Iron is required by the human body for the transportation of oxygen, certain enzymes and proper cell growth. Deficiency results in feeling fatigued and out of breath, and impacts work performance and the immune system. Iron is available in heme form, found in animal foods, as well as non-heme -- available in plant and fortified foods. Vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, provide non-heme iron to the diet.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
The recommended dietary allowance of iron set by the Institute of Medicine is between 8 to 27 milligrams per day for women, depending on age, pregnancy and lactation status. Men should get between 8 to 11 milligrams per day. Women of child-bearing age have a greater need than men and post-menopausal women due to menstrual loss.
Iron in Broccoli and Cauliflower
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Database, broccoli and cauliflower both provide some iron. A 1-cup serving of chopped, raw broccoli contains 0.66 milligrams of iron, and the same serving of cauliflower contains 0.45 milligrams.
Nonheme Iron Availability
Two to 20 percent of nonheme iron in plant foods is absorbed by the body. Nonheme absorption is significantly impacted by other food components consumed during the meal. For example, eating meat and vitamin C with nonheme iron sources increases the amount of iron absorbed from the food. Components found in teas, bran, whole grains soybeans and legumes decrease absorption. Including vitamin C in the diet to enhance absorption is particularly important when consuming a vegan diet. A 1-cup serving of raw cauliflower contains 51.6 milligrams of vitamin C, while the same serving of raw broccoli offers 81 milligrams of vitamin C. The recommended daily intake of C is 75 milligrams per day for women, and 90 milligrams per day for men, making cauliflower and broccoli excellent sources.
Combine broccoli and cauliflower with iron rich foods. Have a veggie omelet with chopped vegetables, or eat broccoli and cauliflower as a side dish with steak or liver. Add broccoli and cauliflower to a stir-fry with brown rice, and top it off with some cashew nuts for more iron. Do not drink black or orange pekoe tea, as per MedlinePlus.com, as there are substances in tea that can inhibit iron absorption.
- National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements: Fact Sheet: Iron
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Assessment of the Role of Nonheme Iron Availability in Iron Status
- US Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database: Broccoli, Raw
- US Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database: Cauliflower, Raw
- Vegetarian Resource Group: Iron in the Vegan Diet
- MedlinePlus.com: Vitamin C
- MedlinePlus.com: Iron in Diet