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Iron in vegan diet (100% vegetarian) – Myths and facts


The most important things about iron:

* A well-planned vegan diet will not produce iron deficiencies.

* Lack of iron can cause iron deficiency anemia, which is the most common nutritional deficiency in the population, vegan or omnivorous.

* The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults, vegans or vegetarians, without any deficiencies is 14.4mg and can reach up to 32.4mg in adult pregnant women, in the breastfeeding period, etc.

* There are two bioavailable (we can absorb) forms of iron. Hemo and No hemo (from plants). Non-heme iron is absorbed worse, but once absorbed there is no difference with heme iron.

Good for iron absorption:

* Vitamin C, citric acids, fructose and certain amino acids favor the absorption of iron when ingested together. Example: lentil dish with lemon juice.

* Foods with high vitamin C content: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, peas, parsley, papaya, melon, kiwi, orange, lemon, grapefruit, mandarin, guava, strawberries…

Bad for iron absorption:

* Black tea and green tea contain tannins, which if consumed at the same time as the iron sources, can reduce their absorption by 60%. Cocoa and coffee can have similar effects.

* Foods with iron such as spinach, Swiss chard, beetroot leaves and rhubarb contain oxalates (oxalic acid) that decrease the absorption of iron, so they are not good sources of iron.

* Whole grains can prevent the absorption of iron supplements.

Most common foods rich in iron (mg of iron for each 100g of food):

* Dry thyme: 123,6 | Dry oregano: 36,8 | Dried parsley: 22,04 | Toasted hazelnuts: 4,48 | Toasted sunflower seeds: 4,28 | Chickpea boiled: 2,89 | Tempeh Raw: 2,7 (2,13 coocked) | Hard Tofu: 2,75

* See full list of iron-rich plant foods


* Do not drink tea, coffee or cocoa at meals, especially if we have iron deficiencies. Also do not take zinc supplements or antacids while consuming iron sources.

* Add lemon or orange juice to iron-rich dishes, such as lentils.

* If we have special iron needs, always consult with a nutritionist.

* Carry a diet as varied as possible: fruits, vegetables, vegetables, legumes, cereals, nuts, seeds …

* Make blood test from time to time to see that everything is fine.

More info:

* Iron plays an essential role in the transport of oxygen in the body and also expelling the carbon dioxide that is produced as a residue of metabolism.

* It plays an important role in the production of cellular energy, in the immune system working and in mental processes related to learning and behavior.

* Every day we lose small amounts of iron. This loss increases with menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, donation of blood, etc. Athletes need more because of increased oxygen demand.


U.S. Agricultural Research Service Nutrition Data Releases.

Hallberg L, Rossander L. Effect of different drinks on the absorption of non-heme iron from composite meals. Hum Nutr Appl Nutr. 1982 Apr;36(2):116-23.

Davis, Brenda and Vesanto, Melina. Becoming Vegan: the complete guide to adopting a healthy plant-based diet. Book Publishing Company, 2000. ISBN: 1570671036.

NutricionVegana.com/en: Please note that the information contained on this website is for educational purposes only. The admins of the website are not doctors or nutritionists (but the info is aproved by nutritionists, of course). This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. That is why we ask that you consult your doctor before making any changes in your diet and that you take into account the treatment that has been prescribed, if you have. Nutritionists can help you to take a well-planned vegan diet.

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