The health benefits of eating plant-based, whether vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian, are well established: Lower incidences of serious conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. but you may have heard that vegans fall short on some nutrients, like iron. While it may not be as easy to find vegan sources of iron, it’s possible to get enough iron on a vegan or vegetarian diet from plant-based foods, you just have to know the best vegan sources of iron to add to your diet.
“You can absolutely meet your nutrient needs for iron on a plant-based diet,” says Sharon Palmer, RD, The Plant-Powered Dietitian. As a plant-based eater, you’re already enjoying many iron-rich vegan foods, from whole grains and leafy greens to beans and tofu. We’ll show you how to optimize your intake with these simple tips to
Why We Need Iron
The major reason we need iron is to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to every part of the body. Our cells and tissues rely on oxygen to create energy. Iron is also essential for muscle function, brain development, and other important functions in the body.
Low iron stores can lead to iron deficiency, while extremely low or exhausted iron levels can become iron-deficiency anemia. Mildly low iron levels may not have any symptoms, but as levels get lower, symptoms may appear. According to the Institute of Medicine, iron levels have been shown to be markedly lower in vegetarian men, women, and children compared to those eating a non-vegetarian diet. However, studies have also shown that iron deficiency anemia is no more prevalent among vegetarian men than among non-vegetarian men. Vegetarian women, studies show, have a considerably higher prevalence of anemia.
Common symptoms of iron deficiency include:
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- heart palpitations
- Cold hands and feet
- Restless legs
- Dry skin or brittle nails
- Tongue swelling or soreness
Heme and Non-Heme Iron
Dietary iron comes in two forms: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme simply means iron that’s attached to red blood cells (hemoglobin), so heme iron is only found in animal sources, such as beef, chicken, and certain seafood.
Non-heme iron can also be in meat, poultry, and fish, but is found mostly in plant foods and iron-fortified foods. Most dietary iron is non-heme iron. Heme iron contributes just 10-15 percent of the iron we get through food. But heme iron is more bioavailable, which means the body absorbs it better than non-heme iron. Research estimates heme iron bioavailability to be about 15-35 percent, compared to non-heme iron, which ranges between 2-20 percent.
Iron bioavailability for vegans, vegetarians, and other plant-based eaters is likely lower than those whose dietary patterns include animal sources, such as flexitarians or pescatarians. To account for this discrepancy, it’s recommended that plant-based eaters consume 1.8 times—or almost twice—the recommended iron intake for people who eat meat or animal-sourced foods. For women between ages 19 and 50, that’s about 32 milligrams per day and it’s 14 milligrams for women ages 51 and older.
How much iron do you need?
- Women 19-50: 18 milligrams (mg)
- Men 19-50: 8 mg
- Women and men 51+: 8 mg
- Pregnant women: 27 mg
- Breastfeeding women: 9 mg
“Many people who are on plant-based diets meet their iron needs and do not have anemia,” says Palmer. To make up the difference, it’s important for plant-based eaters to prioritize non-heme iron sources.
“Don’t get caught up with estimating how many milligrams you’re getting every day, but try to make sure there are sources of whole grains, legumes, notably soy foods, at each meal, a green leafy vegetable each day, nuts and seeds daily, and fruits and vegetables at every meal to provide vitamin C, which increases iron absorption,” she says. It’s also a good idea to get your lab levels tested each year to make sure you’re not falling short, Palmer advises.
Top 10 Vegan Sources of Iron
- Black strap molasses. Just 2 tablespoons contain 7 mg of iron. Try it in pancake, waffle, or muffin batters, whirl into smoothies, add to marinades and sauces, or drizzle over oatmeal or other porridge.
- Lentils (and other legumes). One cup of lentils packs nearly 7 mg of iron. Red, green, and brown varieties are also high in fiber, folate, and potassium. Try them in soups, as a meat replacement in burritos, tacos, and stuffed bell peppers or squash, baked into casseroles, or instead of rice beneath curries or stir-fries.
- Tofu (and tempeh). One half-cup has just over 4 mg of iron. Give this soy-based vegan superstar a try as a meat substitute on the grill, in a stir fry, scrambled like eggs, or as a marinated side dish. You’ll get your iron, as well as a healthy dose of protein, minerals, and the powerful health-protecting compounds known as isoflavones.
- Pumpkin Seeds. Adding 2 tablespoons (about 1 ounce) provides 4 mg of iron. Tasty on their own, in trail mix and granola, on salads, mixed into chili, or as the finishing touch on veggie and whole-grain sides, pepitas (their Spanish name) are an easy iron boost.
- spinach. About 3 cups serve up nearly 3 mg of iron. And that’s raw spinach leaves, enough for a fresh salad. Cook it down in a saute, soup, casserole, or frittata, and you’ll easily double the amount, along with the iron. Bonus: spinach contains vitamin C, which helps the body absorb iron.
- quinoa Each 1-cup serving has close to 3 mg of iron. Enjoy this gluten-free grain, which is also rich in protein and many other nutrients, as a morning porridge, savory side dish, an addition to salads and baked goods, or as a fun substitute for rice.
- Fortified Cereals. About 1-cup has more than 8 mg of iron. Rice cereal, corn flakes, bran flakes, and instant oatmeal (a smaller portion contains the same amount of iron) are popular sources. Enjoy these for breakfast with plant-based milk, as a snack, in baked goods, and in cooking.
- Dark Chocolate. Just 1 ounce has more than 3 mg of iron. A thick square or part of a thin bar gives you a tasty treat and your iron, as well as a host of health-protecting antioxidants and minerals. Enjoy on its own and in place of chocolate containing less than 70 percent cocoa.
