• Arpine Kostandyan

Iron on a Plant-Based Diet +17 Iron Rich Recipes

Iron is an important mineral and part of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that helps blood carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron in diet comes in two forms

  1. Non-heme iron from plant sources

  2. Heme iron

Bioavailability of non-heme iron from plant foods is impacted by differetnt factors:

  1. Physiological needs regulated in part by iron stores (absorption can be increased when the iron stores are low)

  2. Iron inhibitors, such as phytates and polyphenolics

  3. Iron enhancers such as vitamin C, citric acid, and other organic acids

Iron inhibitors

  1. Polyphenols - cocoa, coffee, teas, spices like cloves, berries. Some can inhibit absorption by up to 90%. It is advised not to consume these foods within 2 hours of main iron meal consumption.

  2. Phytates - found in whole grains, dried legumes and nuts. Soaking and cooking has shown to be effective in reduction of phytic acid as well as consequent increase in mineral bioavailablity. Regular consumption of high phytate foods has also shown to reduce the inhibitory effects of non-heme iron absorption for women who have suboptimal iron stores.

  3. Oxalates - found in spinach, beets/beet greens, swiss chard, some herbs like oregano and basil. Cooking reduces oxalic acid.

  4. Other inhibitors include calcium foods and eggs

On the other hand, foods rich in Vitamin C which are usually abundant on plant based diets like citrus, peppers, broccoli, etc. enhance iron absorption.

Older recommendations suggested that vegetarians should consume 1.8 times RDI of iron. However these recommendations were based on limited data not representative of typical vegetarian meals in Western countries.

"The Dietary Reference Intake assigned to iron for vegetarians in 2001 was 80% more than that for non- vegetarians. This derives from the assumption that the bioavailability of iron from a vegetarian diet is 10%, whereas that from a nonvegetarian diet is 18%. These assumptions were based on very limited data using single-meal absorption studies involving meals that were atypical of what most vegetarians consume in Western countries. We now know that individuals can adapt and absorb non-heme iron more effectively."

My favorite sources are:

  1. lentils - 1 cup cooked ~6.6 mg

  2. chia seeds - 3tbsp ~ 4.9 mg

  3. chickpeas - 1 cup cooked ~4.7 mg

  4. black beans - 1 cup cooked ~ 4.1 mg

  5. tofu - 1/2 block ~3.8 mg

  6. blackstrap molasses - 1tbsp ~ 3.6 mg

  7. oatmeal - 1 cup cooked ~3.4 mg

  8. spinach - 1/2 cup steamed ~ 3.2 mg

  9. black eyed peas - 1 cup cooked ~3 mg

Below are some helpful tips on how to get iron on a plant based diet along with amazing recipes from 11 plant based bloggers.

Informational posts

  1. Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics official position on Vegetarian/Vegan diets - There is a section for Iron under Nutrition Considerations for Vegetarians

  2. Lentils & Iron - The Conscious Dietician shares nutrition benefits of eating lentils along with addressing common concerns regarding legumes popularized by diet books and websites.

  3. Iron on a Vegan Diet – How to Get Enough - Sarahs Vegan Guide has some helpful tips on how to get enough iron along with iron rich plant food list.

Iron Rich Recipes

1. Easy Curry Lentil Soup with Kale - Super easy lentil soup recipe with great tips and nutritional information about iron on a plant based diet from a Registered Dietitian.

2. Curried Butternut Squash Lentil Soup - Another delicious lentil soup recipe and more information on lentils on a vegan diet. In this post Registered Dietitian Rachel shares some tips on lentil preparation by addressing one of the most common concerns when it comes to legumes, dealing with gas producing compounds. She also addresses other common concerns about beans and lentils, 'anti-nutrients'.

3. Red Lentil & Oats Porridge - what a better way to start your day than with a warming and savory oat porridge. This recipe from vegan lovlie combines oats, red lentils and turmeric and is full of not just iron, but also protein, zinc, and fiber.

4. Vegan Cauliflower Lentil Loaf - a hearty plant based 'meatloaf' recipe from Strength & Sunshine. This recipe is also common allergen friendly (free of gluten, nuts and soy).

5. Vegan Sloppy Joes - another super easy and delicious lentil recipe from plant & vine. And yes, it does come with tips on best wine pairings!

6. Vegan Chickpea Quinoa Stew - flavorful, hearty and gluten-free chickpea and quinoa dish from running on REAL FOOD.

7. Curried Chickpea Potato Stew - another hearty chickpea dish from running on REAL FOOD. Featuring variety of veggies like carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, potatoes, this stew is the perfect dish for your weekly meal prep.

8. Blackened Chickpeas - super easy crispy chickpeas from yup... it's vegan! Perfect for salads, tacos or snacking on their own.

9. Vegan Lemon Tahini Cookies - hummus in a cookie form? Yes, please! These gluten-free cookies by SunnysideHanne are perfect for dunking in a cold plant milk.

10. Lentil Quinoa Meatball Bolognese And Zucchini Noodles - This refreshing and light noodle dish is the vegan take on a traditional spaghetti and meatballs.

11. Orange Quinoa Porridge - Packed full of protein and iron, this porridge is the perfect alternative to breakfast oats.

12. Instant Pot Millet Pilaf - Millet is another gluten-free grain that is very rich in fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium and other minerals and vitamins.

13. Kale and Quinoa Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts and Lemon Miso Dressing - This nutrient dense salad is the perfect meal when craving something light and refreshing.

14. Easy Vegan Peanut Stew - this hearty and flavorful dish is a vegan take on a popular African dish from an award-winning food blogger veggie desserts.

15. Vegan Thai Noodle Bowl with Air Fried Tofu and Peanut Sauce - Bursting with Thai flavors, this dish features crispy air fried tofu, rice noodles and veggies.

16. Vegan Tofu, Mushroom and Spinach Börek Recipe - A vegan take on a popular Turkish national dish, this recipe is packed full of flavor and nutrients.

17. Black Eyed Pea Dip - this chunky black-eyed pea dish is made with corn, bell pepper, avocado, and a tangy dressing and the perfect appetizer or could be enjoyed as a salad on it's own.

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