Iron is essential for our health because it is a central part of hemoglobin which is responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood. Without adequate iron levels, people are prone to becoming anemic.
There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is well absorbed in the body. Animal tissue is made up of 40% heme and 60% non-heme. Plants on the other hand consist of only non-heme. Some would assume that vegans or even vegetarians are more prone to become iron deficient, but studies (1) suggest that anyone can develop a deficiency, it just matters how well your body absorbs it. Luckily, the fear of becoming anemic shouldn’t hold you back on this fantastic lifestyle. Here’s why:
1. Commonly eaten foods are naturally high in iron. Many of these foods are superior to animal products. A great example is outlined here by vrg.org:
In fact, if the amount of iron in these foods is expressed as milligrams of iron per 100 calories, many foods eaten by vegans are superior to animal-derived foods. For example, you would have to eat more than 1700 calories of sirloin steak to get the same amount of iron as found in 100 calories of spinach.
2. Vegan diets are high in Vitamin C which actually increases the absorption of non-heme iron. In fact, adding Vitamin C to your meal can make the absorption better than that of heme iron. Some foods like boy-choy and broccoli contain both so they are a wonderful addition to your lifestyle.
The calculation of iron is expressed in milligrams per 100 calories.
The general consensus is:
men: 8 mg iron/day
pre-menopausal women: 1.8 mg iron/day.
|Black-eyed Peas, cooked||1cup||4.3|
|Black Beans, cooked||1cup||3.6|
|Pinto Beans, cooked||1cup||3.6|
|BoyChoy, cooked||1cup||1.8||(100g 75% DV Vit.C)|
|Broccoli, cooked||1cup||1.1||(91g 135% DV Vit.C)|
There are just a few foods that provide iron and other essential nutrients. Now go get some plant fueled iron!