Combating Iron Deficiency with a Plant-Based Diet

Photo posted by @Biancazapatka on Instagram

Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or eat a mostly plant-based diet, you probably know the struggles of having low iron. From unusual fatigue and weakness to cold hands and feet, or maybe your doctor has straight up told you — you need iron.

What is iron and why is it so important for the body? Iron is needed for growth and development. It creates two different proteins: hemoglobin, found in red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body and myoglobin, which carries oxygen to muscles. It’s recommended to double the suggested iron intake for those who don’t eat meat as iron from plants is harder for the body to absorb.

So, how does one get enough iron while eating plant-based? From snacks to possible breakfast, lunch and dinner options, VALLEY has compiled an assortment of suggestions to help you on your journey of combating iron deficiency.

Simple, Easy Snacking
  • Hummus
  • Sunflower and sesame seeds
  • Edamame
  • Nuts and dried fruits
Iron-Packed Breakfasts
Photo from Unsplash.com

Overnight oats and chia pudding are a quick and easy breakfast items that are full of iron due to the oats and chia seeds. Load on other toppings that are high in iron like certain fresh fruits, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and peanut butter!

Photo via veganbell.com

Breakfast scrambles, perfect as they are or use as a filling if you’re feeling a breakfast burrito or tacos! Use tofu or chickpeas for an egg substitute and dark leafy greens that are rich in iron, like spinach or kale. Add in your other favorite vegetables like bell peppers and tomatoes to complete the dish.

Lunch and Dinner Ideas
Photo from Onegreenplanet.org

This roasted red pepper, chickpea and spinach curry from Onegreenplanet.org is sure to put your cravings to rest all while aiding in the combat against iron deficiency!

What You’ll Need: 
  • 14 ounces red bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 diced red onion
  • 3 diced cloves of garlic
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper
  • 1 1/3 cups coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 pinch smoked paprika
  • 1 1/4 cups chickpeas
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 3/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes
What You’ll Do: 
  • First, bake the red bell peppers at 425°F for about 30 minutes. Once charred, remove skin, seeds and stems.
  • While the bell peppers are roasting, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until golden brown and season with salt and pepper.
  • Then, in a blender mix the peppers, onion and garlic, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, cornstarch and smoked paprika.
  • Lastly, add the mixture to skillet and add in chickpeas, spinach and tomatoes. Bake in the oven at 390°F for about 30 minutes.
  • Served best with rice or naan.
Photo from Freshnlean.com

Walking through your town you might see a CAVA or Mezeh where you have the option of putting your own twist on a Mediterranean bowl with the variety of options provided to you! No — this isn’t only available when out, you can make it at home too! Follow this recipe from Freshlean.com to see the way you can make a Mediterranean protein bowl right in your kitchen!

What You’ll Need
  • ½ cup dry white quinoa
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 15 ounces canned lentils
  • 15 ounces canned chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoon avocado oil
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 Persian cucumbers
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • Optional: ¼ cup hummus
What You’ll Do: 
  • First, combine white quinoa, veggie broth, and ⅛ salt and bring to boil in a saucepan. Once boiling, reduce to low heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes or until done and add in canned lentils.·
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix chickpeas with 1 tablespoon avocado oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, ¼ teaspoon paprika, and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder. Roast about 10 minutes, until crisp.
  • Dice tomatoes, cucumbers and dill. Mix together and add 2 teaspoon lemon juice, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon avocado oil in a large pan. Add chopped kale, ⅛ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Sauté until kale is soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Lastly, put together the bowl by adding the lentil quinoa mixture, kale, hummus, chickpeas, and cucumber tomato salad. Drizzle tahini on top for an optional dressing.

It’s always important to check with your doctor or another nutrition expert to see where in your diet you might need help! Research alternatives that will help combat your vitamin deficiency to create a new diet to make sure you are living your best and healthiest life possible!

Have any recipes or recommendations about iron packed meals? Tweet us, @VALLEYmag, with your suggestions!

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