Iron for vegetarians

Can vegetarian have iron defiency?


Iron for vegetarians

Any kind of diet, if not done in a balanced, varied way, with an organized structure, which does not contemplate any possible lack of nutrients, can generate inadvertently nutritional deficiencies.

The important nutrients, and, in some cases, the essential ones, if not properly provided, can bring nutritional deficiencies being a risk factor of multitude of problems, disorders and diseases, unnecessary and avoidable with a proper nutrition.

One of nutrient deficiencies that is usually more common in vegetarian diets is the iron deficiency.

Iron. What is?

Iron is part of the minerals that should be part of our diet for proper transport of oxygen through the blood, among other important and vital functions. (See properties of iron)

Iron absorption

drinking coffee

Drinking coffee after meals is a very common practice. Coffee reduces the absorption of iron from food

Iron in plant foods is less well absorbed than that found in foods of animal origin, so we must monitor and ensure its intake in order to avoid shortages or related diseases as anemia.

In addition, we must also take into account that iron resides in significant quantities in animal foods such as meat, but also in other plant foods such as legumes, nuts,… Vitamin C helps increase iron absorption. (See iron-rich foods)

Iron and vitamin C

Consuming iron-rich foods together with foods rich in vitamin C increases iron absorption. Since vegetarians tend to attain higher doses of vitamin C, although the way we find iron in plant foods is less absorbable than in food of animal origin, the actual fact is that vegetarians ingest more vitamin C from their diet which helps them to absorb iron.

However, a lack of this mineral for a period of time, can end up causing a severe iron deficiency anemia.

Iron is needed to form red blood cells from the bloo. Iron deficiency might occur for various reasons, either by an insufficient intake, malabsorption, abundant menses, etc..

Therefore, to avoid the appearance of negative consequences for our health, it is important to have a diet rich in iron, making sure we actually meet the needs of this mineral. We can achieve a good level by means of performing a wide variety of foods such as nuts, legumes, vegetables rich in iron, together with foods rich in vitamin C.

How to consume food to increase absorption of iron

  • It is preferable to control the intake of beverages such as tea, coffee, and foods like bran that is rich in fiber, and this in turn is rich in phytates. Phytates, caffeine and proteins, decrease the absorption of iron, therefore, they should be avoided in case of anemia.
  • If you consume iron-rich foods together with foods rich in calcium, iron absorption will decrease, so you should always take them separately.
  • Soaking, fermenting, sprouting and cooking (boiling) cereals, legumes and some seeds diminishes the amount of phytates and therefore increases the absorption of iron.

punto rojo More information on problems in vegetarianism

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

7 May, 2021

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