All About Sources Of Vegan Iron
What Is Iron & Why Do Our Bodies Need It?
Iron is a mineral that the body craves in order to grow and develop without any hiccups along the way. Without the presence of iron inside of the body, we would not be able to make hemoglobin. What is hemoglobin? Well, hemoglobin is found within our red blood cells. It is a protein that assists in the delivery of oxygen from our lungs to every single part of your body. Iron also is necessary to create another protein called myoglobin. Myoglobin is similar to that of hemoglobin as it also is a delivery service for oxygen, though only delivering it to the muscles.
Signs Of Iron Deficiency
There are many tell tale signs the body will provide us with if we are not receiving enough iron in our everyday lives. Iron deficiencies are actually quite common. Those with low iron are considered anemic. If you have any of these symptoms, you may be suffering from anemia and should speak to your doctor about ways to combat this situation:
- Pale or yellow tinted skin
- Extreme fatigue
- Activity induced shortness of breath
- Weakness in the body
- Fast heartbeat
- A whooshing sensation within the ear canal
- Headaches brought on by activity
- Pagophagia – the craving for ice
- An irregularly smooth tongue that may be sore
- Weak and brittle finger and toe nails
- Excessive hair loss
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Intense bruising without recollection of a clear incident
Although this list is quite extensive, if you are low in your iron intake you can experience a range of these on a daily basis. It is important you make the necessary changes in your life to receive more iron as it is quite an essential mineral that keeps the body running like a well oiled machine.
Do Vegans Get Enough Iron?
When I made the switch to veganism, I remember people expressing two main concerns to me. The first being that with the absence of animal and animal by products I would not be receiving enough protein. And the second being that without the presence of red meat in my diet, there would be no way to provide my body with the necessary iron it needs. These two fears were expressed to me quite frequently, and continue to be presented to me as an argument as to why veganism is not a good choice. Here I am, four years later, receiving healthy levels of both protein and iron. So, do vegan iron sources exist? Absolutely. Are the vegetarian sources for iron powerful enough to feed the body with the nutrients it needs? Absolutely. Is there anything wrong with adding an iron supplement into my everyday routine in order to welcome an additional vegetarian source of iron? Absolutely not. Going vegan is not a one way ticket to anemia or lower iron. If this is a fear that is deterring you from making the switch to a plant based lifestyle, after today I hope this fear is eradicated. Being anemic is possible no matter the diet and within any lifestyle. There are bountiful iron sources for vegetarians and vegans therefore there is no reason to worry.
Non-Food Iron Sources Vegan Options
Before diving straight into iron food sources vegetarian people have access to, I would like to shine light upon two iron sources vegan people often forget exist. The Cast Iron Pan and the Iron fish. What are these you may be wondering? I am here to tell you.
- Cast Iron
The cast iron pan is an incredible way to add iron to your everyday life without changing any of the foods you are consuming. All you have to change is the pan in which you are cooking your food. Studies have been done to see if cooking with a cast iron pan actually adds any significant source of iron into the foods being consumed, and studies proved this to be true. It was discovered that foods with higher water content, such as sauces, absorb more iron. However no matter the food being cooked, the iron content within the food will increase if cooked using a cast iron pan. This is an incredible way to receive sources of iron for vegans without needing to make any drastic changes to your diet.
- Iron Fish
Similar to the cast iron pan, we have the iron fish. This is another great method to increase iron in your everyday life without having to alter any of the foods you are currently eating. How does the iron fish work? All you have to do is add your iron fish into boiling water and then cook with this iron infused water. In a way, using the iron fish is almost like creating an iron tea. Your newly infused iron water is great to use while cooking pastas or any grains. It is also great to add into soups. Anytime you are cooking with water in the kitchen, why not take it as a chance to increase your vegan iron source?
Iron Food Sources Vegan Options
Aside from the use of the cast iron pan and the iron fish, there are still many ways in which iron sources for vegans are possible and accessible. You may already be eating these foods and receiving enough iron without even trying.
Dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach are a great source of iron for vegans. Leafy greens are extremely easy to add into a variety of dishes. I am obsessed with large and in charge salads. However, I understand not everyone is. If you are not a huge salad consumer, try adding your leafy greens into smoothies, pasta sauces or soups, and stews. Leafy greens serve more purpose than just being the base for a salad. Feel free to get creative.
Another amazing vegan source of iron is lentils. Not sure how to use this food? Try making a lentil curry or Dahl. Feel free to double up on your iron intake and add your leafy greens into these dishes. Another great way to work with lentils is to add them into a stew or create a mixture of rice and lentils for a lovely side dish.
Chickpeas are just another of the many sources of iron for vegetarians. Chickpeas are a great addition to any salad or grain bowl. Making hummus leaves you with the perfect snacking food to keep in the fridge at all times. One of my favorite ways to consume chickpeas is in a chickpea curry.
Dried fruit had always been a childhood favorite. When I learned that these natural candies, apricots, were a vegetarian source iron option I was through the moon with excitement. Fair warning, excessive consumption of dried apricots may lead to bloating, so stick to snacking on a few of these at a time.
Chia seeds are another one of many sources of iron vegetarian eaters can easily consume. Chia seeds can be added into a variety of meals, making them super convenient and accessible. Simply add them into your morning oatmeal or smoothie to start your day with a healthy intake of iron.
Cashews are another great vegetarian iron source. Many vegan recipes utilize cashews to add a level of depth and creaminess into the dish. Simultaneously, while upping your vegan cream game, you can also provide your body with a great source of iron. Try making pasta sauces or vegan cheese with cashews.
In my opinion, hemp seeds are the superior salad topper. If you are a fan of salads like me, don’t forget to add hemp seeds as a final touch. These seeds have a slightly nutty flavor to them whilst providing the body with an abundance of necessary nutrients. Not only will you be benefitting from the iron, but from the essential fatty acids and high protein contents as well.
There are so many iron sources for vegetarian eaters, pumpkin seeds being another on this extensive list. Pumpkin seeds are a great and easy way to consume more iron yet I feel they go forgotten or underrated. Pumpkin seeds are a great snack on their own, but also provide any meal with an additional crunch. A great alternative for nut butters is pumpkin seed butter. I highly recommend trying this option out for yourself.
The last on the list of food sources of iron for vegan people is quinoa. Quinoa is a great option to use in place of oatmeal in the morning or any dish that uses rice. I know, using quinoa in place of your oatmeal may seem like a daunting idea, especially if you love your oatmeal as much as I do. However, it is a great way to slightly change up your morning routine whilst kick-starting the day with a healthy dose of iron.
If these iron sources vegetarian food options don’t have a place in your life and most likely never will, there is no harm in introducing a vegan iron supplement into your daily routine. I always tend to try to receive my vitamins and minerals from the foods I eat before turning to a pill form supplement, however, this doesn’t need to be the case for you. As mentioned earlier, iron is an extremely important mineral that the body needs in order to deliver oxygen all around the body. No matter what vegetarian sources iron options you turn to, there is no wrong choice. Being anemic isn’t fun, so if you can prevent it, why not?
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