Iron is an essential mineral needed by your body to form new red blood cells, transport oxygen to your muscles & keep your immune system strong.
Low iron levels can leave you feeling tired & lethargic, especially when it comes to work & exercise. If you follow a plant based diet, you are at a higher risk of iron-deficiency. However, this doesn’t need to be the case.
Here are three simple areas you can work on to help ensure your iron levels are at a healthy level when following a plant based diet:
- Eat Iron-rich Plant Based Foods
Iron is not made by your body, so it needs to be supplied by the food you eat. Iron that comes from plant foods is called non-haem iron. Sources of non-haem iron include:
- Beans – e.g. kidney beans
- Nuts & Seeds
- Spinach & Silver Beet
- Wholegrain and iron-fortified bread & cereals
- Dried fruit – apricots, sultanas, dates, raisins, figs, prunes
- Sweet potato & Pumpkin
Aim to include at least one serve of these foods at every meal and snack you have. For example, you could have a small tin of baked beans or a handful of nuts & dried fruit as a snack.
- Boost Your Plant Iron Absorption with Vitamin C
Vitamin C can boost non-haem iron absorption by up to 50 percent! Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits, mangoes, berries, kiwi fruits, pineapples, papayas, capsicum & tomatoes. Eat these foods rich in vitamin C with your sources of plant iron for maximum absorption. For example, if you are having a salad made with baby spinach & leafy greens, add some slices of fresh orange or mango for flavour or make a dressing with a squeeze of lemon juice and olive oil. Or if you are having a stir fry made with sweet potato, pumpkin, broccoli and asparagus, add in some tomatoes & capsicum.
- Avoid Iron Blockers
There are certain compounds that inhibit iron absorption by binding to the iron molecule. Aim to avoid having these close to, or with your iron-rich meals & snacks:
- Coffee & tea
- Unprocessed bran
- Medications that contain calcium