Anemia is a health condition caused by the deficiency of iron. Even though there are various forms of anemia, iron-deficiency anemia is the commonly occurring form. Iron is a mineral that is necessary for the synthesis of hemoglobin, a compound present in your red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen across the body. So if your body is not able to acquire enough iron, it can lead to a significant reduction in the levels of red blood cells.
If your body doesn’t have sufficient levels of hemoglobin, then it will not be able to carry oxygen to cells. If your muscles and tissues don’t receive oxygen, they won’t be able to work properly and can lead to anemia.
There can be different causes for iron deficiency including poor or restrictive diets, blood loss through internal bleeding or heavy periods, increased requirement during pregnancy, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.
Iron deficiency can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms that will affect the quality of your life. Some of such symptoms include poor health, decreased concentration, reduced productivity, etc. Hence, it is important for you to take enough iron through your foods for avoiding the deficiency of this mineral.
Forms Of Iron
There are usually two different forms of iron. They include:
- Heme iron
- Non-heme iron
Heme iron is the form present in animal products and it can be absorbed by the body readily. On the other hand, the form of iron present in plant-based foods, which is known as non-heme iron, cannot be easily absorbed by the body. Therefore, vegans and vegetarians tend to experience iron deficiency. Hence, if you are following plant-based diets, it is important for you to make sure that you get sufficient amounts of iron.
There is a wide range of plant-based foods that can be considered as rich sources of iron. You have to include them in your plant-based meals for acquiring enough iron your body needs. Some of the best vegan sources of iron are listed below:
Legumes are an excellent source of iron. Including different varieties of legumes like beans, lentils, peas, etc. can be beneficial for you to acquire good amounts of iron.
In addition to this, soybeans and foods produced from them can also provide you high levels of iron. They include tofu, natto, tempeh, etc. Apart from iron, these soy products can also provide a lot of other nutrients too. They include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, etc.
There is also a wide variety of other beans and peas that are a rich source of iron. Along with providing high amounts of iron, peas and beans can give you a wide range of other nutrients like folate, fiber, complex carbs, phosphorous, manganese, potassium, and many other beneficial plant compounds.
Apart from providing a wide array of nutrients, beans and peas can also lower the risk of many health conditions too. It can be beneficial for lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, sugar levels, etc.
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds are other important iron-rich plant-based foods. There is a wide variety of nuts and seeds to include in your diet.
Some of the best seeds that are rich in iron include sesame, pumpkin, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds. Different products produced from these seeds are also capable of providing you good amounts of iron.
Seeds are also a good source of fiber, protein, magnesium, calcium, selenium, zinc, antioxidants, and other plant compounds that can be beneficial for the human body. They are also an excellent source of omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
Nuts are also capable of providing good amounts of iron. Almonds, pine nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, etc. are some of the best nuts that you can include in your plant-based meals. Similar to seeds, nuts can also provide a lot of other nutrients like fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, good fats, antioxidants, etc.
But remember that roasting and blanching nuts might reduce their nutrient content. So eat them raw or try unblanched varieties. Nut butter can also provide you the benefits provided by nuts.
Other best sources of iron are vegetables. They provide high amounts of iron when compared to many other foods that are usually associated with high iron content like eggs and meat. Vegetables are also a great source of many other nutrients. There is a large variety of vegetables that can provide you high amounts of iron. They include spinach, swiss chard, kale, collard, beet greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, etc. Hence, make sure to include various vegetables in your plant-based meal plans.
When following a diet based on plant-based foods, it is important to ensure that you are taking enough iron-rich foods for preventing the deficiency of this mineral. The foods listed above are a great source of iron. Include them in your plant-based recipes for getting the required amounts of this important nutrient.