Going meatless and dairy-free when on a vegan diet has tons of health benefits. However, it also means skipping out on the nutrients present in abundance in these foods. Some of these essential nutrients include proteins, vitamin D and B12, calcium and even iron. In fact, according to the Institutes of Medicine and The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG), 40 percent of the iron found in meat, fish and poultry is heme, which is better absorbed by the body.
Although there are many plant-based sources of iron too, most of them are non-heme, which means that they are not absorbed as easily by your body. So in addition to eating vegan iron-rich foods, there are a few more important things you must know so that you can make the most of them.
- While picking iron-rich foods, make sure you choose foods such as legumes, nuts and seeds, raisins, prunes, fortified veggie meat, fortified cereals, grains, kale and broccoli.
- Although foods like spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard and rhubarb are also known to be rich in iron, you may not want to completely rely on them as they also contain an acid called oxalates that binds the iron, thus making it unavailable to your body.
- To ensure that the iron is well absorbed from the foods you eat, combine it with vitamin C rich fruits and veggies in the same meal.
- Never combine iron-rich foods with tea or coffee as they contain tannins, which can decrease iron absorption. Even herbal teas such as peppermint, lime flower and chamomile, do the same.
- Using cast-iron pots and skillets to cook can fortify the iron content in your food, especially acidic food such as tomato puree.