If you’re a vegan, you’ve probably encountered the question about your iron sources, and the truth is that there are a lot of misconceptions about nutrients that may be lacking in a vegan diet.
In this article, I’d like to dispel this particular myth that you don’t get enough iron with a vegan diet.
Iron specifically is essential in the body because it’s a major component of hemoglobin. It transports oxygen throughout the body and to the muscles.
It also helps creates hormones such as growth hormones and luteinizing hormone, which plays integral roles in reproductive health.
There’re two kinds of iron found in food. There’s heme iron, found in animal foods, and there’s non-heme iron that’s found in plant foods.
Non-heme iron is a little harder to absorb a reason why most vegans may require a higher intake than someone on an animal diet. Additionally, accompanying your iron-rich foods with vitamin C rich foods can also boost your iron absorption.
Some vegan foods to include in your diet for adequate iron supply include:
Lentils are a great source of iron with a cup of cooked lentils providing 6.6 mg or 37% of the recommended daily requirements.
Soy products such as tempeh, tofu, and natto are so full of iron with a cup of soy containing 8.8 mg of soy, which translates to 49% of the daily iron requirements.
Also, 6 ounces of tempeh or tofu offers 3-3.6mg of iron, which is approximately 20% of the daily recommended amount.
For example, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, sesame, and hemp seeds are rich in iron with two tablespoons of each providing 1.2- 4.2 mg of iron, or 7- 23% of the daily recommended amount.
These seeds are also high in protein, calcium, fiber, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and antioxidants, which help in different body processes as well as strengthening the immune system.
Though vegetables contain non-heme iron, which is difficult to absorb, they are also high in vitamin C, which promotes its absorption.
Leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard, beet greens, and collard greens are a great source with a cooked cup from each containing 14-36% or 2.5-6.4 mg of the daily requirement.
Contrary to what most people thought, there’s not a lot of bio-available iron in spinach due to the inhibitors in plants called oxalates.
A cup of oats contains approximately 3.4 mg of iron or 19% of the recommended daily intake. Oats are also a good source of fiber, magnesium, protein, folate, and zinc. Thay may also reduce cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels due to its beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that increases the filling of fullness preventing you from overeating.
Do vegans need iron supplements?
When it comes to iron, neither too much nor too little is a good thing. So when it comes to iron supplements, they should not be taken unless you have spoken with your doctor and had your iron levels checked.
Otherwise, consuming adequate amounts of iron-rich foods is enough to supply your daily iron needs. All these are common yet wonderful sources of iron that can be included in a day to day diet.