Iron – What is it and why do we need it?
Iron is an essential mineral our bodies need for production of red blood cells. Iron helps to transport oxygen from the lungs through the entire body. If you are low in iron, you may find you are feeling exhausted, get winded going up the stairs or fatigued all the time.
If you suspect you may be low in iron, check in with your doctor and have tests done to be sure.
Here are some plant-based foods that are rich in iron. You can easily add these to your daily routine. Plant-based foods are non-heme sources of iron. Animal-based foods are heme sources of iron.
I’ve put together a list of plant-based foods for you; I feel people are already aware of animal sources.
Hemp hearts – add to whole food cereals, granola, smoothie, energy bites.
Beans and legumes – great in dishes like a Mexi-bowl, add to veggie loaves or pasta.
Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds – add to salads, energy bites, mixed nuts/dates/dark chocolate.
Chards – cooked – add as a side to meals with fresh olive oil drizzle.
Spinach – cooked – add with poached eggs.
Tempeh – great in a stirfry or on salads.
Quinoa, whole grains – add as a side to meals or add to salads.
Organic miso – make a miso soup as a side, add to salad dressings.
Beets – steam, roast, raw, a perfect side to any meal. Beets also have vitamin c which helps with the absorption of iron.
*Tip – lightly steam or sautee your veggies, with light cooking the nutrients are easier to absorb. Avoid raw if you have digestive issues.
Don’t forget about Vitamin C ! – in short, Vit C helps with absorption of iron. Add some foods like red, yellow peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits, brussels sprouts, strawberries to your meals; this will help get that iron to where it needs to go.
What about B12?
B12 helps to make red blood cells in the body along with iron. If you are low in B12, you won’t be able to efficiently absorb the iron!
Vegetarians and Vegans are commonly low in B12, Why?
B12 is found in meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and milk.
Supplementing with B12 may be something to consider. Fermented foods like miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, nutritional yeast have some B12 so you can start incorporating these foods into meals, you may still, however, need to supplement. Check with your health care practitioner about sublingual (under the tongue) tablets or drops.
I had recently had a huge improvement in my energy when I had a B12 shot which was through my Naturopath. If you are in the Vancouver area, contact Dr. Seema Kanwal at Balance Medical Center. If you are very low in B12 (like I was), this may be a great option for you.
Supplements are often recommended to women with low iron. Many women I’ve spoken with are turned off of supplements because of the effects of the gut (sluggish bowels, constipation) Through my experience working in a health food store, a large number of customers had success with Megafood Blood Builder, Lorna Vanderheage IronSmart, and Floradix. Remember, if you are taking an iron supplement, be sure you are not low in B12, your doctor can test for that.
Are you following all of these suggestions and still have low iron? There is a possibility of a digestive, gut issue. For example, people with celiac disease may have trouble absorbing nutrients as the villi in the gut might be compromised due to inflammation from gluten build up. If you suspect this, check with your doctor. Healing the gut is a process but possible with the right guidance.
*Also, make sure you have regular exercise – get that blood circulating and moving – go walking, biking, dance class, whatever you enjoy as a movement activity. It doesn’t have to be intense. Have fun!
Hopefully, this helps you on your ventures! Be sure to leave a comment below or if you have any questions. Curious to learn more about boosting your iron? Contact me here for your free 20 minute consult.