I can't tell you the amount of times I've casually said "I'm tired," and had someone immediately snap back, "well you're probably anemic." I have had countless people tell me I'm anemic to the point where I scheduled a lab test just to make sure. Not once in my life (with many lab tests) have I ever had an iron deficiency or been anemic. Keep in mind I've been vegetarian since I was born, and I have been a vegan for two years. Yes, you can be vegan and get plenty of iron!
Anemia occurs when the body is unable to make oxygen bearing red blood cells and leaves you feeling tired and weak. There is no higher percentage of anemics in vegans than in non-vegans.
Vegan Food Sources of Iron
There are numerous plant sources of iron that I'm going to share with you, as well as share my favorite ways to enjoy each one of them! To absorb iron properly, combine it with vitamin C. This should be fairly easy since so many vegetables and fruits contain vitamin C. You also want to avoid coffee and tea while trying to absorb iron. The tannins from coffee and tea interfere with iron absorption.
Just one ounce of cashews meets 10% of your daily iron needs. Cashews are also an excellent source of magnesium, and they contain a good amount of phosphorous, protein, vitamin K, and zinc. Cashews boost brain power and overall energy, and they support bone and blood health. I primarily use cashews for nut cheeses and creamy sauces.
Chia seeds have 7.7mg of iron per 100g of chia seeds. They are an excellent source of fiber, magnesium, and phosphorous. They also contain decent amounts of calcium, niacin, and thiamin. Chia seeds are beneficial for helping with digestion, increasing energy, supporting blood sugar regulation, and weight loss, and for improving brain function. I always add chia seeds to my smoothies, and I sometimes make chia pudding!
Just one cup of chickpeas meets 69% of your daily value for iron. In addition to being an excellent source of iron, they also contain plenty of fiber and folate, as well as magnesium, phosphorous, and protein. Chickpeas are great for supporting satiety, weight loss, and blood sugar regulation. They help aid digestion and lower cholesterol. I roast chickpeas in the oven or blend them into hummus.
Dulse has 2mg of iron per each serving, which comes out to about 25% of a man's daily recommendation, and 11% for women. Dulse is also an excellent source of iodine, which is incredibly beneficial to the thyroid. Dulse also contains potassium and helps alkalize the body. I buy dulse flakes and sprinkle them on food as an occasional salt substitute.
A 1/4 cup of goji berries contains 15% of the daily value for iron. What's even better is that goji berries have vitamin C too, which makes absorbing the iron much easier. Goji berries boost immunity, protect eye health, and aid in digestion. I top smoothies, smoothie bowls, cereal, and oatmeal with goji berries. You can even toss them into your salads!
There are about 8mg of iron per 100g of hemp seeds. Hemp seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, omega-3s, phosphorous, protein, and thiamin. They support brain health, aid in weight loss and digestion, and help improve cholesterol. I add hemp seeds to my smoothies or sprinkle them into my salads. Sometimes I'll add them to my avocado toast too.
One cup of lentils has 36% of your recommended daily value. I love lentil soup and adding lentils to curries. Lentils are an easy legume to cook with.
Two teaspoons of maca powder equate to 1.5mg of iron. And two teaspoons of maca powder cotnains about 52mcg of iodine (and we need about 150mcg of iodine a day). Maca also contains good amounts of copper, vitamin C, manganese, potassium, and vitamin B6. Maca boosts energy, helps with digestion and maintaining healthy blood pressure, as well as improves skin health. A few times a week I'll add maca powder into my smoothie.
One cup of pumpkin seeds meets 11% of your daily needs. Pumpkin seeds are full of magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous, and they also contain protein and zinc. These healthy seeds help reduce inflammation, improve focus, boost immunity, and support weight loss. I add pumpkin seeds to salads, and use them to top soups. They're great to snack on by themselves too!
Just one tablespoon of sesame seeds meets 7% of your daily iron needs. Sesame seeds are also a good source of calcium and magnesium. I add sesame seeds on top of coconut curry noodles, stir-fry, salads, and just about any dish.
A cup of snap peas has 2mg of iron, which equates to 25% of the daily needs for men and 11% for women. Snap peas are also an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K. Snap peas reduce inflammation, aid digestion, and support blood sugar regulation. I love adding snap peas to stir-fry, coconut curry noodles, and a variety of eastern dishes.
There are about 3mg of iron per 100g of spinach. Spinach is also an excellent source of vitamins A and K, and spinach also contains good amounts of folate and vitamin C. Spinach is known to improve skin and hair health, aid in digestion, maintain bone health, and reduce inflammation.
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