I immediately turned to Davis and Melina's book, Becoming Vegan, which is basically my nutritional bible. They write that it's actually quite common for vegans to have iron stores in the low range of normal, noting that having low but normal stores is rarely a problem on its own. It can, however, become a problem "in the face of iron stresses, for example heavy menstrual losses, illness, or in some parts of the world, hookworm infection." I suspect heavy training, especially running, places considerable stress on iron stores, as well, right? Meeting 100% of RDA requirements of iron may not be enough for vegans because, as Davis and Melina point out, "Vegans and other vegetarians may need higher intakes of dietary iron to compensate for the lower bioavailability of iron from plant foods."
I also learned that spinach, which was accounting for much of my iron intake in the form of green smoothies, is not a useful source of iron because it's high in oxolates that prevent absorption. On the other hand, combining iron intake with sources of vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, can boost absorption.
To raise my iron stores, I'm incorporating more of the following foods into my daily diet.
- Garbanzo beans/chickpeas
- Navy/pinto/kidney/adzuki beans
- Pumpkin seeds
What do the rest of you do to meet your iron needs? Any advice? I know some of you have had more experience with this than me, and I'd love to hear what you have to say (in comments or as a separate post).
I'll leave you with that question and a couple of recent recipes from my food blog: