Vegetarians are those people who consume only plant foods, and do not eat meat or seafood and may not eat eggs. Vegans follow the same diet as vegetarians, and in addition, do not consume dairy products too. A vegan diet gives many health benefits, and with a careful diet plan, like with a vegan diet and iron, it can provide all the essential nutritional requirements of the body.
Dark green leafy vegetables and dried beans are good sources of iron, better than meat on a per calorie basis.
Absorption of iron by the body is increased markedly by eating foods containing vitamin C, along with other foods containing iron.
Anemia is a disease caused by iron deficiency is a worldwide health problem, especially in young women and children. In anemia, the healthy red blood cells reduce in the body. Iron helps in building red blood cells; when the body does not have sufficient iron, it will make lesser red blood cells or unhealthy red blood cells leading to a condition of “iron deficiency anemia”.
Less iron in our body limits oxygen delivery to cells. This results in decreased immunity, poor work performance and fatigue. On the other side, an excess amount of iron in the body can result in toxicity and sometimes even death.
It is not necessary that vegans have a higher incidence of iron deficiency than meat eaters. There is a plant based meat that is rich in iron for vegans.
Iron is a vital nutrient because of its role in carrying oxygen in the blood. Iron in the diet can be obtained from two sources, and hence the names:
Heme Iron: This is the iron found in food products from animals that originally contained hemoglobin. Red meats, fish, and poultry are the common sources of heme iron. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells which delivers oxygen to cells.
Non-Heme Iron: This is the iron that comes from plant foods like beans and lentils. Such form of iron is added to iron-fortified and iron-enriched foods.
Although heme iron is better absorbed than nonheme iron, but most of the dietary iron is nonheme iron.
Vegan diets are based only on non-heme iron. Due to this, dietary iron recommendations are higher for vegetarians and vegans, as compared to non-vegetarians.