Some people are concerned that being vegan causes anemia. It’s often cited as a common reason people say they aren’t vegan or stopped being vegan. But this couldn’t be further from the truth! Did you know that iron is abundant in plant foods? Here’s everything you need to know about iron in food, anemia, and iron supplements.
While iron deficiencies are not uncommon—it’s certainly not a vegan-only affliction. Anemia, which is a result of consistently low iron levels, can affect anyone at any age or stage of health, regardless of diet. There are some helpful statistics to better understand the risk.
According to the National Institute of Health, low iron is least common in adult men, affecting about two percent. But for women, low iron ranges from nine to 12 percent in non-Hispanic white women to nearly 20 percent of Black and Mexican-American women. But does everyone need to supplement with iron?
What is Iron?
Iron is a mineral that plays a critical role in the body’s development. It helps the body produce hemoglobin, a protein that’s in red blood cells. This protein works to bring oxygen to your muscles. It also works to develop some hormones critical to a properly functioning body.
At first, low iron levels may not be noticeable. That’s because the body can pull iron stores from muscles, organs, and bone marrow. Unfortunately, those reserves can run out, too, creating a condition called anemia. Symptoms of anemia include digestive issues, weakness and lack of energy, body temperature dysregulation, problems concentrating, and memory loss. It can also decrease immunity, putting you at a greater risk of developing infections. Iron deficiencies in young children can lead to learning disabilities.
Which foods contain iron?
Non-heme iron is found in tofu, leafy greens including spinach, kale, bok choy, swiss chard, collard, and beet greens, some lettuces, and virtually all beans, from white and black beans and lentils to peas and kidney beans as well as nuts and dried fruits such as raisin, prunes, and figs. Heme iron is found in meat, poultry, and seafood.
The difference between these two types of iron has to do with atoms. Non-heme iron is made up of free iron atoms. In heme iron, the atoms are embedded into the protein structure. Both plants and animals deliver iron, but animal foods come with so many undesirables from the ethical issues to the cholesterol. For most people, iron from plants is plenty.
Should you supplement with iron?
While iron is important for our health, too much can be as problematic as too little. It’s always best to get a recommendation from your physician following a blood test to confirm your iron levels. For women who are menstruating or pregnant, there may be an increased need for iron, which you can take at the onset of your period.
Some medications can lead to iron depletion. And if you’re not eating a well-balanced diet, there’s a risk of low levels. If your physician recommends supplementing with iron, there are some options out there, but MyKind is the only company offering a truly clean, plant-based iron.
This is what makes our mykind Organics iron unique, because it is the only organic liquid iron on the market that comes from actual plants. Read the label—you will see there are no chemical isolates in this formula, just clean organic plants and herbs.
I use to not be a fan of iron supplementation since most were full of synthetic chemicals. Plus, iron supplements usually taste pretty nasty. Okay, really disgusting, if I’m honest! But I’m happy to say our Mykind Organics Plant Iron & Organic Herbs Cranberry Lime creation is pretty tasty, and it makes it easy to give your body pure organic nutrition support. Ours doesn’t have that gross aftertaste, and I recently put it to the taste test to confirm.
There are a growing number of iron supplements on the market so just be sure to read the labels and look for clean ingredients. Keep in mind that not all iron supplements are vegan, so if that’s important to you, be sure to look for clarification on the packaging or contact the manufacturer to confirm.