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A Vegetarian's Guide For Suitable Iron Ingestion

Dec 6, 2007
Is iron a necessary part of your diet? It should be for the number of benefits your body can get from it. Iron is a very essential mineral present in all cells and is responsible in aiding the body in transporting oxygen from the lungs to all other parts. It also plays a key role in energy production, therefore providing stamina and making our bodies active. It protects and strengthens all the organs in the body and is also crucial especially to women whose bodies usually lack iron during their menstruation, pregnancy and lactation. For children and teenagers, it plays a vital role in their growth and physical development.

It is true to say that red meat is indeed rich in iron. However, it is also found to be prevalent in plant sources such as grains, vegetables and even fruits. There are basically two forms of iron - heme, those found in animal sources and non-heme, those found in plant sources. A few plant sources rich in iron include, whole wheat breads, whole grains such as barley and oats, legumes such as soy beans, kidney beans and black-eyed peas, nuts and seeds such as cashews, pecans, pistachios and sunflower seeds, vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, and fruits such as watermelons, prunes, apricots and figs. Non-heme iron is not easily absorbed by the body as much as heme iron is. So although vegetarians may be eating suitable amounts of iron, their bodies may not be able to process it very well. Therefore it takes more non-heme iron to maintain normal iron levels in the body.

But vegetarians do not despair! There are already a number of ways to keep your iron levels up. One way is to increase your intake of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is known to be a potent enhancer of your body's ability to absorb more iron if it is to be taken at the same time with iron-rich foods. You can try mixing spinach leaves with orange slices and a handful of sesame seeds for that perfect iron-rich salad. Or how about topping your daily oatmeal or iron-rich cereal with strawberries and soymilk? However, there are also fruits (such as watermelons) that have high levels of iron and Vitamin C all in itself. It would be helpful if you could get a daily dose of that juicy, lip smacking watermelon slice after a hearty meal. Another way is to reduce your intake of caffeine during meals. Caffeine is said to inhibit iron absorption from food so it is necessary that you stay away from tea, coffee, or cola drinks for at least a couple of hours before meals. Another thing to consider especially for women would be the consumption of dairy products. Like caffeine, they could inhibit absorption of iron from your food intake. Dairy products are a good source of calcium, isn't it? Cutting on dairy products does not necessarily mean reducing your calcium intake as well. You can have your normal daily dose of calcium but from other alternative sources such as nuts, peas, seeds and beans. If you look even more closely, these sources have significant amounts of iron as well.
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