How do vegans obtain iron?

Iron is a vital nutrient in our blood. It plays a role in the oxygenation of blood.

Iron’s role specifically is to carry oxygen in the hemoglobin of your red blood cells. Oxygen is needed for many purposes, like allowing your cells to produce ATP, your cells’ main source of energy.

There is a Ted Talk from a man named Tom Chi, and in it he described the way the universe is inextricably connected.

One of these ways is the fact that iron is not a basic element. He actually refers to iron the “Heart of Hearts” because of its essential role in our cardiovascular system

Our latest technological advances have found that iron is created through vast amounts of time. In fact, iron is created only through supernovas and super massive stars!

This is a beautiful example of how you are not in this universe, you are this universe.

If the processes which happened light years awaydo not occur, the processes within us could not have occured.

Iron Deficiency

As I said, iron is responsible for binding oxygen and hemoglobin, so it’s obviously vital to our health.

You may have heard of anemia, which is a condition caused by not having an adequate amount of red blood cells within your blood. This could become very dangerous and add to other health issues.

Anemia is pretty spread among all ages, with the majority being those over 60 years old.

Symptoms Include:

Feeling Lightheaded

Fatigue

Changes in Skin Color

Increased Heartbeat

Shortness of Breath

Dizziness

Doesn’t sound fun…

In fact, earlier in the year our oldest kid had issues with this.

After feeling weak and lightheaded on a bike ride, we took her in to have her checked, which we rarely do.

Kalilah had hemoglobin levels of around 5, which we told a normal level for her age should be about 14.

So it wasn’t great, and obviously the doctor wanted to prescribe a lot of things that we didn’t want. The first thing, in fact, was hormonal birth control.

We wanted to steer around from anything that could affect hormonal levels, or anything that wasn’t natural or organic. Obviously, we would have done anything before it got too serious, but in hindsight we knew declining these medicines was the right choice.

I will give some of the foods and tips that we personally used to literally save our kids life, because if those hemoglobin levels dropped much more we could have had a serious health risk.

Types of Iron

Before I get into the specific foods, I would like to make one thing clear.

After going vegan, iron is one of the vitamins that everyone asked about.

“You can’t get iron from being vegan.”

“Vegans are anemic.”

Neither of these are true, and let me explain why.

There are two types of iron: Heme Iron and Non-Heme Iron.

The basic difference is that:

Heme Iron – this iron is found exclusively in animal products, such as meat, poultry, or seafood.

Non-Heme Ironthis iron is found in plant products, such as grains, nuts, beans, or seeds.

So what is the health difference?

According to three major studies which were cross examined:

“Meat consumption was associated with increased risk of dying from cancer, dying from heart disease, and dying prematurely in general. This conclusion was reached after controlling diet and other lifestyle factors such as smoking, exercising, or failing to eat enough fruits and veggies, suggesting there may be something harmful in meat itself.”

Another study concludes:

” Findings from this prospective study indicate that a high heme iron intake, particularly in normal weight individuals, may increase the risk of stroke “


How could this be caused by the iron in meat if iron itself is such a vital nutrient?

Studies have shown that heme iron could be a pro-oxidant, meaning it could increase the number of free radicals in the body. This could cause great damage to the body, as our bodies have no mechanisms available to get rid of excess iron!

Iron is very tricky in that way, because you must be sure that you’re not only getting the right type, but the right amount.

Too much iron and could cause cancer, too little could cause anemia or other issues.

Another thing to consider is that non-heme iron, the one found in plants, is more difficult to absorb. This means that vegans could eat a higher amount of iron per day than a meat eater, but still absorb the same amount.

Here are some studies:

Heme iron could increase the risk of stroke

This study shows that, “Higher dietary intake of heme iron is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), whereas no association was found between CVD and non-heme iron intake or total iron intake. “

This study suggests, “Findings from this prospective study indicate that a high heme iron intake, particularly with simultaneous low intake of minerals that can decrease iron absorption, may increase the risk of fatal AMI (Acute Myocardial Infarction).”

Sources of Iron

Leafy Greens

Spinach contains about 2.6 mg of iron per 3.5 oz, about 20 % of Daily Recommended Intake

Broccoli Contains about 1 mg of iron per cup, about 6% of Daily Recommended Intake

Honorable mentions: Tomato Sauce, swiss chard, and collard greens.

Eating a variety of leafy greens will help guarantee that you get your Daily Recommended amount of iron.

Legumes

I’ll admit, until I went vegan I didn’t know what the hell legumes were. I just assumed they were some fruit or beans I had never tried before.

It turns out, it is a family of plants and from what I have read, the main characteristics are legumes produce fruit that are typically pods, and they have symbiotic nitrogen fixing bacteria. This is why legumes are typically crops which are rotated.

Some examples would include:

Alfalfa

Clover

Peas

Chickpeas

Lentils

Soybeans

Peanuts

Tofu

Tempeh

Lima beans

Black beans

So basically things you can add to almost anything.

Peas are a great side for dishes

Chickpeas are super versatile, we use them for everything from cheeses to crispy croutons for a salad.

Black beans is great for tacos, nachos, and some cheeses!

Nuts

Cashews, Almonds, peanuts, and most other types of nuts are high in iron. This is something that you could snack on throughout the day alongside meals to ensure that you are getting an adequate amount of iron.

Seeds

Seeds are another quick snack that will fill you up with iron.

These are easy to mix with other things, such as nuts, and get an iron-rich snack that doesn’t taste healthy!

Pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds are all great example of seeds that are packed with iron.

Grains

There are also many grains that are high in iron, including Quinoa, Fortified Cereal, or Oatmeal.

Grains are another versatile food you can use to sneak in healthy food on your kids. It tastes like delicious sugary cinnammon oatmeal, but little do they know it’s actually full of vitamins and nutrients.

Ha, we got them!

Using Vitamin C  to Help Iron Absorption

Studies also show that consuming vitamin C before or alongside foods with iron can increase your bodies effectiveness at absorbing iron.

This means eating a little vitamin C will assist with the absorption rate of iron, which you must remember is already affected by your bodies difficulty absorbing non-heme iron.

Here are some great snack combos:

Orange slices and a bowl of nuts and seeds

A salad with spinach, pumpkin seeds, crushed cashews, nutritional yeast, raisins, and dressing.

A bowl of dried fruit; Cranberries, raisins, banana chips, dehydrated strawberries, etc.

You can crisp chickpeas in an oven or an air fryer. They are like croutons, but a great source of iron. You can season them any way you like, ranch seasonings, barbeque, parmesian garlic, etc

There are a lot of options, you just have to do your research and get creative.

Obviously, we got used to dieting for “blood-building” rather quickly due to our kids health issues.

It took a lot of research, but we’re happy to say that the hemoglobin levels have been just fine!

An additional tip would be exercise. I know this is recommended with about anything, but the reason it helps here is it assists your bodies efficiency in how it uses oxygen.

Obviously, you should not do vigorous exercise if you have low hemoglobin or any current issues with this.

This is just a way to keep you in balance.

Sidenote:

This is a new series we would like to start; “How to get ___ Nutrient on a vegan diet.”

Let us know what you think, and lookout for new ones!

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