It’s the age old question ‘but where do you get your protein? when I tell people I’m a vegetarian – but there are much more important vitamins and minerals we should be aware of, whether you eat meat or not.
As a vegetarian, and a woman, my iron levels are very important to me. Not only that but if they are low, I can’t donate blood, and that is especially important to me.
Iron is a mineral which is essential to red blood cells transporting oxygen and nutrients to every cell in our body and the average adult woman needs 14.8mg per day, while the average adult man requires 8.7mg per day (recommended).
Symptoms of Iron deficiency include fatigue, pale skin, weakness and inability to maintain body temperature, and it’s becoming an increasingly common issue.
There are two types of iron — heme, which is found in animal foods, and non-heme, which is from plants, and unfortunately, it is true that heme iron (the kind from animals) is better absorbed than non-heme iron.
But vegetarians & vegans needn’t despair! It’s not all that difficult to get the iron that you need from a plant based diet.
Just a few sources of iron;
- Legumes: lentils, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, lima beans
- Grains: quinoa, fortified cereals, brown rice
- Nuts and seeds: pumpkin, squash, pine, pistachio, sunflower, cashews
- Vegetables: tomato sauce, swiss chard, collard greens
Eating non-heme iron foods with vitamin C foods can increase as much as five times.
The iron in beans, grains and seeds is better absorbed when combined with the vitamin-C found in fruits and vegetables and some iron sources, like leafy greens, broccoli, and tomato sauce already contain vitamin-C.
There are lots of iron rich vegetarian recipes on the internet, but here are a few from BBC Good Food.