the top and a thick slice of bread. 

Add some chopped fresh chilli and cayenne pepper – if you like a bit of heat!

Comfort pie


50ml olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 leek, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 carrot, chopped into small chunks

1tsp smoked paprika

1tsp ground cinnamon

400g tin kidney beans

400g tin cannellini beans

400g tin chickpeas

150g dried red lentils

400g tin chopped tomatoes

300ml veggie stock

2 bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1tbsp tamari

2sp dried thyme

A handful of parsley leaves

For the mashed potato topping

350g potatoes, peeled and chopped

400g sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

50ml plant-based milk

50ml olive oil


First, make the mash. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.

Add all the potatoes and a pinch of salt and cook for 20 minutes until soft. 

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil in another large saucepan set over a medium heat. 

Fry the onion and garlic for 2 minutes, until starting to soften.

Add the leek, celery and carrot and continue cooking on a low heat for about five minutes, until they soften. 

Add the paprika, cinnamon, beans, chickpeas, lentils and chopped tomatoes. Give it a really good stir, then add the stock and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper and simmer on low for 15 minutes, until the lentils are soft. (Add a little extra water if it’s starting to look too thick – it should have the consistency of a shepherd’s pie filling.)

Heat the oven to 180 ̊C.

Drain the spuds and mash them with a little plant-based milk and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Stir the tamari, thyme and parsley through the mixture and spoon it into a large pie dish (remove the bay leaf if you can find it!). 

Spread it out evenly and top with the mash. Run a fork through the mash and bake for 35–40 minutes, until the edges of the mash are crispy.

You can make the mashed topping with any root veg like carrots or parsnips, or try it with cauliflower.

Lentil and walnut bolognaise


Olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

400g tin chopped tomatoes

400g tin cooked lentils

A few sundried tomatoes (dry or from a jar), chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1tsp brown sugar

2tsp oregano

A bunch of basil

300g pasta or veggie noodles

150g spinach, chopped

200g walnuts, chopped

Freshly chopped parsley (to serve)


Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion and garlic on a medium heat for about five minutes until soft. 

Add all the other ingredients, apart from the pasta, spinach and walnuts. Reserve a few basil leaves to serve. 

Simmer for 10 minutes.

Cook the pasta in boiling water while the sauce is reducing, then drain. 

Once cooked, blitz the sauce in a blender until smooth (or leave chunky if you prefer).

Stir through the chopped spinach and walnuts

If using veggie noodles, fold them into the sauce and warm through for a couple of minutes. If you’re serving with pasta, add to the pan and coat in the sauce before serving. 

Garnish with the left over basil leaves and parsley.

Image and recipe: courtesy of Gemma Ogston of Gem’s Wholesome Kitchen. You can find more nourishing, plant-based recipes in Gemma’s book, The Self-Care Cookbook: Easy Healing Plant-Based Recipes.

Want more simple and nutritious recipes? Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts.

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  • Posted on February 10, 2021