9 Mar 2009

Iron in a Vegan Diet

Many ask if I am anaemic as I do not eat red meat....I am not! You do not have to eat red meat , or any animal product for that matter, to get your daily iron requirement. There are many vegetable sources, for instance dark green leafy vegetables and dried beans contain more iron per calorie/kilojoule than meat.

Iron is required in the formation of red blood cells. Lack of iron leads to anaemia which even in a mild form can cause headaches, fatigue, dizzy spells and brittle nails. If not treated severe anaemia can even lead to angina and heart attacks. Iron is also required by the body's enzymes and the immune system for them to function efficiently. Suggested RDA for vegan men and post-menopausal women is 14 mgs per day and pre-meopausal women 33 mgs per day.

Iron comes in two forms, the easily absorbed heme iron and the less easily absorbed non-heme iron. The vegan plant based diet contains non-heme iron. This causes no problems as vitamin C vastly increases iron absorption therefore by adding fruit or veggies to an iron content food is all that is required. Cooking also increases the amount of available non-haem iron in vegetables. This fact does not affect raw vegans due to their high intake vegetables and fruit.

Another interesting fact on absorbtion is that that iron is stored in the liver and if your stores there are high, your body absorbs less iron and if low your body absorbs more. Note also that calcium and tannins reduce iron absorption so tea, coffee, and calcium supplements should be taken several hours before a meal.

If you opt for an iron supplement take the recommended dosage as too much iron can be dangerous. Take on an empty stomach. Some people have poor reactions to them so taking a "gentle iron" form is found much more preferable or taking a liquid iron tonic made up of extracts from fruit, veggies and herbs.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Iron supplements can also cause reactions with certain medicines so check with you pharmacist before taking them.

Examples of veggie iron content (mgs) :

Black beans, cooked - 1 cup - 3.6
Blackstrap molasses - 2 tsp - 2.4
Chickpeas, cooked - 1 cup - 3.2
Figs, dried - 5 med - 2.0
Green beans, boiled - 1 cup - 1.6
Lentils, cooked - 1 cup - 6.6
Oatmeal, cooked - 1 cup - 1.6
Peas, cooked - 1 cup - 2.5
Potato - 1 large - 3.2
Quinoa, cooked - 1 cup - 6.3
Romaine lettuce - 1 cup - 3.4
Soybeans, cooked - 1 cup - 8.8
Spinach, boiled - 1 cup - 6.4
Swiss chard, cooked - 1 cup - 3.7
Tahini - 1 tbsp - 1.4
Tempeh - 1 cup - 3.8
Thyme, dried, ground - 2 tsp 3.6
Tofu, firm 1 cup - 3.6
Tomato, ripe - 1 cup - 4.5
Turmeric, powder - 2 tsp - 1.9
Turnip greens, cooked - 1 cup - 3.2

So it is important to add iron foods daily. This is not hard as a simple bean recipe with fresh tomato sauce or a baby spinach salad with citus juice or fruit can be made in minutes.


Iron Booster Fruit Smoothie
A great recipe from Smoothie Recipes (Australia)
Excellent for celiac’s and others who suffer from iron deficiency anaemia.

1 cup of apple juice (0.6)
1 cup of prune juice (3.0)
1 medium banana roughly chopped (0.3)
2 tsps Spirulina powder (Brands vary in Iron content) (1.8)
1 teaspoon of magnesium supplement powder * (Optional)
6 ice cubes

Blend and serve. Total Iron content 5.7 mg

*Those suffering from celiac disease may also have trouble with absorbing magnesium. Magnesium deficiency results in your muscles cramping and causes muscle spasms. This smoothie adds a supplement to boost magnesium levels.

