How to Increase the Iron in Your Diet Without Eating Meat
Have you ever been diagnosed as being anemic?
Anemia: A Worldwide Problem
The primary cause of anemia stems from prolonged iron deficiency. This shortcoming of iron in the body is mostly caused by the lack of adequate iron in the diet or the bodies inability to absorb the iron.
The World Health Organization estimates 80% of people in the world are suffering from some form of anemia, meaning they simply do not have enough iron circulating in their bloodstreams.
Iron Deficiency Strikes Vegans, Vegetarians, and Meat Eaters Alike
We vegans and vegetarians seem to at times need more iron in our diets. When I am feeling tired and run down, I can many times narrow it down to not getting adequate amounts or combinations of plant foods that have iron in them.
The only way I can get the iron I need, without eating meat, is to pay close attention to how I combine my foods, at each meal. I have to make sure I include foods high in iron in my daily intake. Finding and incorporating these foods into my diet may seem like a pain, but it's worth it to me. I believe that the health benefits of eating a vegan, or vegetarian diet outweighs these kinds of small hassles.
Many of my meat eating friends and clients seem to run into the same problems I do when it comes to iron deficiency; even though they get heme iron in their diets, which is more bioavailable. After working with many of them, I have come to the conclusion, if they are parasite and yeast free, they can absorb from 2 to 3 times as much iron, as I can. As all my iron comes from my raw, live food, plant-based diet.
There Are Some Downsides to Eating Meat
So, as I said, my meat-eating friends and clients sources of heme iron is more easily assimilated, but the problem lies in their primary sources of the iron being meat. This means they are more likely to have the adverse side effects associated with a meat diet. Their primary challenge is having to deal with parasites. Parasites are almost always found in meat, showing up as roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, and dozens of other flukes and protozoan organisms. These parasites cause poor nutrient absorption and intestinal bleeding, which is not always noticeable to my friends and clients when they inspect their feces.
When I detox them and do a parasite cleanse their iron levels go up for a short time, then decrease as they continue to eat meat and the worms, flukes, and protozoan re-inhabit their bodies.
So, hopefully, what I am sharing with you should help my vegan and vegetarian friends explain the misconception, that we cannot get enough Iron from our diet. As vegans and vegetarians, we have the same problem, as our meat-eating friends when it comes to many of us having iron deficiencies. The major difference is our deficiencies are not caused by parasites. I think we just may have a better long-term solution.
Iron Deficiency Is a Worldwide Problem
Iron deficiency is a serious problem worldwide. In fact, it's the number one nutritional disorder in the world. And the World Health Organization estimates that as many as 80% of the world’s population may be iron-deficient, with the highest deficiencies found in third world countries, where parasite infestation is rampant.
The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following:
Infants and children
• Younger than six months: 0.27 milligrams per day (mg/day)
• 7 months to 1 year: 11 mg/day
• 1 to 3 years: 7 mg/day
• 4 to 8 years: 10 mg/day
• 9 to 13 years: 8 mg/day
• 14 to 18 years: 11 mg/day
• Age 19 and older: 8 mg/day
• 9 to 13 years: 8 mg/day
• 14 to 18 years: 15 mg/day
• 19 to 50 years: 18 mg/day
• 51 and older: 8 mg/day
Choose Foods With the Highest Iron Content
Some do's to ensure you are getting the highest levels of iron from your food include choosing the foods with the highest iron content. In conjunction with making the right food choices, it would be a wise move to prepare them in a manner that causes the iron to be easily absorbed by your digestive system.
Being 100% raw for several years, left me with low iron levels and the physical symptoms that accompany the deficiency. By adding in just a few cooked foods like blackstrap molasses, spinach, lentils, soybeans, and buckwheat, I can manage my iron requirements and keep my energy at optimum levels.
Top 6 Vegan & Vegetarian Iron Rich Foods
mg of Iron
1 1/2 cups
Soy Beans Cooked
This is a good time to give you a couple of quick and recipes for getting your iron levels up right now.
Bobby's Ironman - Blackstrap Molasses Smoothie
Start your day off right and leave morning brain fog behind. Make this healthy powerhouse smoothie every morning and get an important part of your body's daily requirements of iron, manganese, copper, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium.
- 1 cup cold almond milk
- 1 cup coconut water (optional - can replace with more almond milk or water)
- 1 banana
- 2 tablespoons Organic Blackstrap molasses = 60% of your daily iron, 80% of your potassium,
- Blend and enjoy
Note: if you are not suffering from iron deficiency, you can add as little as a teaspoon of the molasses and fortify your iron reserves.
Note: A better option for your organic baby spinach than in a smoothie, would be to consider cooking it, as you will get more than twice the iron from the spinach. Lightly steam or saute spinach with some garlic and red bell pepper. When you prepare the spinach and peppers this way "tender crisp" the peppers will give you more vitamin C than an orange and foods with vitamin C help us absorb more Iron.
Note: You can also just add in the Molasses to your regular morning smoothie and enjoy the benefits of the iron boost.
Note: If you don't have a problem with raw cacao, you can add it to the Iron Man smoothie and blast the iron levels of this drink into outer space.
Bobby's Triathlon Lentil & Spinach Soup
This fantastic soup is easy to prepare, and a cup of it will give you plenty of iron your body needs to power you through the day.
- 4 cups cooked lentils
- 1 onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 8 cups of water
Cook all ingredients until the lentils are tender, and then add 4 cups of organic baby spinach and cook for five more minutes, Serve hot or cold. Gets tastier when you let it steep overnight.
Note: Ad spices and herbs to taste. Enjoy.
A Few More Reasons Why I Don't Eat Heme Iron
Like most things in life, there is a positive and negative side to them, and heme iron is not the exception. Being easily absorbed by the body has its upside, but as we discussed earlier, it also has its downside, that being parasites and other nasty critters. Unfortunately, there is another downside that goes along with heme iron in that it can exacerbate Hemochromatosis, a severe genetic disorder associated with coronary heart disease and liver cancer.
I am a cancer "surthrivor," I depend on maintaining an alkaline system where the antioxidants that my plant based diet provides helps sustain my health and helps prevent the return of cancer. Heme iron has been shown to be a potent oxidizing agent creating more free radicals that in turn damage my cells.
When I eat a balanced plant-based diet, I am aware, and in control of the amount of iron my body requires. I know it only absorbs what it needs from the iron-rich plant foods I eat. When my iron needs are higher, my body automatically compensates and takes in more iron. When my body needs less plant-based iron, it automatically lowers the absorption rate.
- Bobby Morgan is a Naturopath and Energy Healer
- Sue Ellen Meisheri is a Registered Nurse
- Non-Heme Iron Proteins: Role in Energy Conversion– Anthony San Pietro
- Principles of Medical Biochemistry - Gerhard Meisenberg and William H. Simmons
- Sources: USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24, 2013. The RDA for iron is 8 mg/day for adult men and for post-menopausal women and 18 mg/day for pre-menopausal women. Vegetarians (including vegans) may need up to 1.8 times more iron.
Any medicinal references mentioned here are strictly for educational purposes based on my research through study, empirical evidence, personal use and herbal lore but not intended as medical advice of any kind. Herbs can be helpful allies in creating and maintaining good health, but they can also be powerful medications that should be treated with respect. Used improperly, they can cause adverse reactions or interfere with pharmaceuticals.
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