Question: Does vegans need more iron than non-vegans? Does a vegan get enough iron? What plant foods contain iron?
Short summarised, Iron is important because it is needed to form hemoglobin which is responsible for transporting oxygen through our body. Although Iron-deficiency (anemia) is a common health problem, getting to much iron can also be harmful and has been shown to raise risk for type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Getting plenty of iron on a vegan diet is easy and some plant foods has even more iron per gram than beef. Anyway, vegans have higher iron requirements according to the Food and Nutrition Board. This is because iron from plant foods is not absorbed as well as iron from meat. The main reason is that iron rich plant foods are often high in phytic-acid (phytate), which is a compound that binds iron and other minerals. The positive side about phytate is that it is a very powerful antioxidant that are associated with lower risk for cancer. So trying to avoiding phytate is not only unnessasary but also almost impossible, due to its abundance in plant foods.The key here is to eat in a way that minimzes phytate´s effect on iron. For example adding vitamin C rich foods to iron rich meals, reduces the effects of phytate and increases the absorption of iron. Surprisingly, a small glass of orange juice has shown to increase the absorption of iron by six times!
So rather than tracking your iron, the best way is to eat in a way that maximized iron intake and absorption: - Eat iron rich foods: Soyfoods, beans, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, oatmeal and quinoa.
- Include a great source of vitamin C: Citrus foods and juices, kiwifruit, mango, pinapple, strawberries, broccoli, peppers and cauliflower.
- Soyfoods are very good as they do not seem to be as effected by phytic-acid.
- Avoid drinking tea and coffee with meals, as they have shown to decrease the absorption of iron.
No need to overthink this. Vegans has not shown to develop iron-deficiency any more than meat eaters. Eat diverse, try to follow some of these rules, and your iron levels should be good.
Thats all for now, have a delightful day 💙