One essential micronutrient you’ve probably heard of before is iron. It forms part of haemoglobin in red blood cells, which is vital for transporting oxygen around our bodies. Poor intakes of dietary iron can therefore lead to tiredness and lack of concentration, for example. In extreme cases, low intakes can lead to anaemia, which is easily identified by your GP using a blood test. Women, especially those who are vegetarian or vegan (see FAQs), need to consume more iron than men (14.8mg/day as opposed to 8.7mg/day) due to menstrual losses. Rich sources of dietary iron include red meat, seafood, beans and pulses, as well as green leafy vegetables. However, many of us just simply aren’t eating enough of these foods and meeting our iron requirements.
I’m vegetarian/vegan. Am I getting enough iron?
Iron from animal sources is more readily absorbed by the body than that from plant-based sources. Therefore, vegetarians and vegans need to eat a higher quantity of iron-rich plant-based foods to ensure they are getting enough iron, compared to those who eat meat. It may also help to consume plant-based sources of iron alongside foods high in vitamin C (such as oranges, strawberries and pineapples), as this nutrient helps increase the amount of iron that the body absorbs. If you do this, you should meet your daily requirement for iron. However, if you feel tired and lacking in energy, make an appointment with your GP for a blood test to check that you’re not anaemic. I also currently offer individually tailored 7-day meal plans and dietary consultations, so if you are worried about your iron intake, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be very happy to help!