Iron to the Rescue

by Shawna Dolzonek

Leafy greens are initially thought of when iron is brought up. Spinach, kale and collard greens are what typically come to my mind. Staying on top of our iron consumption can feel like a chore. Iron consumption can be a concern for some who live a plant based lifestyle. Fortunately, plenty of iron sources happen to be plant based.

Iron is an essential mineral the body uses to make hemoglobin to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and myoglobin to carry oxygen to the muscles(1). The amounts of iron vary from man to woman to children. Those who live a plant based lifestyle need to consume more protein than those who consume meat and meat byproducts(1). Children nine to thirteen years old need to consume 8mg of iron, adult men should consume 8mg and adult women should consume 18mg of iron(2).

Consuming too little and too much iron can be a concern as well. Some signs that the body is not receiving enough iron are weakness, fatigue and lack of energy overall(1). Some signs of an excess of iron are depression, joint and abdominal pain(3).

How can those who consume a plant based lifestyle make sure they consume the right amount of iron? Some sources of plant based iron are lentils, pumpkin seeds, tofu, cashews, figs, kale and quinoa(4). These are foods that can be added to salads, consumed on their own, or added to other dishes. Including these foods on a daily basis with some vitamin C can help the body to better absorb the iron(4).

Finding places to throw in iron sources can seem a bit daunting at first. Stir frys are an easy dish to throw in several sources of iron. Spinach or kale can always be mixed in, tofu can be broken up or added in cubes, chickpeas and beans can be stirred in as well. Spinach mixes into fruit smoothies and adds a vibrant green color.

Iron is an essential mineral for the body to function(1). It has a pretty important job. Plant based sources of iron can be added into the day in surprising ways. Finding sources of iron in food does not have to be stressful and a worry for those who consume a plant based lifestyle.