As Vegans we are always being asked about our nutritional deficiencies. The only one you should actually ever have to worry about being B12, which is easily topped up in supplement form. As for the other issues such as protein we always get enough to stay healthy. But just like the last post on calcium, some key minerals can be a little under par if you don’t make the effort to get enough. Today we focus on Iron, a key nutrient for lots of processes in the body, not least of all in the creation and function of red blood cells.
Who is at risk?
We all will be affected by low iron counts, feeling tired, nauseous and fatigued. But there are certain groups who will need more than normal levels, especially women aged 13-65 and anyone in that group who is pregnant. If you are a regular blood donor you will also need to be aware of your iron intake.
How much do we need?
The levels of Iron we need are significantly different between men and women with female between 18-50 years old needing almost twice as much as men, and when you add pregnancy to that mix it only increases further.
- 0-12 months = 7 mg
- 1-3 years = 6.9 mg
- 3-6 years = 6.1 mg
- 7-10 years = 8.7 mg
- Females 11-50 years = 14.8 mg
- Males 11-18 years = 11.3 mg
- Males 19-50 =8.7 mg
- Pregnancy = up to 27 mg
Where can I get it?
Anything else to consider?
One very interesting factor in iron absorption is vitamin D. This may come as a shock to some of you but vitamin D is heavily associated with iron when it comes to absorption. Not only will not having enough vitamin D in the diet limit your ability to absorb iron, but a lack of iron will also affect vitamin D absorption. So best to get plenty of both.
Vitamin C is also an important factor here. Eating a diet high in vitamin C can triple the bio-availability of iron (meaning faster absorption). One study showed that adding just 63mg of vitamin C per meal increased iron uptake almost 3 times above normal (2.9).
On the flip side to this some foods may limit the uptake of iron, such as coffee, tannic acid (found in some teas), peppermint and some sources that compete with iron, such as magnesium, zinc and calcium. However if you get plenty of vitamin C and D and eat a diet that contains regular sources of iron in each meal you should have no real difficulty in absorbing enough iron.