This post is the very first of a weekly series I'm calling “Vegucation.” No, I didn't make up the name but a lot of people use it and it doesn't appear to be copywrited so I am going to use it too.
Nearly every day I get asked questions like “Where do vegans get their protein?” and “Where do vegans get B-12?” Not surprisingly a lot of the people doing the asking are new vegans. For some of the more challenging questions it can come from an experienced vegan.
The truth is that no of us know it all. But I do have free time and I'm willing to do the research. So even if I don't know the answers I will find them!
This week I was asked about iron on the Facebook page. A nice woman said she was feeling fatigued all of the time and she thought it was her iron levels. I'll be honest and tell you I haven't really seen iron be an issue for most vegans.
But here's the thing, even with meat eaters you will find many that are deficient in iron. We are all unique individuals. While eating a vegan plant based diet is very healthy for most people, it can be challenging for others. I suspect these people with certain challenges would have them no matter what diet they ate. None of us are built exactly the same.
When considering healthy questions about being vegan you should do the same thing anyone does. Talk to your doctor. This case is a perfect example. She thinks she is low on iron but she may not be. A simple blood test will let her know. It could be a lot of things ranging from poor sleep to dietary issues all the way to something really serious. You need to get it checked first. You can not fix something until you know what the problem is for sure.
One you do know the problem, in this case a low iron level, what can you do to help it? The good news is that there are a ton of healthy, tasty sources of iron for vegans. You can improve your iron levels while eating really delicious food.
Most people think you can only get iron from animal products and meat. A well planned vegan plant based diet provides more than enough iron for the human body. If you think you may not be getting enough Iron, or maybe you just want to make sure, here are plenty of foods that are rich in Iron that can really help improve your iron intake.
How much Iron do you really need? It's probably not as much as you think. The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends about 9mg a day for adult men and 8mg a day for adult women.
4 ounces Quinoa: 4 mg
1/2 cup Cooked soybeans: 4.4 mg
1 ounce Pumpkin seeds: 4.2 mg
1 Tbsp Blackstrap molasses: 4 mg
4 ounces Tomato paste: 3.9 mg
1/2 cup White beans: 3.9 mg
1/2 cup Cooked spinach: 3.2 mg
3 Dried peaches: 3.1 mg
8 ounces Prune juice: 3 mg
4 ounces Lentils: 3 mg
1 tsp Spirulina: 5 mg
Tips to maximize Iron in the vegan diet
When you are eating foods rich in iron, include those high in C too. It helps the body absorb iron more efficiently.
Calcium hinders Iron absorption. So do not eat high calcium foods in the same meal with your iron rich foods.
Tea and coffee both have compounds that bind with Iron and make it harder for your body to absorb. Avoid them especially if you have low iron.