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Veggies With Iron: Quinoa, Cabbage and Chia Salad

Updated July 3, 2016 - 1Comments

Read Why The Iron Man Salad Stands Out From Other Veggies with Iron

If you have low iron levels in blood, you will love this salad.

In fact:

Unlike other iron-rich foods for vegetarians, which are only high in iron…

…this recipe is specifically designed to increase the bioavailability of iron with the help of other micronutrients.

The best part?

It weighs only 250 calories.

And if you follow our instructions, you’ll be good to go in less than 25 minutes (while waiting most of the time).

Honestly, the salad is really easy to make, but I will explain in the post why it’s better than other veggies with iron.

Why Is The Iron Man Salad Better Than Other Veggies With Iron

The weather was amazing this weekend in Macedonia, and we almost instantly agreed upon what we wanted to do:


After eleven difficult yet peaceful hours we arrived home without any nutrients left in our tummies 🙂

I noticed Anastasia looked tired, and I knew why:

Iron Deficiency!

It was Saturday afternoon, and we didn’t have time for slow cookers, so I was feeling a lot of excitement and pressure to think of veggies with iron and cystine that are easy to prepare.

Yes, cystine – the amino acid. But more on that later.

And then, the Iron Man salad was born.

 iron rich foods for vegetarians

The Iron Man salad is designed to increase the bioavailability of iron with the help of other micronutrients.

Let me break it down:

1. Vitamin C Alone Increases The Bio-Availability of Iron Fourfold

You know I love talking about iron deficiency, and how to battle it.

Do you know why is that?

Anastasia suffers from a deficiency of iron, which motivated me to self-study all the stuff going on in our bodies, and that’s how I fell in love with nutrition.

I find it really fascinating how nutrition works, and it makes me feel enormous when I think about how billions of little dudes are living inside my body, helping me survive through every single day.

Thus I always double check the nutrients in my recipes, since it’s important for the health of my lovely Anastasia.

One of them is vitamin C.

The acid found in vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is without doubt the “best wingman” that iron has. The acid forms an absorption pool for iron, helping the body absorb more iron ahead of other minerals, like calcium for example.

And like most healthy recipes, the Iron Man salad is rich in various minerals.

Iron rich foods for vegetarians tend to have other minerals

Even the vegetable with highest iron content in it has no chance without some vitamin C.

Fortunately, this salad has tons of it:

Consume vitamin c to increase iron absorption

Here in this recipe, the ascorbic acid:iron ratio is high (98:5 mg). And according to this study, having such a ratio will increase the iron absorption ratio almost four times (380%).

This salad is a non-heme iron source, and it’s a real advantage to have this much vitamin C. That’s because it’s more difficult to absorb non-heme iron (vegetarian), and with other minerals in the recipe, there will be real competition for which mineral is to be absorbed.

2. Eating Some Amino Acids Will Help The Iron Absorption Process

First of all, the Iron Man salad is a complete protein that vegans can enjoy:

The Iron Man Salad is a complete vegetarian protein

But more importantly, the salad is a good source of the amino acids, cystine and methionine.


If you research how to increase iron absorption, you will read all about vitamin C and ascorbic acid.

That’s not because ascorbic acid is the only enhancer of iron absorption, but because it’s the best enhancer. Many studies point out that there are dozen of other nutrients that increase iron absorption, but many of them are not worth mentioning.

But not those two amino acids.

Unlike other amino acids, which do increase iron absorption in small proportions…

…cystine and methionine are amino acids that increase the mean absorption ratio for iron by at least twofold.

In my case, this is critical since Anastasia has real problems absorbing iron into her blood, so most of the time, vitamin C alone is not enough.

Of course, many nutritionists point out that proteins are important for iron absorption, but few mention every amino acid separately.

Well, I wanted to go deeper, and I found this in-depth study that experiments with various amino acids. As I already mentioned, the summary is that all amino acids slightly increase the iron absorption ratio, but Cystine alone, preferably with Methionine, are definitely worth mentioning.

In fact, adding 150 mg of cystine alone, increases the mean absorption ratio twofold (200%). Adding 500 mg methionine increases it from 200% to 250%, which is not much but is worth mentioning.

