How to Get Iron on a Vegan Diet

Overall, the vegan lifestyle can have several health benefits. Part of this is due to the influx of micronutrients so abundant in plants, the other part is due to the avoidance of animal foods which contain many harmful components such as cholesterol, trans and saturated fats. , IGF-1, Neu5gc and other foreign compounds. Although still found in plants, nutrients such as iron are a little harder to find on a vegan diet. Anemia is a common diagnosis that affects approximately 3 million Americans (not just vegans) and results from iron deficiency. Not all vegans are anemic, but knowing the basics isn’t helpful in avoiding it in the future. Here’s everything you need to know about the vegan diet and anemia.

What is anemia?

Anemia is the most common blood disorder according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. People with anemia don’t have enough red blood cells (or damaged red blood cells) to carry enough oxygen through your bloodstream to body tissues. Symptoms of anemia can vary on a scale of severity. Mild symptoms present as tiredness or paleness, while more severe symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, and brittle nails and hair.

What causes anemia?

Iron deficiency is the most common culprit of anemia, but it’s not the only trigger. Heavy menstrual cycles in women, cancer, vitamin B12 deficiency, and certain inflammatory and chronic diseases such as IBS can also cause anemia in an individual. While you can’t easily control some of these rarer triggers, you can take charge of your iron and vitamin B12 intake. Here’s more on how these two nutrients affect your blood oxygen levels.

Iron

Iron is a major component of hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that is absolutely crucial for getting oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Iron also supports healthy cell function, regulates hormone production and boosts your metabolism. Without enough iron, the body is unable to produce enough red blood cells to carry enough oxygen to the tissues of the body, which leads to fatigue. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron for most adults is 8 milligrams for men and 18 milligrams for women.

Heme iron vs non-heme iron

There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is mostly found in animal sources, although it can now be found in some plant-based meats such as Impossible Burgers. Heme iron tends to be more easily absorbed than non-heme iron, which is found in plant and animal foods. Naturally, vegans tend to lack heme iron, although they can still get adequate amounts while consuming foods that contain non-heme iron. Five hundred milligrams of vitamin C consumed in the same meal can significantly increase iron absorption, according to researchers at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

While a lack of vitamin B12 is one of the less common deficiencies that can eventually lead to anemia, this nutrient is just as important as iron in the production of red blood cells and the transport of oxygen in the blood. . Vitamin B12 is the one supplement that every vegan (and every person) should take on a regular basis because this nutrient is extremely hard to find in plant-based foods. Nutritional yeast is the only common plant-based food that naturally contains vitamin B12, and while there are fortified vegan products on the market, a vegan supplement is a safe and effective way to ensure you don’t. don’t fall short. Most adults only need 2.4 micrograms per day, but don’t worry if your supplement contains up to 500 micrograms – this amount is not an overdose.

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Top 5 Foods to Get Iron on a Vegan Diet

1 Legumes and Beans

Legumes are often touted for their high protein content, but a lesser known fact is that they are also high in iron. Legumes such as beans, peas, lentils, and soy (including tofu and tempeh) can help you meet your daily iron quota. A cup of lentils and tofu contain about 6.6 grams of iron each. Kidney and lima beans are the two highest sources of iron when it comes to beans — they contain 5.2 milligrams and 4.5 milligrams per cup, respectively.

2 quinoa

There’s a reason quinoa has often been touted as a superfood. This chewy, hearty grain contains four grams of iron per half cup of dry serving. If you’re battling anemia, try replacing the rice in your cereal bowls with this iron-rich vegan food.

3 Molasses

This thick, syrupy substance is extremely high in iron, reaching 7.2 milligrams per two-tablespoon serving (that’s almost a day’s worth of iron for men!). While we don’t recommend consuming molasses by the spoonful like you do with vegan Nutella, there are ways to incorporate this food into your daily diet. This muhammara dip recipe is an excellent starting point.

4 Nuts and seeds

Yes, nut butter counts too. Although you may need to eat a few too many nuts to fully meet your iron needs, they help you achieve this goal. Choose pistachios, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds, which all contain between 1 and 2.7 milligrams of iron per one-ounce serving.

5 Leafy greens

Popeye was right: leafy greens are real nutritional powerhouses. Swiss chard is particularly high in iron – about milligrams per cup, cooked. Spinach also contains a substantial amount of iron, but it is not easily absorbed by the body. Other greens like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale are solid options.

Tully Zander is a curious housewife and dedicated vegan, who likes to experiment with food and share valuable advice on her social networks. You can follow her on her journey to veganism where together you can help transition to a cruelty-free world, what she calls the cruelty-free revolution.

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