Nutrition
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Plant-based diet & iron

How to get enough iron on a plant-based diet?

Iron is an essential mineral and is needed for many of the body’s functions. It’s needed to make proteins, such as hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin in the red blood cells carries oxygen from our lungs to our tissues, and myoglobin helps supply oxygen to our muscles.

Since your body can’t produce iron itself, you need to make sure you consume sufficient amounts of iron as part of a daily, balanced diet. There’re a few factors that affect the amount of iron your body can absorb from your diet. The number one factor is your body’s need for iron; More is absorbed when your body is short of iron, and less is absorbed when your stores are full.

There are two types of iron in foods;

Haem iron = Iron from animal sources

Non-haem iron = Iron from plant-based sources

The body absorbs haem iron more efficiently than non-haem iron. Therefore, people following a vegan or plant-based diet need almost twice as much dietary iron each day compared to omnivores because of the lower intestinal absorption of iron from plant-foods. (onegreenplanet.org)

How to improve your iron intake as a plant-based eater?

  • Vitamin C increases iron absorption -> eat foods high in vitamin C with foods that contain iron.
  • Avoid drinking tea or coffee with meals since it inhibits the absorption of iron.
  • Eating the following plant-based foods (list below), together with sources of vitamin C will improve your body’s absorption of iron. Foods rich in vitamin C are for example: broccoli, pepper, cabbage, brussel sprouts, oranges, kiwi fruit or pineapple.

Good plant sources of non-haem iron include:

Kale

Cashew nuts

Rolled oats

Spirulina

Cooked brown rice

Dried apricots & figs

Quinoa

Hemp seeds & pumpkin seeds

Tofu

Chickpeas

Beans

Dark chocolate 70-85 % & Cocoa Powder

 

Iron deficiency

Symptoms of iron deficiency are fatigue, pale skin, weakness and inability to maintain body temperature.

However, do not take iron supplements without consulting your doctor since too much iron can be harmful. (Recommended daily iron intake)

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