Discover the power of iron-rich vegan foods and learn why iron is essential for your health. This article also provides a sample menu to help you incorporate these foods into your daily meals. Embrace a nutritious, iron-rich vegan lifestyle without compromising on your health.
India's vegetarianism, steeped in cultural traditions, is prevalent, with approximately 29% of individuals aged 15 and above adhering to such a diet. Among these, 83% are lacto- vegetarians, excluding all animal-derived ingredients except dairy, while 11% are lacto-ovo vegetarians who avoid meat, dairy, and eggs. Those abstaining from all animal-derived products, including dairy and eggs, are often termed vegans.
The shift towards a plant-based lifestyle has brought the need for nutrient-rich vegan foods into focus, particularly iron. Interestingly, many vegan foods are not only rich in essential vitamins and minerals but also enhance the bioavailability of iron, making them iron rich vegan foods. In this article, let’s understand why your body needs iron and look at some of the best vegan iron sources.
Why Do You Need Iron?
Iron is an essential mineral for our bodies and plays a vital role in numerous physiological functions. The mineral exists in two forms, ‘Heme’ and ‘Non-Heme Iron’. Heme, or organic iron, is primarily derived from hemoglobin and myoglobin present in meat sources. Conversely, Non-Heme or Inorganic Iron is obtained exclusively from plant-based sources. A significant proportion of iron in our body is found in hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues. Without iron, our bodies can't produce enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells, leading to a condition known as anaemia.
Beyond blood production, iron plays an integral role in supporting physical health. It's crucial for converting food into energy (cellular respiration) and for the proper function of our immune system.
Mental health is another area significantly impacted by our iron levels. Iron deficiency has been linked to various neurological problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and changes in behaviour. Hence, it becomes extremely crucial for individuals who opt for vegan food to look at the best vegan iron sources.
Top Iron Rich Vegan Foods
Fortunately, a vegan diet does not have to compromise on iron intake. Some primary iron-rich vegan foods for anemia are:
These millets are loaded with iron and other nutrients like fiber and protein, with 100g of bajra offering 6.42 mg of iron. You can also opt for other millets, like ragi and jowar.
Lentils are not just considered one of the best vegan iron sources but are also high in potassium, fiber, and vitamin B. Topping the list of iron rich vegan foods, 1/2 cup of cooked lentils delivers up to 15% of your daily iron needs.
Amaranth or rajgira as commonly known in India, is another vegan food containing iron. It is also loaded with vitamin C, which helps with the absorption of iron in the body. This can be consumed in many ways like juice, soup or sauteed.
Fenugreek, or methi, is rich in iron (8.47mg per 100g), fiber, magnesium, potassium, and other vital nutrients. These seeds also have powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
Also known as sesame seeds, gingelly seeds are a great source of iron (15.04mg per 100g). These small seeds can be sprinkled on salads or incorporated into baked goods, providing a crunchy texture and a valuable iron boost.
Incorporating these vegan foods for anemia can help replenish your body’s iron stores significantly. Also, while these foods can help your body absorb iron, others can make it harder. So, when planning your meals, be mindful of foods that might reduce the absorption of plant-based iron. Here's a comprehensive table showcasing the inhibitors and facilitators of iron absorption
|Factors that could influence iron absorption
|Tea, Whole Grains, Rice
|Lemon, Oranges, Tomatoes, Capsicums
Sample Menu Made with Vegan Foods Containing Iron
|Quinoa porridge Suji ragi vegetable upmaBajra pea paratha
|Ragi appam with coconut chutneyBanana spinach vegan smoothiePalak vaddi
|Lentil saladMethi theplaPalak dal
|Ragi dhoklaVegetable ragi frankieMethi mooli paratha
|Chana masala curry with jowar bajra rotiMasala bajra rotiRagi masala dosa with chutney
Adopting a vegan diet doesn't mean you need to sacrifice your iron intake. By incorporating vegan foods for anemia like lentils, spinach, tofu, and chia seeds into your meals, you can maintain a healthy iron level and enjoy the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. For any concerns about anaemia or your iron intake, always consult a healthcare professional or a dietitian. Good health is not just about the choices we make, but also about understanding those choices and knowing how to implement them effectively. The power of a nutritious, iron-rich vegan lifestyle is in your hands. So go ahead, dig in!