Yes, we all need iron. It is an essential trace element for all organisms: we cannot produce it ourselves. We need it for blood formation.
We need one to two milligrams a day, depending on the biological sex. That doesn’t mean that’s all, because our body can’t use everything. Rather, we need 5 to 9 (male) or 14 to 18 milligrams (female) daily.
Especially if you are pregnant or you do a lot of sports, you need more than usual. While men are often more likely to struggle with excesses, you may be more likely to struggle with iron deficiency during menstruation.
If you take vitamin C together with iron, your body can absorb the iron more easily – the so-called absorption rate increases significantly.
Iron is in black pudding, liver and also something in muscle meat. None of this is vegan. What to do? Legumes and whole wheat bread can help a bit. Coffee or black tea inhibits absorption again.
So let’s take a look at what you have to consider with a vegan diet and how you can still get enough iron. But first, in general:
What is iron for?
Often everything possible is promised, but in Germany and in general in the EU there are approved statements that can also be made for iron. These are secured and actually attributable to iron. It has been proven that iron
- supports the normal formation of red blood cells ,
- contributes to normal oxygen transport in the body,
- plays a role in normal energy metabolism ,
- has a function in cell division ,
- ensures less tiredness and fatigue ,
- enables normal cognitive function and contributes to the appropriate development of this function in children,
- helps with the normal functioning of the immune system .
If you read something else that goes beyond that, it’s time to ring the alarm bells. Too much is promised here.
Now we know what iron can do. But what about vegan nutrition?
Iron, vegan and automatically deficiency?
If you take a look at the consumer center, it remains to be said that there is a risk of iron deficiency with a vegetarian or vegan diet. A similar risk has infants, toddlers, adolescents who are still growing, women of childbearing age (keyword: menstruation), pregnant women or breastfeeding women. If you fall into both categories, a regular comparison is recommended anyway!
Above all, it is important that you do not take the exact intake quantities so seriously and accurately. Rather, it is about what your blood values say, which is why you should regularly go to the doctor of trust for check-ups. Only this test really says something about your iron level.
It also depends on the type of iron and the other nutrients you consume.
This makes it so difficult to do something about the diet without tests or careful consideration. Nevertheless, let’s take a quick look at what a vegan, iron-rich diet might look like.
Vegan iron on the diet
You can absorb iron through nutrition. If you are aware of the above-mentioned difficulties and you sometimes measure your blood values, this is quite possible. Conscious nutrition with an appropriate nutrition plan comes into play here. Because wholemeal bread, potatoes, nuts, seeds and especially vegetables and seaweed are the most important foods here.
Green leafy vegetables (kale , rocket, broccoli or spinach) as well as parsley are rich in iron. If you combine this with one to three grams of seaweed a day, you will get enough iron and also enough iodine together.
However, with seaweed , it is important to be careful, as some contain far too high amounts of iodine. For example, if you rely on noriflocks, these would be concentrations of 15 milligrams of iodine per 100 grams of flakes or 5 milligrams per 100 grams of leaves.
Legumes are healthy and we actually eat too little. They provide important proteins, especially in vegan diets, and are rich in fiber, vitamins from the B complex and other minerals. Here you should bet on peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas or lupins.
That would be 40 to 50 grams of dry legumes or 150 to 220 grams of cooked. But it is also possible to eat delicious foods that have been made from it. You know tofu or tempeh for sure and good variants taste excellent!
To do this, a different protein source should end up on the plate.
Then there are almonds, flaxseeds, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds as well as hemp seeds, which are equally good sources of iron. Sure, there’s a lot of energy in here, but they also have very good fatty acids. Here it is necessary to pay attention to the dose accordingly.
It should be 30 to 60 grams of nuts or seeds daily.
We also do not absorb iron on plant foods so well, because only 5 percent can be used at all. The rest is excreted. Substances in cereals, whole grain rice, corn, legumes or soy products inhibit iron absorption. The already mentioned tea or coffee also inhibits them.
That’s why you should definitely add vitamin C or lemon-containing foods to the iron sources with a vegan diet. This increases bioavailability.
So you already notice: That’s quite a lot that you should eat and pay attention to every day. It is therefore no coincidence that many with a vegan diet resort to regular blood tests and appropriately dosed supplements. This makes daily food selection easier – especially if you don’t consciously cook for yourself every day.
Iron vegan via dietary supplements
Since you also consume iron in a vegan diet, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment recommends a maximum amount of 6 mg of iron per day. In addition, it should be warned that men, postmenopausal women and pregnant women should always talk to the doctor of trust first.
In principle , do not take supplements prophylactically if you have not informed yourself about your actual blood values.
If you eat vegan, also look at the quality of the supplements. Especially the shells of capsules like to contain gelatin, which in turn is animal. Here it helps to pay close attention to the ingredients of the capsules, oils or tablets .
But especially if you suffer from a proven iron deficiency and if your ferritin value – which is the long-term storage – is very low, you usually can’t avoid dietary supplements. Because then it is proven that you do not absorb enough through the diet.