Iron is a very important nutrient as it is the main constituent of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood.  Lack of iron - anemia - is a global problem faced by young women and children in the first place. Iron is present in foods in two forms - heme iron (iron found in animal products) and non-heme iron (iron found in plant foods).  The body is able to metabolize heme iron efficiently, which accounts for 40 percent of all iron in meat, game and fish.  Non-heme iron, which accounts for 60 percent of all iron in plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts) is absorbed less efficiently.

The vegetarian diet, in its various forms, contains only non-heme iron.  Therefore, vegetarians need iron more than meat eaters.  The RDA (Recommended Dosage for a Specific Nutrient (Biologically Active Substance)) of iron is 14 mg per day for vegetarian men and women in menopause and 33 mg per day for women of reproductive age.

For better absorption of iron from plant-based foods, there are some smart tricks:

  • Regular consuming of vitamin C along with foods containing iron. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, strawberries, green leafy vegetables (broccoli, collard, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, etc.), bell peppers (yellow, red and green), cauliflower, cocoa beans, rose hips, lemon and berries - superfoods (goji, camu camu, gooseberries and mulberries, cranberries, lingonberries, chokeberries, black, red and white currants)
  • Absorption of iron is improved by combining its intake with the amino acid lysine, which is found in huge quantities in legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas and other varieties)
  • Do not consume calcium with iron-containing foods and do not drink tea (green and black) and coffee. Coffee and tea contain tannins, which are known to reduce the absorption of iron.  Calcium has the same property.

If, according to the results of the analysis, you have revealed a low level of hemoglobin in the blood, you should not immediately start eating meat.  As well as those who already eat it should not eat more of it.  It is enough to review the diet for addition of more plant foods containing iron.  However, if hemoglobin content in your blood is low enough, you can start taking vitamin supplements for quick results.