Even when I became vegetarian, I've been constantly nagged about my iron levels. I took a blood test recently showing that I was low in ferritin levels, and I take an iron supplement. I even heard that vegans need more iron than non-vegans or something like that. My question is, does anyone have the same problem? How would you go about this?
I used to get low iron when I ate meat, sometimes needed supplements. When I stopped I made sure to do things like keep teas and coffee away from when I ate higher iron foods, and combine them with vitamen c foods like peppers and tomatoes.
Beans lentils tofu nuts grains all are good
I cook everything in a cast iron skillet.
I've been in the middle ranges ever since.
I have cream of wheat occasionally with 60% DV. Check cereals they vary a lot
Never supplement without having your levels checked, too much is bad and mimics the symptoms of low
I have not had this issue. I did have my hemoglobin checked a few months ago due to fatigue that turned out to be related to my thyroid condition. My hemoglobin was smack in the middle of normal range. I have never had my ferritin checked but have never had a need to. As a medical coder though, I read a ton of doctors notes and so on and have seen lots of cases of people with low ferritin (almost always meat eaters but once I came across a vegetarian one). Oral iron supplements are notoriously hard for the body to absorb and utilize from what I have heard. Almost all of the cases I code at work end up getting iron infusions at the office.
Plant sources of iron are called non heme iron and are a little bit less well absorbed than heme iron from animal sources. It doesn't mean you can't get iron from a plant based diet, it just means you need more than you would if you ate animals, in order to meet your iron needs. It really isn't hard to get enough iron as a vegan. Here is a list of some plant foods with iron:
Not listed there is blackstrap molasses which is extremely high in iron. It is one of the few sugars I use on a regular basis. It is also high in calcium. I use it on hot cereal, on toast, to make homemade BBQ sauce, to make homemade Asian sauce, to bake homemade whole wheat bread, to make treats, drizzled over leafy greens...Like silva said, cream of wheat and wheat germ are also great sources of plant iron. Beans are a staple for me (I get about two or three servings per day of it), as are leafy greens which I mindfully try to get at LEAST 2 cups per day, sometimes more. I like to rotate with bok choy, collard greens, turnip greens, kale, spinach, dandelion greens, chicory, as well as broccoli, brussel sprouts, and asparagus. Many seeds are high in iron such as pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
As well, it is wise to eat your iron rich plant food with a source of vitamin C at the same meal, which helps to increase absorption a lot. Strawberries, red and orange bell peppers, oranges etc are all great source of vitamin C. I often add peppers to my bean dishes, and fresh fruit to my leafy greens. Even just taking a vitamin C supplement would help too.
Have you and your medical team ruled out other causes of low ferritin? Such as heavy menstruation, bleeding ulcer or colon (such as hemorrhoids), hereditary forms of anemia? People who have had gastric bypass surgery often have trouble absorbing iron, as do people with celiac disease or crohns disease. If you are highly active/an athlete, you may need to make an extra effort to ensure enough iron as well. People who are dieting and restricting calories have to be more mindful that they include enough iron as well. Sometimes iron deficiency and some types of anemia are hereditary. My partner has a form of anemia caused by medication he is on for another long term condition.
Out of curiosity, what does a typical days diet look like for you?
My iron levels are fine. (Lifelong vegetarian and vegan for several years)
Hey guys! Thanks for all the replies. This really helps c:
Breakfast: Cereal (a combination of nuts, iron-fortified cereal, seeds, and oats) with soy milk
Snack: Probably fruit or something
Lunch: A choice of curry, pasta, veggie burgers, to be honest, there's a variety, but most include beans, lentils, etc
Snack (again): More fruit, with nuts
Dinner: See lunch.
And that's pretty much it for me c:
Your intake looks pretty good to me as far as iron intake. Maybe some more leafy greens in there? And a vitamin C source at the meals?
Maybe you could try a different iron supplement with a higher dose?
This article is fairly comprehensive on iron intake and vegetarian/veganism too. Somewhere in there he mentions he met one woman who had iron deficiency anemia and cured it by adding more legumes and more vitamin c.
And here is an article from a woman who herself has iron deficiency anemia and how she manages it as an herbivore:
Maybe soaking and /or sprouting your nuts and seeds would make the iron in them more available too, as referenced in the above article.
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