Iron Rich Vegan Foods

Iron Rich Vegan Foods

bowl of saladIron is an essential nutrient for all of us, as it is essential for formation of hemoglobin, which is the transporter of oxygen to different parts (tissues) of our body, without which we can not survive.Our diet (may it vegetarian or non vegetarian diet) should not lack iron. Out of approximately 4 grams of iron present in adult human body two third is present as hemoglobin and the rest in different organs of our body.

If you are a vegetarian it is important for you to understand that you need proper planning of your diet to avoid certain nutritional deficiency disorders which are more common among vegetarians in compare to non-vegetarians, such as iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, omega 3 fatty acids deficiency, protein deficiency (because plant proteins are biologically incomplete) etc. Among all the nutritional deficiencies iron deficiency is a common problem among vegans.

Why vegetarians may suffer from iron deficiency?

Vegetarians suffer from iron deficiency due to various reasons. Iron is present in diet in two different forms, haeme form and inorganic form. Haeme form of iron is better absorbed (up to 35% is absorbed and mainly present in animal foods) and inorganic form is less absorbed (only approximately 5% is absorbed). In vegetables (plant foods), iron is present mainly in inorganic form (ferric form), which must be converted to organic or ferrous form before it can be absorbed from gastrointestinal tract, hence lesser percentage is absorbed.

Vegetarian diet also has phytates (especially in maize and wheat) and phosphates which form complexes with iron and inhibit absorption of iron by reducing its availability for absorption. The absorption of haeme form of iron is less affected by other factors.

Deficiency of iron causes anemia, which is common among pregnant women, people with malabsorption syndrome and vegetarians (if diet is not properly planned). Anemia can have several ill-health effects on us, such as breathlessness, growth retardation (among children and adolescent), headache, loss of appetite or anorexia, lack of sleep (insomnia), generalized weakness or lack of stamina etc.

List of iron rich vegetarian foods:

  • Spinach, broccoli, asparagus, alfalfa, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustard greens, potato, sweet potato.
  • Millets, oats, quinoa.
  • Lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, chick peas.
  • Almonds, dates, hazelnuts, cashew nuts, raisins.
  • Figs, watermelon, banana, apricots.

Make sure to add the above plant food items in your daily diet if you are a vegetarian to avoid iron deficiency. It is not practical to add every food item mentioned above. Mix different food items according to availability of it in your locality or nearby grocery stores.

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About the Author

A doctor and enthusiastic health blogger, who is eager to learn more about blogging. Dr. Jupitor Chakma, writes regularly on his Health Blog and Online Health Website. Visit these blogs for regular updates and to read more articles by this writer.

19 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Tommy says:

    You are right in that we must get back to eating more natural foods. With everything processed today no wonder we are all overweight. All it takes is time to think about what is good for us and make sure that we follow up by doing.
    Tommy.

  2. This is a great list and should be remembered by a lot of people, especially those who are considering to stick to a vegie diet. I have encountered a lot of women who are health-conscious and would simply take iron supplements just to keep their iron levels up. This is a must-have for them.
    Thanks!

  3. Mary says:

    It helps to combine a Vitamin C rich food in the same meal with the iron rich food, that can double the absorption. Using a cast iron pan is also helpful, especially if you cook something acidic like tomatoes in it. At the doctor’s, it’s good to check not only the circulating iron (hemoglobin or hematocrit) but the stored iron, since a deficiency will show up first there as the body uses up its stores.

  4. Jeff says:

    I agree, if you are a vegetarian, you should add the foods you listed, but I think it is also good to get iron, as well as, your other essential vitamins and minerals through a daily supplement.

  5. Banana, which we eat almost everyday is one of the rich source of vegan iron. There are some banana variety which can be eaten as vegetable also.

  6. Health Buzz says:

    This is a wonderful article.Very informatove.

  7. Beverly says:

    I like eating garden salad..Its good to those vegetarian..Thanks for sharing this great info..It really help to us!

  8. JC says:

    There are so many reasons to choose a vegan lifestyle. Here are two short videos to help everyone understand why so many are making this life-altering choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org

  9. HI Evelyn, thanks for sharing this great post.:) I eat all of the foods mentioned here on a regular basis and it has really helped me to avoid anemia. I soak and sprout grains to remove the phytates and this makes the minerals available for my body to absorb. I really enjoy reading all of your posts because you share the best info. Have a great day!

  10. Thanks for linking this post.

  11. KristinMH says:

    Don’t forget molasses – it has a fair amount of iron in it. Cooking in cast iron pans is supposed to help as well.

    I’ve managed to avoid anemia so far (27 weeks pregnant, everything going great), so healthy vegan pregnancy is possible. It does involve a lot of planning, though.

  12. Hi Jupitor,

    I would go further to say if one is a vegan and a pre-menopausal woman, the low iron could really be a problem.

    I’ve eaten most of what’s on this list. I’m not too fond of figs though.

    Nice list of foods. I’ll be sure to incorporate some of the iron rich foods regularly.

    Thanks,
    EP

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