And what we have here is exactly 150 mg of cystine:

amino acid cystine can increase the mean absorption ratio of iron

(This is a rough calculation I just did: My RDA for cystine is 344 mg.

42% of 344mg = 142mg.)

And 200 mg of Methionine, which is not much, but will help the process of iron absorption.

Methionine levels in the iron man salad

This is a really powerful twist to increase the bioavailability of iron.

I believe you will agree that it’s almost impossible to create a recipe that will be only rich in iron, without other minerals or fiber…

…so making twists like this is essential in increasing the bioavailability of iron in random veggies with iron.

It’s time to let Anastasia explain the cooking part, but before I go, here is the full nutritional profile of this salad:


This is straightforward:

salad under 300 calories


For me, this a perfect example of carbohydrates in a recipe…

carbohydrates in the iron man salad

…full of fiber, and some unavoidable natural sugars. And I know you love fiber.


The count of fats and fatty acids is beautiful as well:

fats and fatty acids in the recipe

What’s even more beautiful, if you want to shred some extra pounds, is the ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids:

omega 6 : omega 3 ratio

If you want to know more about smart losing fat, read my diet plan: the Belly Grater Formula.

Vitamins & Minerals

Finally, here is the full count for all minerals and vitamins:

the count for vitamins and minerals in the recipe

Beautiful, isn’t it?

63% of the Recommended Daily Iron Intake + Vitamin C and Cystine … all Packed in 250 kcal

…and a lot more.

But how do you make all of this? Anastasia will explain it as simply as it is:

Eating a vegetable with highest iron content is not enough

Ok so this recipe is really simpler to cook…

…than it was to think of a recipe that has all of the nutrients mentioned above.

As Nikola said, it takes roughly 20 minutes to make it, while 10 of them are waiting for the quinoa to cool down.

Here is the recipe:


The Iron Man Salad
Quinoa recipe designed to increase the bio-availability of iron.
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Total Time
25 min
Total Time
25 min
  1. 80 g Quinoa
  2. 350 g Cabbage
  3. 4 tsp Chia Seeds
  4. Olive Oil
  5. Lemon
  6. Salt
How to cook quinoa
  1. Fill a saucepan with 2 espresso cups* of water and heat until almost boiled.
  2. Add 1 espresso cup of quinoa (80g) into the boiled water, and lower the heat to low/medium*,
  3. Boil for 15 minutes*, while mixing it from time to time.
  4. Let the quinoa cool down* for some time.
Preparing the salad
  1. While the quinoa is cooking, remove the first few dirty leaves from the cabbage.
  2. Chop the cabbage as patiently as you can.
  3. Mix the cabbage in a bowl with 2 tsp of chia seeds.
  4. Add lemon, olive oil and salt to taste.
  5. Add the other 2 tsp of chia seeds, and mix again.
  6. When the quinoa is cooled, add it and mix again.
Cooking quinoa notes
  1. 1* I say 2 espresso cups because 1 espresso cup is 80g quinoa, and the water:quinoa ratio is 2:1.
  2. 2* On my heater, there are a maximum of 9 levels, and I cook quinoa on 4.
  3. 3* You know it's finished when there is no water left in the saucepan.
  4. 4* I have a nice trick for cooling quinoa on my "Currynoa Salad" article.
From Lovers With Love http://fromloverswithlove.com/
Eating the Iron Man salad after a hiking day really made me feel more alive and energized. Thanks to my low red blood cell count, I almost always fall asleep after an exhausting day.

Even though for all those years I have been trying various veggies with iron to get more energy for the day

…in the end, the only natural way to absorb more iron and energy we found, is to never stop researching, and smart-preparing my meals.


1. Sean R. Lynch, James D. Cook (1980) ‘Interaction of vitamin c and iron’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 355 (1), 16 December, 32-44 available from DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1980.tb21325.x 2.

2. Carlos Martinez-Torres,  Miguel Layrisse (1970) ‘Effect of Amino Acids on Iron Absorption from a Staple Vegetable Food’, Blood Journal, 35, 1 May, 669 – 682

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