Getting Enough Iron on a Plant Based-Diet?

..iron can be considered as a double-edged sword- too little of it and you risk anemia, too much and you may increase risk of cancer and heart disease.

Compared with people who eat meat, vegetarians tend to consume more iron (as well as more of most nutrients), but iron in plant foods is not absorbed efficiently as the heme iron in meat. While this can be an advantage in preventing iron overload, about one thirty menstruating women in the United States lose more iron than the take in, which can lead to anemia. Women who eat plant-based diets do not appear to have higher rates of iron deficiency anemia than women who eat a lot of meat, but all women of childbearing age need to ensure adequate iron intake. Those diagnosed with iron deficiency should talk with their doctors about first try to treat it with diet, as iron supplements have been shown to highly increase oxidative stress.

The healthiest sources of iron are:

  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dried fruits
  • Green vegetables

Avoiding drinking tea with meals, as that can inhibit iron absorption. On the contrary, consuming Vitamin C rich foods can improve iron absorption. So those trying to boost their iron absorption should reach for some extra vegetables, such as dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli or fruit such as strawberries, orange and lemon instead of a cup of tea.

Too much iron?

In 2012 two major studies from Harvard University were published. The first, known as the Nurses’ Health Study, began following the diets of 120.000 women aged thirty five starting back in 1976, the second, the Health Professional Follow Up

Study followed about 50.000 men aged forty to seventy five. Every four years, researchers checked in the study participants to keep track of their diets. After the results were analyzed, the researchers found that the consumption of both processed and unprocessed red meat was associated with an increased risk of dying with from cancer and heart disease and shortened life spans overall. They reached this conclusion after have controlled for factors such as age, weight, alcohol consumption, exercise, smoking, viagra moins cher pharmacie family history, caloric intake and whole plant foods intake. So what does meat contain that may raise the risk of premature death? One of the possibilities is heme iron, the form of iron found predominantly in blood and muscle. Because iron can generate cancer-causing free radicals by acting as a pro-oxidant, iron can be considered as a double-edged sword- too little of it and you risk anemia, too much and you may increase risk of cancer and heart disease.

How the human body works in regards to iron absorption? If you don’t have enough iron in your blood, your intestines begin boosting iron absorption: if you have too much iron in circulation, your intestines decrease absorption. This mechanism only works effectively with the non-heme iron variety found in plant foods, to a much lesser extend with animal foods. This may be why heme iron is associated with cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Donating blood is a good way to prevent the excess buildup of iron in the first place. The meat industry is working on coming up with additives “that suppress the toxic effects of heme iron” but a better strategy would be to emphasize plant sources inn your diet, which your body can better absorb and manage.

Source: “How not to Die”- Discovering the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent & Reverse Disease.
Michael Greger, MD,