“So where do you get your Iron from?”. It’s the question that every vegan has to deal with on an almost daily basis. It’s so common now that non vegans ask it more out of reactionary instincts rather than actually knowing whether vegans are low in Iron or not. Most point to studies done in the 1980’s that found vegans and vegetarians did infact have lower than normal iron levels. However in more recent studies (See end of article), it has been found that vegans have more than adequate iron levels. This is likely due to the change of just how much nutrional information is available to people.
The daily requirements vary depending on your age and sex. However for adults, Males require 8mg a day, and Females require 18mg. Woman who are pregnant require far more and the daily instake shoots up to 27mg.
Heme vs Non Heme Iron
Did you know there is two types of Iron you can consume. Heme and Non Heme. We wrote another article to try and go a bit deeper on what the difference is, and how it affects vegans. You can read that article here : http://www.theveganfoodblog.com/vegan-guides/difference-heme-non-heme-iron/
Iron in food
Iron is often fortified into food boosting them up to 100% of your required intake. Cereals are usually found to have high amounts of added iron. Plant based milks often also have added iron which is handy! Below are some more natural sources of iron that you’re probably already eating in your daily diet anyway.
|Iron per serving (milligrams)||Iron per 100g (milligrams)|
|Tofu (0.5 cup)||6.6||5.5|
|Quinoa (1 cup)||61||25|
|Lentils (1 cup)||6.6||3.3|
|Black Beans (1 cup)||9.7||5|
|White Beans (1 cup)||21.1||10.4|
|Chickpeas (1 cup)||12.5||6.2|
It is important to note that not every mg of iron that goes into your body gets absorbed. Infact some foods actually contain inhibitors that bind to iron, and make your body unable to absorb it. Spinach is a good example of this. It contains high levels of oxalate, which render much of the iron you ingest unable to be processed by your body. Other inhibitors are phytic acid and coffee. Although it is important to note, it’s more important to just worry about getting as much Iron as you can, rather than which have the perfect absorption rates. Vitamin C is well known to drastically increase Iron absorption rates.
While you should never rely fully on supplements to give you all the iron you need in your diet, they can be good for keeping on top of things. Supplements are a good way to make sure you’re atleast reaching the minimum levels required, and then using natural sources such as the foods above to put you over and above what you need. Iron supplements usually come in non heme form, and so almost always come mixed with vitamin C in tablet form. Check the back of the jar if you’re not sure, usually they label iron supplements pretty clearly if they are OK from vegans (Or if the iron is 100% from non animal sources).
Cooking in Iron pans
This is one of those things that definitely sounds like complete rubbish when you first hear it, but it’s actually true! Studies have found that foods cooked in an iron pan/pot do leech iron into your food. That probably doesn’t sound so appetizing, but the iron used to make a pan is iron that your body can use. It seems that acidic foods seemed to absorb the most iron out of the pan. Upon this discovery, it was further used to make “Lucky Iron Fish” which were cast iron ingots that were put in pots of boiling water in third world countries to leech iron into the water.
Daily requirements :
Food iron values :
Absorption rates :