Brown rice is better for you than white — most of us know that! It’s The majority of consumers typically choose white rice over brown rice because of the difference of appearance. While it’s true white rice looks so much more delicious than brown rice, it doesn’t mean it’s the healthier alternative. According to a study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, brown rice is the top choice in terms of both nutritional and other inherent healthy benefits. Read More→Print This Post
Do you keep an aloe plant in your kitchen? Aloe is an incredible plant with a wide range of benefits — most people know the aloe plant simply as something that’s used to treat sunburn. However, Aloe vera has been used for thousands of years to remediate a plethora of issues. Read More→Print This Post
Many vegan families struggle with explaining to their children why they are vegan. When children inevitably begin to ask questions about their diet, the harder question to answer is “Why are we different”? Read More→Print This Post
Congratulations! You are now a vegan! Now what? You, like millions of others, have taken a huge step in an effort to improve your health, minimize animal cruelty, and maybe become closer to religious beliefs and ideologies, or possibly all of the above. Making the decision to become vegan isn’t the challenging part for the majority. Read More→Print This Post
Vegan diets have become increasingly popular for many reasons including health, philosophical, religious and ecological reasons. A vegan diet contains no animal products and relies mainly on the consumption of breads, cereals, grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds to obtain adequate nutrition. However, an active vegan must make sure to be certain that adequate iron intake is present in the diet.
Iron is an essential mineral and is a component of hemoglobin, the pigment in blood that carries oxygen throughout the body. The recommended daily intake of iron varies by age and gender, 18 mg in women 19-50 years, 8 mg in men 19-50 years, and 8 mg in all adults over 50 years. Iron deficiency anemia is a common disorder, especially in women, and is associated with fatigue, weakness, lightheadedness and shortness of breath. Low iron levels do not uniformly cause these symptoms, but do increase the risk for anemia and the risk of becoming symptomatic during periods of emotional or physical stress.
Although it is commonly reported that iron intake is similar among vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores, daily iron intake is a relatively useless term because it provides no information about the amount of available iron to the body for absorption. In fact, the bioavailability of iron can vary up to 10-fold in the same foods, depending on the other foods that are eaten with the meal (Hallberg 2000). Although the iron content of vegan meals may be similar to non-vegan meals, there will likely be less iron available for absorption in the vegan meal because of chemical differences inherent to the iron found in these non-meat sources.
Animal products are a viable source of iron and they contain a form of iron, heme iron, that is purported to be more readily utilized in the body than non-heme iron. In fact, around 15-35% of heme iron is utilized by the body versus only 2-20% for non-heme iron. However, animal foods are also rich sources of other unwanted products such as calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics, all of which increase your risk for chronic disease and lower your immune defenses. Another problem, heme iron is associated with a huge increase in colon cancer. The vegan lifestyle, on the other hand, is associated with lower rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and even gallstones (Ball 1999).
Vegan diets contain only non-heme iron. The challenge for vegans is to consume adequate amounts of iron in a form that can be utilized efficiently. One adaptation that the body will make to chronically low iron stores is that it will use less iron. Therefore, some of the disadvantages of lower iron absorption in vegans are offset by the body limiting the use of iron. Yet vegetarians and especially vegans still remain at high risk for iron deficiency. Almost half of female vegans are iron deficient (Waldmann 2004). The vegan should become aware of the best dietary sources of iron and regularly incorporate them into the diet. Some of the best vegan sources of iron are listed below, along with the amount of iron (mg) found in each serving. Keep in mind that the following vitamin rich foods can be used in juicing recipes for a glass of the best liquid vitamins ever.
- Breads, Cereals, and Grains
- Cream of wheat, 10
- Bran flakes, 8
- Quinoa, 4
- Oatmeal, 2
- Prune juice, 3
- Dried apricots, 2
- Dried figs, 2
- Raisins, 2
- Cooked spinach, 6
- Cooked mushrooms, 3
- Baked potato, 2
- Soybeans, 9
- Tofu, 7
- Lentils, 7
- Beans (kidney, lima, pinto), 4-5
- Nuts and Seeds
- Sunflower seeds, 2
- Cashews, 2
There are also some strategies that can be used to enhance iron bioavailability. Eating foods with high levels of vitamin C can enhance the availability of non-heme iron up to six-fold. Therefore, eating fruits and vegetables along with the high iron foods named in the list will enhance the absorption of iron. Foods such as broccoli, potatoes, and swiss chard are especially good choices because they contain high levels of both iron and vitamin C and should become staple foods of your vegan diet. Conversely, tannins found in tea and coffee, phytates found in cereal and legumes, and soy protein may hinder iron absorption and should be limited when high iron foods are consumed.
Some experts have argued that iron supplements may be necessary for the vegan female in order to attain adequate iron levels. However, this is not necessary if the guidelines above are adhered to. Furthermore, iron supplements are not without risk and may cause gastrointestinal side effects or iron overload. Iron overload results when excess iron is found in the circulation and gets deposited in the heart and liver. Iron overload is often not diagnosed until irreparable damage has been done.
Attainment of iron from vegan dietary sources is much safer than supplements. Generally, vegans can attain adequate iron levels and maintain sufficient stores in the body if they consume a wide variety of iron-rich foods and time the intake of these foods around consumption of other foods that enhance, not limit, iron absorption.
- For more tips on plant-based nutrition, make sure to browse VegKitchen’s Nutrition page.
- For lots more features on healthy lifestyle, please explore VegKitchen’s Healthy Vegan Kitchen page.
- Ball MJ, Bartlett MA. Dietary intake and iron status of Australian vegetarian en. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3):353-8.
- Hallberg L, Hulthén L. Prediction of dietary iron absorption: an algorithm for calculating absorption and bioavailability of dietary iron. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:1147â€“60.
- Waldmann A, Koschizke JW, Leitzmann C, Hahn A. Dietary iron intake and iron status of German female vegans: results of the German vegan study. Ann Nutr Metab. 2004;48(2):103-8. Epub 2004 Feb 25.
Dr Linda Kennedy MS SLP ND: Is an avid animal activist and nature lover. She owns a 10,000 square foot state of the art nutritional laboratory where she produces nutritional health supplements that are free of animal products.Print This Post
The purposeful genetic engineering and modification of our food supply has resulted in a plethora of questions and valid concerns regarding the safety of our food supply. Many of these issues directly relate to the power of food manufacturers and growers and their unchecked ability to distribute GE modified foods without adequate testing. Read More→Print This Post