Iron is such an important mineral that needs to be a priority in everyone’s diet regardless of what diet or lifestyle you follow. If you have a deficiency (anemia) in iron then you can count on feeling fatigue, mental decline, paleness and a decrease in your immunity, which can lead to many more health problems.
Iron can be toxic and even deadly if you overdose so I can’t stress enough how important it is not to self medicate and buy iron supplements. Always consult a doctor first.
My last post was about the assumptions that go with the word “vegan” and being anemic is just one of them.
When I was in High school I suffered from anemia and this is when I ate animal based products.
Now that I am well educated on iron and how your body absorbs it, I have perfect iron levels and have been known to show anyone my blood test results who is willing to let me brag over them.
There are two types of iron: heme Iron (found in animal foods) and nonheme Iron (found in plant-based foods).
Heme iron is better absorbed by the body than nonheme iron sources but that doesn’t mean just because you don’t include animal based foods in your diet that you are doomed to be anaemic. If you are aware and create a dish that includes foods that help the absorption of iron whilst removing the foods that inhibit iron absorption, you can easily get the same amount of iron or if not more than a dish that is rich in heme iron.
Vitamin C is iron’s best friend; including foods that are rich in vitamin C will ensure better iron absorption. This can be as simple as squeezing the juice of a fresh lemon over your meal, adding some red capsicum to your salad or my favourite: sprinkling goji berries onto your wholegrain breakfast.
Calcium and caffeine are irons enemies, so your morning coffee or tea isn’t doing you any favours to your iron-rich wholegrain toast. Sorry.
Now being a former caffeine addict I completely understand that it would seem impossible to give up your morning coffee so the good news is that you don’t have to!
Just make sure you have your coffee at least 2 hours before or after a meal to ensure it doesn’t affect your iron absorption.
Wholegrains, beans, lentils, nuts, soy* and certain vegetables are all sources of iron.
There is a reason why you should always soak your grains, beans and nuts before cooking and eating them and that’s because these wholesome foods contain phytic acid (phytates).
Phytic acid doesn’t just reduce the absorption of iron but it reduces the absorption other minerals as well, such as calcium, zinc, and magnesium.
I used to roll my eyes and say “it can’t make that much of a difference”, but it makes a huge difference (50%-100%) and it does matter, so get in the habit of soaking because it will benefit you greatly.
Soaking your grains, nuts and beans should be in water that is at a warm room temperature for 12-18 hours for the best results in removing phytic acid. I start soaking before I go to bed and by the next evening they are ready to use for dinner. Soaking also helps reduce cooking time which is perfect because I have no patience time to wait around.
Soy is extremely high in phytic acid so although you marvel over the nutrition index of the beneficial minerals, be aware that this is doing very little because the phytic acid binds to the minerals to keep you from digesting them.
Once again that doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to your favourite tofu dishes but just be mindful and try to limit your intake.
So if you ensure that you soak your grains, beans, lentils and nuts add vitamin C and remove calcium and caffeine from an iron rich meal you will be well on your way to getting that perfect blood test.
What is your favourite iron rich meal?