For more about nutrition, see the very new Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition* (2014) and the award winning* Becoming Vegan: Express Edition (2013) both by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, Book Publishing Company.
For delicious recipes and menus, complete with nutritional analyses, see Cooking Vegan by V. Melina and J. Forest, Book Publishing Company, 2011. (In Canada titled Cooking Vegetarian, and with HarperCollins.
As part of red blood cells, iron plays a central role in transporting life-giving oxygen to cells and carrying away the metabolic waste product carbon dioxide. Iron deficiency is the primary nutritional deficiency worldwide, especially for women of childbearing age, infants, and teens. At the same time, we want to avoid the stress of excess iron, which can be a damaging pro-oxidant.
In the past, nutrition texts rated nonheme iron from plant foods as inferior to heme iron in meat, since generally a lower percentage of nonheme is absorbed. We’re now aware that non-heme iron gives us an advantage, keeping us on safe ground between too little and too much iron. Plant sources are ideal, as the body has some control over absorption efficiency and can adjust uptake to suit our need. If our iron reserves are low, we absorb more iron from plant foods; if abundant, our intestines block the absorption of nonheme iron. Pregnant women can absorb over 60 percent more iron than they did before pregnancy.
Iron deficiency anemia is no more prevalent among vegans and other vegetarians than among nonvegetarians. Many vegetarians have lower levels of stored iron (serum ferritin) than those of nonvegetarians. This does not affect how a person feels and unless a period of starvation occurs, there is no apparent benefit to having more than minimal iron stores. In fact, current research indicates that lower serum ferritin levels may be advantageous, linked with better insulin sensitivity and less risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, colon cancer, and inflammatory conditions.
Makes 11 cups
This hearty soup is rich in protein, iron, and zinc. Made with red lentils, cooking time is 40 minutes in all; with brown, grey, or green lentils, 65 minutes. Both are delicious. Serve with whole grain bread or crackers. Add a side plate of red pepper strips; the vitamin C will further enhance iron absorption.
3 cups lentils
7 cups water (add more if desired)
1-2 Tbsp olive or other vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1-1/2 cups crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1-1/2 Tbsp molasses or brown sugar
1 Tbsp balsamic, cider, or wine vinegar
1 tsp each of thyme, oregano or basil, or all 3
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper (or to taste)
Put lentils and water into a large pot, bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes if you are using red lentils or 45 minutes with brown, green, or gray lentils.
While lentils are cooking, put oil in a frying pan over medium heat; add onion and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until starting to brown. Add garlic, celery, and carrots; cook for 3 minutes. Check that lentils are soft, then add onion mixture, tomatoes, lemon juice, molasses or brown sugar, vinegar, herbs, salt, and pepper and cook together for about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve.
Nutritional analysis per cup: calories: 228; protein: 15 g; fat: 2 g; fiber: 17 g; iron: 5 mg, zinc 3 mg.
* Becoming Vegan: Express Edition by B. Davis and V. Melina (Book Publishing Co, 2013) has been given star rating by the American Library Association as the go-to book in vegan nutrition (www.becomingvegan.ca), is a finalist with honorable mention in ForeWord’S Book of the Year Awards, and won a 2014 Canada Book Award.
* Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition by B. Davis and V. Melina (Book Publishing Co, 2014) is a more detailed version, twice the length, complete with references, and designed for physicians, dietitians, and other health professionals.