of Iron In A Vegetarian Diet. What You
Need To Know.
Finding good sources of
iron can be a cause for concern for a number of
- Iron is vital to the human body
- Iron deficiency is the most common worldwide
- Vegetarian sources of iron can be less well
absorbed by the body
For these reasons, it's
good to be aware of the facts on iron. But there's no need to
panic. A balanced
can provide all of the iron
you need. Here's what you need to know.
why do we need iron?
Iron is crucial to our bodies because it is required for making the
haemoglobin found in red blood cells. These red blood cells
transport oxygen to all of the cells in the human body and insufficient
iron in the diet can lead to anaemia. The symptoms of anaemia
- excessive tiredness
- a decreased resistance to infection.
Babies, teenagers, women of child-bearing age and the elderly are most
at risk of anaemia. On average an adult male needs about
8.7mg of iron a day. For women the figure is significantly higher -
14.8mg, so women need to be especially aware of their iron intake.
Good vegetarian sources are:
- Lentils and Beans e.g. chickpeas (garbanzo
- Nuts and seeds e.g. pistachios, pumpkin seeds,
- Dried fruit, especially apricots, prunes and
- Whole grains e.g. brown rice
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Dark-green leafy vegetables
e.g. watercress, spinach and kale
- Brewers yeast
|1 tablespoon of
|4 dried figs
|Bowl of fortified
|100g/4oz cooked spinach
|Small glass of red wine
body to absorb iron:
The absorption of iron is influenced by the food consumed with it. Vitamin C greatly increases absorption so try to include it
in your meals. Good sources are tomatoes, leafy green
vegetables, sweet potatoes, peppers, oranges, strawberries and kiwi
Absorption of iron can be inhibited by some foods. Tea and
coffee contain polyphenols, compounds which inhibit the absorption of
iron so cutting down on tea and coffee, or at least avoiding it at meal
times can be beneficial.
Vegetarians do not appear to suffer from anaemia in greater numbers
than meat-eaters. As long as you are eating a balanced diet, there is no
reason to expect that you will suffer from iron deficiency.
If you are a new vegetarian and want to know more about eating a balanced vegetarian diet,
do also take a look at this page about the best sources of protein. You also need to make sure you are getting
enough Vitamin B12.