Our bodies need iron to carry oxygen in the blood to organs and tissues, boost the immune system and produce energy, according to the Life Mojo website. Ingredients often found in Spanish cuisine such as chicken, seafood and beans are high in iron. Spanish cuisine, Spanish rice for example, may also contain tomatoes, which are high in vitamin C. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, enhancing the benefit of iron-rich foods.
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Shrimp, prawns, mussels and oysters are common ingredients in Spanish cooking, according to the Spain Recipes website. They are all rich in iron, omega-3 fatty acids and protein. The website recommends Spanish dishes such as clams in salsa verde (clams in green sauce), spiced clams, stuffed mussels, gambas a la plancha (pan-grilled shrimp) and prawn croquettes. The Top Tour of Spain website offers an easy prawn recipe, gambas alajillo (garlic prawns), which involves sautéing shelled prawns in olive oil with garlic, chilli peppers and Spanish seasoning for one to two minutes on each side before sprinkling with chopped parsley and seasoning with fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
Chicken may be used as a substitute for shellfish in most Spanish recipes, according to the Spain Recipes website. Chicken, like shellfish, is a source of heme iron, the kind of iron most easily absorbed into the body, according to the University of Pittsburg Medical Center (UPMC). Chicken is an iron source in paella, a traditional Spanish food. There are hundreds of recipes for paella, according to Spain Recipes. One recipe featured on the website recommends warming a whole chicken (cut in eight pieces) in a pan of oil, adding vegetables and meat broth and seasoning with saffron, garlic and parsley. When the broth reduces through cooking, rice is added to create a filling, family meal high in iron and vitamins.
Beans, though iron-rich, contain non-heme iron, which is not as easily absorbed, according to UPMC. Beans are a found in many Spanish dishes along with meat, and provide a hearty filler in meatless dishes. However, since non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed, more of it is needed to reach the same nutritional value. Consuming non-heme iron with vitamin C will increase absorption, according to the website. Black beans, which are found in many Spanish recipes, are very high in iron, fibre, protein and antioxidants, according to the World's Healthiest Foods website. The Vegan Diet website recommends a black bean quesadilla recipe that can be made using real cheese for non-vegan vegetarians. The recipe, which can use traditional Spanish tortillas or Mexican flour tortillas, includes tomato paste, nacho cheese alternative (or regular nacho cheese-for non-vegans), crumbled tofu (not a traditional Spanish food, but high in iron), peppers, onions, chilli powder and cumin. This recipe includes iron-rich black beans and vitamin C-rich tomatoes, so it's a good alternative to the heme iron in meat.
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