For vegans, iron replacement is an important element in eating a healthy diet and getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Though there are supplements on the market to help them replace iron, there are many food-based sources of iron that can help vegans to easily consume adequate amounts of iron daily.
Importance of Iron
Because of the exclusion of meats and other animal products that typically have high iron levels, it is necessary for vegans to watch their iron intake more closely so as not to result in iron deficiency anemia. Women are at higher risk for iron deficiency than men, and getting your recommended dose of iron is important to keep your immunity levels high and contribute to your physical and mental capabilities.
Vegan Iron Sources
The best sources of iron from plants are dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, soy products, and fortified breakfast cereals. Some specific sources with high levels of iron are:
- Dried prunes & prune juice
- Fresh and dried apricots
- Fresh currants
- Kidney beans
- Navy beans
- Collard greens
However, plant-based iron is not absorbed into the body at as high a rate as meat-based iron products, and typically anyone on a vegan diet will have to eat more iron (as well as understand the factors that inhibit or enhance iron absorption).
Enhancing Iron Absorption
When consuming iron, the following factors may interfere with the nutrient’s absorption:
- Do not drink coffee or tea with your meal, as this can decrease iron absorption. These can be consumed 1 to 2 hours after eating.
- Include vitamin C in a meal with iron increases absorption. An example of this would be to add fruit to oatmeal.
- Fermented foods such as tempeh and miso may allow for more iron absorption.
- Use a cast iron skillet when cooking, which can leach absorbable iron into food.
Eating a balanced diet rich in iron-filled foods can easily provide you with enough iron to meet your daily required amounts, without having to take a supplement. Work to include these foods in your diet, and feel great naturally.