One of the nutrients with the greatest worldwide deficiency is iron. It is very difficult, particularly for women and vegetarians to maintain adequate levels of this very important nutrient.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron is set at 18mg for women in child bearing years and 27mg during pregnancy. This is difficult to achieve when considering the few foods that contain adequate levels of iron.

The human body absorbs ‘haem’ iron (iron found in animal sources) better than ‘non-haem’ iron (iron found in plant sources), which is why vegetarians are at a higher risk of developing anaemia. When compared to 100g of red meat, which contains 3.5mg of iron, a cup of raw spinach contains only 1.2mg with the added difficulty of absorbing this content because of its non-haem form. And let’s face it, no-one should be eating red meat every day to achieve these levels.

So, what are some other sources of iron that women can benefit from on a daily basis? Parsley is a herb with not only a high antioxidant content but a very high iron content as well. It also contains vitamin C which enables the iron to be more easily absorbed into the cells of the body. Parsley’s iron content is higher than most plant foods, containing 6.2mg of iron per 100g – that’s more than red meat!

Finding recipes that use this amount of pasrley is not difficult. Tabbouleh is a common salad that serves well over this amount in its recipes, and parsley can also be liberally added to soups to increase its nutrient content. So, no more parsley as just a decorative garnish, it’s time for it to be the ‘hero’ ingredient of a dish.

Did you know that most of the recipes in Yia Yia's Kitchen Secrets contain parsley as an ingredient? You can purchase a copy of the cookbook here.

Despina Kamper

MHSc (Nutrition)