Fresh Apple Muffins
From PCRM Recipe of the Week Newsletter
Makes 12 muffins (each containing 3.5mgs iron)

3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar or other sweetener
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups finely chopped green apple (about 2 medium to large apples)
1 1/2 cups fortified soy- or rice milk
2 tbsps cider vinegar
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
vegetable oil spray

Preheat oven to 375F/200C. Mix flour, sugar or other sweetener, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Put apples in a large mixing bowl and add non-dairy milk, vinegar, and molasses. Add flour mixture and stir until just mixed, then stir in raisins and walnuts, if using. Spoon batter into vegetable oil sprayed muffin cups, filling to just below tops. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until tops of muffins bounce back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and let stand about 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container.

Wilted Spinach Salad with Chickpeas
From Martha Stewart

1 lb/4 cups/450 gms cherry tomatoes
1 lge can 19 oz/540 gms organic chickpeas
4 tbsps olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tbsps vinegar
1 lb/450 gms baby spinach
1/2 cup slivered black olives

Heat broiler. On a broiler-safe rimmed baking sheet, toss cherry tomatoes with chickpeas with one tablespoon olive oil; season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Broil, tossing occasionally, until tomatoes are slightly charred, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and white-wine vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Add baby spinach, hot vegetables, and black olives. Toss with vinaigrette (spinach will wilt slightly). Serves 4.


Earth Mother said...

I get asked a lot of questions about my raw diet, but no one's ever asked me if I was anemic. No worries here with all the dark, leafy greens I consume each day.

Marion said...

"Note also that calcium and tannins reduce iron absorption so tea, coffee, and calcium supplements should be taken several hours before a meal."

Again, you have educated me! Thank you,and I think those fresh Apple muffins are calling me.

Anonymous said...

Delicious Recipes
Awesome effort
Keep up the good work
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Anonymous said...

Awesome information! Thanks for sharing it :)

aTxVegn said...

I'm glad to see my some of favorite foods on this list - beans, spinach, and oats!

Unknown said...

Wonderful post!! I eat most of these foods, being a vegetarian in search of iron and other things that people think we veg heads lack. My mom was just diagnosed with anemia and could use this list...think I'll send it to her.


Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

great information! your foods list is really helpful. i want to try the spinach & chickpea salad!!

Unknown said...

Off Topic.
I understand that you protest Turkish stray dog policy. The Dutch business socitey held a lucheaon about that. And last year October, my wife and I adopted a stray dog, and we called here: Sarah P. Just before the USA elections. She has a big mouth, and still needs training, but according the vets, she is a happy and healthy dog and we love her immensly..)!
Dutch in Istanbul

Daisy Deadhead said...


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dual monitors said...

sounds good

Mihl said...

Being vegan has improved my iron levels a lot. I have often been anemic before. Thank you for this interesting entry.

Jackie said...

Hi Jackie,
No need to worry about me and iron. I eat a ton of beans, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes,etc...I love my veggies!!

I hope you are having a good week!!


Unknown said...

I found your blog on blog explosion ... this is a wonderful site. Thank you for this article ... it's filled with good information.

Since becoming a vegan, I've found that my nutrition is better ... after all, eating a variety of fruits and vegetables seems to cover the spectrum of nutrition. It's much easier than people think.

Thank you for sharing such wonderful information and recipes.

Small Footprints

midas said...

I really love to eat raw and cooked vegetables and even take it in as juice. i love your recipes. hope you'll post some more. I'm looking forward for your new posts.

Ish said...

very informative post, thanks for sharing it to us, continue your work, have a nice day!

SUPER PC said...


Unknown said...

Delicious looking recipes I'll be sure to try them out. I didnt know this but apparently if you are heavily into endurance training and then this can too cause iron defienceny. I am a runner and didnt realise that my iron would be depleted through exercise and this led to me believing i had plateaued in terms of my fitness, when in reality, little did i know that iron deficiency was the real cause! I am on iron supplements and my levels have come back up but now I have the added issue of constipation because of the iron, so i’ve adjusted my doses (as recommended by my nutritionist) and hopefully this will help to correct this. With dietary changes hopefully I can control it.

CinciEuro said...

New blog if new diets:

Unknown said...

It's great to know that you can get iron from food aside from eating meat.

Booming Tea Guy