Whether you follow a full-fledged plant-based diet, or you’re a conscious carnivore, iron-rich foods are critical for our overall wellness.
Iron deficiency is a pretty big problem around the globe. Absorption of this essential mineral can also be hindered by egg yolks, dairy, coffee, tea and wine. Shoot. Let’s iron out some facts.
Why do we really need iron?
- Iron is a component in the proper functioning of our cells
- Iron is a key part of our red blood cells (hemoglobin) and muscle cells (myoglobin)
- Hemoglobin is required for transferring oxygen from the lungs to our tissues
- Iron needs increase for athletes, during pregnancy, nursing and menstruation (ladies!)
What’s the deal with ferritin and anemia?
Simply put, ferritin is a protein that stores iron and releases it at a measured rate. Low levels of blood ferritin can indicate an iron deficiency, which causes anemia (low number of red blood cells).
Mild to low ferritin levels might not present any major symptoms, but fatigue, sluggishness, restless leg syndrome, and less stamina during fitness could all be related to a deficiency. Apparently craving ‘non-food’ items like dirt, clay and ice are also tell-tale signs…
Vitamin B12 deficiency (or pernicious) anemia is a low RBC count due to a lack of, well, B12. As B12 is absorbed in the gut, many colon and autoimmune conditions are linked to this form of anemia.
In this case, supplementation is generally recommended (always best to check with your healthcare practitioner).
The two main types of iron in food: heme and non-heme.
Heme iron is absorbed pretty darn well and makes up about 40% of the iron present in animal protein. Non-heme iron accounts for the other 60%, along with ALL of the iron in plant foods (grains, nuts, veggies), which is less readily absorbed.
Although heme iron seems more desirable, studies show that adding a vitamin C source (like lemon juice) to iron-rich foods can increase non-heme absorption up to six times. Whoa!
Naturally, many veggies high in vitamin C are also high in iron. For instance, cooked spinach has more than 15 times the amount of iron per gram than the same amount of sirloin steak.
Here are a few solid plant-based sources of iron:
❤ Bok choy
❤ Leafy greens
❤ Organic non-GMO tofu & tempeh
❤ Seeds like sesame, sunflower, pumpkin
Power on with plants, iron maidens (and misters)!