Ways to ensure adequate iron intake:
Eat plenty of iron containing foods.
These include dark leafy greens, beans, quinoa, oats, or soaked almonds or pumpkin seeds.
Enhance iron absorption by employing the “iron and acid” combination. Acids can increase absorption by as much as 40-60%!
- Your own stomach acid.
- Ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Squeeze lemon juice over greens, or add vitamin C foods like bell peppers, cucumbers, or celery to your iron-rich salads or meals.
- Lactic acid. Include sour kraut or fermented veggies when iron-rich greens or legumes are served.
- Acetic acid (vinegar). Use vinegars on salads, greens, etc.
NOTE: The acid-containing foods should be eaten at the same time as the iron-containing foods. Also,
Reduce inhibitors of absorption.
The most common inhibitors are phytates (a carbohydrate in whole grains and legumes,) calcium in dairy products, and polyphenols such as tannic acid in tea, coffee, etc.
To reduce phytate inhibition of iron absorption:
Soaking, sprouting, leavening and fermenting whole grains break down phytates and thus will increase iron absorption
Acidic substances specifically reduce phytates, so adding citrus (lemon juice, orange slices, etc. for vitamin C,) vinegar, and other acids to meals with legumes and whole grains significantly decreases inhibition of iron absorption.
To reduce polyphenol inhibition of iron absorption (tannins and flavonoids in tea, coffee, cocoa, red wine) – avoid consuming these beverages with iron-containing foods.
To reduce calcium inhibition of iron absorption –
The effect of soy products on iron absorption is controversial. Some studies report an inhibitory effect, others do not. However, it is agreed that fermented soy products like tempeh and miso increase iron absorption.
Despite common beliefs, it appears that leafy greens and other foods containing oxalic acid do not seem to significantly inhibit iron absorption. If oxalates are a factor, their effects will be minimized by cooking and/or by serving the greens with acidic toppings and complements.
- Avoid chronic use of “acid blockers”, like Zantac, Pepsid, etc. Occasional use is safe.
- All foods in the vegan diet, whether raw or cooked, should be chewed thoroughly to break down the cell walls. That allows maximal absorption of their minerals, including iron.
But if there is any question, have a blood test done and see if there is any need to change your diet to optimize your iron levels.