Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency all over the world and it can be caused by inadequate intake of iron, idiopathic malabsorption, heavy menstrual bleeding or blood loss during pregnancy, malaria, parasitic infections to mention some major causes.
Some of the issues can be addressed by iron supplementation and consuming iron rich food sources that are bioavailable while others need to address the root cause of the deficiency like eliminating parasites, reducing heavy bleeding and addressing inflammations etc. In a previous post, I mentioned some common sources of iron in our foods. This post lists some uncommon foods in Nigeria that are very rich in Iron.
- African palm weevil larvae
The African palm weevil larvae is a delicacy in Delta and Edo states Nigeria and it is hawked in the fried form. The larvae contain about 10.4mg of iron in the dried form and it has great protein content also.
2. Rhinoceros beetle larvae
The beetle is actually a pest in many countries. It has economic importance because it destroys trees that are of good economic value. The larva is another story. In Nigeria, the larva is a delicacy eaten raw, fried, smoked or even boiled. They are called different names in many parts of Nigeria. Some of the names are: Uturuku, Osori, Tam and Ipe. The dry weight of Orycteo rhinoceros larvae gives about 49.48mg of Iron. It also has great protein value.
3. Rock snail (Nkonko)
Rock snail is called Nkonko by the Efik people of Nigeria and it’s a mollusc that has good nutritive value. The iron and protein contents are notably very high. A steamed plate of Nkonko (100g) will give about 10.6mg of iron.
4. Roasted sesame seeds
Sesame seed is an oilseed crop that is native to Africa. They are usually used in baking and in salads and they have a nutty flavour. When roasted, sesame seed contains about 14.76mg of Iron. It also has decent fibre content can be a great source of vitamins like Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Folate, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.
5. Baobab leaves
If you have heard of Miyan Kuka then you know Baobab leaves. The leaves are dark green in colour having a palmate shape like cassava leaves and they are often dried and made into powder. The powder is then used to make a sauce. When cooked, it is mucilaginous like Ogbono (Bush mango). In Mali, the dried powder is called Lalo while it is called Kuka among the Hausas in Nigeria. The baobab tree is important for its fruit also and all the nutrients that can be gotten from the baobab fruit and leaves make it an important tree for food security. The iron content of the dried Baobab is 15.4mg of iron.
6. Steamed White and red beans
Ekuru is made from steaming white or red beans like it is done with the cowpea moinmoin. Steamed White Ekuru contains about 8.38mg of iron while steamed red Ekuru gives about 10.36mg of iron.
7. African black pepper (uziza seeds)
Uziza seed is the dried fruit from the black pepper plant. The dried fruits serve as a spice for flavouring soups and food generally. Uziza leaves are also consumed in Nigeria and it has medicinal value. The African black pepper contains about 16.25mg of iron in (100g of Uziza seeds).
When eating iron rich foods from plant sources, it is important to improve the absorption level of the iron by also eating foods rich in vitamin C and as well as some animal protein like meat, fish and poultry. If you are looking to boost your iron status, taking tea and coffee can inhibit your body’s ability to absorb iron. Also, drinking milk and other dairy or calcium supplements while on iron supplements is not acceptable; calcium hinders iron absorption.
Finally, if you are deliberate in how you choose and eat your foods, you will be able to get maximum nutrients from them.