One of the key parts of maintaining a healthy vegetarian diet is identifying where nutritional shortfalls can occur from the lack of meet, and actively making food choices to cover those gaps. Iron is one of the most common deficiencies that can affect vegetarians, as its main source in an omnivorous diet is red meat. However there are many vegetarian iron sources to make sure you get your daily dose, including a range of tasty vegetables that can be used in many meals.
How To Identify Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency (called ‘anemia’ when it becomes chronic) is characterised by tiredness, dizziness or lack of energy. In the body, iron is used to transport oxygen and assists in essential enzyme reactions. Prolonged lack of iron can have a detrimental effect on the body, and isn’t uncommon even in meat-eaters. Women, especially young women, are particularly susceptible, and should be especially watchful if they are vegetarian. If you think you have iron deficiency, consult your doctor who can refer you for a blood test, to find out conclusively the level of iron in your blood.
Top Vegetarian Iron Sources
Fortunately, there are a range of vegetables and grains available that help supplement your iron levels in a natural way. These can be added easily to meals, or eaten raw or as a side dish.
- Spinach – One of the best sources of vegetarian iron, even surpassing some meats. Add spinach to salads or stir-fries several times a week for a great boost.
- Beans such as Lima or Soy – Can be added to chilli and other Mexican style foods for easy consumption. A cup of soy beans contains over half an average adult’s daily iron needs.
- Lentils – Another rich source, and can be added quickly to soups and casseroles.
- Brocolli – Another power green, perfect as a side to any meal.
- Fortified cereal – Many breakfast cereals are available to help boost your intake with added iron. Oats also contain a good level of iron, so consider having porridge a few times per week.
- Orange Juice – Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, so that what you do consume is immediately put to good use.
- Iron Supplements – Often in the form of pills, these give a significant boost to your daily intake. They can be harsh on sensitive stomachs, but there are lower dosages available too.
Check specific measurements of how much iron is contained in these foods, as well as how much you should be consuming on a daily basis. If you continue to feel tired and lethargic even after adding more vegetarian iron sources, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor, as there are other causes of fatigue that may need diagnosis.
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