Iron is the most common nutrient deficiency people suffer from, but there are loads of plant-based foods that are a fantastic source of this important mineral!
For my pregnancy I recently had blood tests done where they check for anemia. Being pregnant and following a vegan diet, I'm considered to be at a higher risk of an iron deficiency, and this got us thinking about the best plant-based sources of iron...
What Does Our Body Need Iron For?
Iron is needed to produce hemoglobin, a protein molecule that transports oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body, as well as helping our muscles store and use oxygen. It is an essential mineral... in other words it's pretty damn important!
Common Symptoms of an Iron Deficiency
-Fatigue and weakness
-Feeling Short of breath
-Unusual cravings to eat things that aren't food such as ice, coal and rubber. Pregnant women sometimes experience cravings of these sorts and should contact their midwives as they can be a sign of an iron deficiency!
How Much Iron Do We Need In Our Diet?
The NHS recommends:
-8.7mg a day for men over 18 and women over 50
-14.8mg a day for women aged 19-50
-27mg a day for pregnant women
Most people can get all of the iron that they need by eating a varied, balanced diet - that includes those eating a plant-based diet too! Although, it is suggested that due to the fact non-heme iron (found in plant-based sources) is less easily absorbed by the body, vegans should consume 1.8 times the RDI. Fortunately, there are a ton of brilliant plant-based sources out there, so it turns out this isn't all that difficult.
Plant Based Sources of Iron
1. Soybeans and any foods derived from them, such as tofu and tempeh;
5. Nuts and seeds;
6. Vegetables such as leafy greens, potatoes (including their skin), tomato paste and mushrooms;
7. Grains such as oats, quinoa and fortified cereals;
8. Dark chocolate.
Extra Ways To Boost Iron Absorption!
1. Enjoying your plant-based source of iron alongside vitamin C rich foods can increase absorption levels! For example, a Lentil Bolognese is brimming with iron from the legumes and vitamin C in that rich tomato and vegetable sauce.
2. Cooking in a cast iron pan can increase the amount of iron by 2-3 times.
My results came back and I am thrilled to say my iron levels are spot on to support myself and the baby, all thanks to a varied plant-based diet supplemented by my daily prenatal vitamins!
By Rebecca Tonks
Rebecca is one of the Nourish Bud co-founders, lover of all things sweet... and savory for that matter. Rebecca is soon to be super-mum to her 'bud' in the oven. Running a business with a newborn? Challenge accepted!