“Is it possible to get enough iron on a plant based diet?”

You’ve heard this before if you are a vegetarian.

When you think of iron, you likely think of red meat. It’s true that red meat is one of the best, most well-absorbed forms of iron, but a plant-based diet can deliver iron too. Iron is essential for transporting oxygen to the body’s tissues and is also essential in helping enzymes produce energy for cells.  It is no surprise that symptoms of iron deficiency includes fatigue and weakness.

TOP PLANT SOURCES OF IRON

  1. Lentils: 7 mg per 1 cup
  2. Cooked Spinach: 7 mg per cup
  3. Dried Prunes: 5 mg per 1/4 cup
  4. Instant Oatmeal/All-Bran Cereal/Raisin Bran: 4-5 mg per 1 cup
  5. Tofu (firm): 4 mg per 1 cup
  6. Edamame: 4 mg per 1 cup
  7. Blackstrap Molasses: 3.6 mg per 1 tbsp
  8. Pumpkin Seeds: 3 mg per 1/4 cup

QUICK TIPS FOR ABSORBING IRON

  • Try to eat your iron-rich foods cooked, sprouted or fermented, as iron in plant foods are often bound to phytates, which make block some of the absorption of iron. The above mentioned preparation methods release iron from the phytate bond. 
  • Add a source of vitamin C at every meal, as vitamin C enhances non-heme iron absorption. The acidity of the vitamin converts iron in a good into a form that’s ready for absorption. Kiwi, bell peppers, mango, tomato and citrus fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C.
  • Drink tea between rather than during meals; tea contains tannins, compounds that inhibit iron absorption. If you prefer to drink tea with meals, add a little milk or lemon to your tea to inactivate the iron-binding properties of tannins.
  • Cook with a cast-iron pan to increase iron absorption. This is especially beneficial if you are cooking with a vitamin C rich food such as tomato sauce.

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