What is the evidence regarding veganism and iron-deficiency anemia?

As it turns out, there is no greater risk for iron-deficiency anemia among vegans and other vegetarians than among meat-eaters. While the non-heme iron in plant foods is absorbed somewhat differently – typically at a lower percentage – it turns out this manner of absorption is better suited to our needs. So we absorb iron from plant foods more efficiently when we need it, and less efficiently when we don’t. This is actually an advantage, since high serum ferritin levels (indicating lots of stored iron) are linked with heart disease, some cancers, insulin resistance, and diabetes.

At the same time, we need to know our sources, and Becoming Vegan, Express Edition gives plenty of information and tables that help. Plant-based diets easily provide ample iron; some sources are beans, peas, lentils, and soy foods; pumpkin seeds and oatmeal; and fortified breakfast cereal, blackstrap molasses, and dark chocolate. And including a vitamin C source – red peppers or onions in your stir-fry, strawberries with your chocolate – increases iron absorption significantly.


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