Can I Afford to Become a Vegetarian?

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Author: Andrew Raw

Does a vegetarian diet provide me as much iron as a regular diet?

Yes and no. It’s true that richest food in iron is red meat, but it is also found in some vegetables. By eating soy foods regularly you stand a good chance to get the same amount of iron as a person on a normal diet would. In 1999 a study was published on this topic in an American journal of nutrition, it has been demonstrated that there is no major difference between the amounts of iron ingested daily through a vegetarian diet compared to the iron intake of omnivores.

The problem of a vegetarian diet is rather a problem of storage. Your body stores a huge amount of iron for later use. Vegans use up the same amount of iron as everybody but store a lot less in their body. The iron your body takes form meat is processed much faster than the iron your body takes form fruits and vegetables. Some vegetables also contain some substances that can limit your iron intake. But you will have to eat huge quantities to affect you too much. Also your iron absorption levels are lowered by drinking caffeine beverages and by some spices too.

How do I keep a healthy level of iron in my body? And what does that mean?  Believe it or not but a vegan diet can give your body all the iron it needs to be healthy.  Vitamins and minerals matter because they help absorb iron: the first and foremost useful is the plain vitamin C. You need to eat foods that are rich in vitamin C and foods that are rich in iron at the same time. You can eat cereals with iron rich soy milk. You can also eat a spinach salad that also contains sesame seeds and oranges. There are even foods that contain iron and vitamin C: broccoli, potatoes.

But you should know that vitamin C isn’t the only vitamin that stimulates iron absorption. Copper plays an important role, Magnesium, Vitamin A, D, and the vitamin B complex. Your body is a living machine that adapts to your daily iron intake constantly: if it is too low you absorb more and you absorb less when you have an excess.

It is a good idea, and many doctors recommend it, that you take some iron supplements while you are on a vegan diet. More often than not these provisions are more than sufficient to protect you from anemia. Pregnant women and children should get more iron. To cover the special nutritional needs, they need an omnivore diet.

The recommended daily iron intake for women is of 15 mg before menopause and 10 mg after menopause. Men need about 10 mg, so you must be careful with excess iron, which can be harmful. You have to be very careful with your iron intake if you plan to become a vegetarian.

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