TL:DR - This is our short guide, that will clue you or a friend of a vegan up, on how to get a bit more iron in your diet.
As a vegan, this is a question you will likely get asked at some point. It is always good to be armed with knowledge when someone comes at you with questions like how do vegans get iron, where do you get protein, don’t you miss cheese?
In this blog, I’m going to focus on iron. After reading this you will have all the knowledge bombs you need not only to stay healthy as a vegan, but to answer some of those questions that come up.
Iron is an important mineral. It plays a big part in making red blood cells. These cells are the ones which transport oxygen around the body.
Without enough iron it can lead to an iron deficiency called anemia. Anemia can cause you to feel tired, have heart palpitations, pale skin, chest pains and a shortness of breath. Of course, don’t self diagnose. If you are having symptoms of low iron, ask the doctor to run some blood tests.
Iron is found in red meat, oysters, tuna and organ meats. As a vegan that probably sounds pretty nasty. Thankfully, iron is also found in plant based and vegan foods such as:
You can also increase the iron in your food by cooking in a cast iron skillet. There is debate about exactly how much it increases it by. However, cooking in an iron skillet tastes great, so it is worth a try.
When you are vegan you are no more likely to develop an iron deficiency than anyone else. Although, meat eaters who don’t support your vegan lifestyle might tell you otherwise.
Iron is an important mineral whether you are vegan or not. It is something you want to make sure you include in your diet. Vitamin C, which can be found in oranges, peppers, sprouts, broccoli and potatoes, helps your body to absorb iron. For this reason it is good to balance your iron rich meal with vitamin C foods or a glass of orange juice.
If you have had a test and found that your iron levels are low, there are ways to naturally increase your iron levels. Firstly, you should consider eating an iron rich diet. Think leafy greens, lentils, beans and a serving of rich dark chocolate. Finish off your meal with an orange or make sure you include a vitamin C rich food within the meal to help your body absorb the mineral.
A doctor may suggest an iron supplement if your levels are quite low.
Before you start considering taking iron supplements it is best to speak to your healthcare provider. If you are eating a healthy diet then you might be getting enough iron without any additional tablets or drops.
If you are concerned that your iron levels are low a doctor can do a blood test to check. If they are not high enough then you may be advised to take a supplement.
Remember, just because you are vegan it doesn’t automatically mean you will have an iron deficiency. Vegans are no more likely to have anemia than the general population. It is a common misconception that because vegans don’t eat meat or animal products that they are going to be deficient in minerals.
As long as you are eating a healthy, balanced diet, there is no reason why you should be deficient in iron.