- dried fruit A quarter-cup delivers 1 mg of iron. Dried fruits, such as apricots, raisins, figs, and prunes, are compact, portable, shelf-stable, and a healthy treat to enjoy as a snack or addition to sweet and savory dishes alike, from plant-based yogurt or ice cream parfaits to whole grain pilafs.
- tahini Two tablespoons have nearly 2 mg of iron. This sesame seed butter and hummus essential is also a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Spread it on toast, whirl into smoothies, use it in salad dressings and sauces, and use it to make Mediterranean eggplant dip.
Other Foods High in Iron are All Legumes
- Black beans
- Navy beans
- kidney beans
Make sure to eat these foods with vitamin C for best absorption by the body.
The absorbability of non-heme iron sourced from plants is affected by several factors, some that enhance it and some that interfere with it. Research supports adding foods that are rich in vitamin C to each meal to increase non-heme iron absorption. Plant foods contain many nutrients and compounds, such as phytates, that bind with certain minerals like iron and reduce their bioavailability.
This doesn’t make them less healthy, however. Phytate-containing foods include whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, and they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber we need very much in our diet. Polyphenols in foods, including coffee, tea, and wine, and some proteins, like soy protein, may also inhibit absorption. Calcium supplementation, which is common among vegans, can make both heme iron and non-heme iron less available to the body, so check that you’re not getting more than the recommended daily intake and ask your doctor’s recommendation on whether to continue if your iron levels are low.
Top 4 Ways to Boost Iron
Quinoa detox salad
1. Pair Vegetable Iron with Vitamin C
A couple of simple pairings:
- Oatmeal topped with strawberries
- Whole grain toast and orange juice
- Pasta salad with broccoli
- Tomato soup with white beans
- Quinoa stuffed bell peppers
- Snow pea and spinach stir fry over brown rice
Fruits & Vegetables High in Vitamin C:
- Bell peppers
- Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, clementines)
- Tomato (and tomato products)
- Snow peas
- Red cabbage
- Brussels sprouts
2. Cook with a Cast Iron Pan
Cook in a cast iron pan can boost iron even more. Research supports this as an effective treatment for iron deficiency anemia.
3. Add fermented foods
Fermented foods, such as kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, and tempeh, have also been shown to enhance non-heme iron absorption.
4. Sip Coffee Separately
Coffee and tea make iron absorption more difficult. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your fix. Research suggests enjoying them before or after a meal, rather than during, which helps the body absorb more iron.
Bottom Line: With a little planning you can get enough iron on a plant-based diet
If you’re concerned you’re not getting enough iron, get your iron levels checked. Your doctor will let you know if you’re anemic or falling short and whether you should take a plant-based supplement. If your levels are fine, continue to enjoy a plant-based diet. eat a balanced diet, use a cast-iron skillet and get plenty of vitamin C with meals.
Guiding the way to thrive
Jan Juc naturopath Rebecca Winkler has always found joy in the practice of cooking nourishing meals for others.
That pastime spilled over into developing recipes and it was during lockdown that her culinary passion led her to become a qualified plant-based chef and a raw dessert chef.
Now the mum-of-two has expertly thrown all of her skills into the mix to achieve a long-held goal of producing a book.
Released as an eBook, with a print version to hopefully follow, 14 Day Whole Food Feast is a comprehensive two-week meal plan designed to nourish the body and delight the tastebuds.
Within its pages are recipes for whole food snacks, lunch and dinner meals, lunchbox ideas, and time-saving tips.
14 Day Whole Food Feast by Rebecca Winkler is available now as an eBook.
“My motivation was both personal and professional,” Rebecca says.
“On a professional note, I found so many patients were having difficulty finding family-friendly, whole food recipes to help them navigate various dietary needs.
“The recipes are easy to follow, a shopping list is provided and time frames are taken into account so slower cooked meals or more time-consuming recipes are saved for weekends.”
Rebecca says the eBook can function purely as a recipe resource or be followed meticulously for a 14-day reset.
“Food prep guidance is given at the start of each week in order to get ahead and be organized as possible.
The eBook includes lunch, dinner and snack ideas, as well as shopping lists and naturopathic advice.
“Dinners are often incorporated into leftovers for lunch the next day and naturopathic guidance is provided around ways to maximize your time by incorporating regular exercise and practicing self-care.”
The idea for the book began to brew in 2019 during a solo trip Rebecca took with colleagues which gave her the space to establish a clear vision for the content she wanted to share.
“I began developing and refining recipe, enlisting a beautiful photographer and graphics team to allow my dream to be realised.
“The long-term plan is to release a number of other eBooks and, eventually, print a hard copy, real-life book to be loved and to splash your chocolate and bolognaise sauce on. The kind of recipe book that you find yourself grabbing time and time again.”
The eBook is filled with nutritious recipes and much more.
So, what are some of Rebecca’s personal favorites featured in her carefully curated eBook?
“Ooh, that’s like trying to choose a favorite child,” she laughs.
“I know it might seem boring, but the slow-cooked bolognaise with hand-made gluten-free fettucine is an absolute favourite.
“We make it weekly in my house and every time my kids exclaim ‘this is the best bolognaise ever’.”
The slow cooked beef pie, kafir lime chicken balls and whole food cranberry bliss balls are also hard to pass up, she says.
Rebecca avoids listing ideal ingredients for people to incorporate into their diet, instead saying the most beneficial ingredients are those that make you feel at your best.
“Not everyone tolerates grains, some don’t tolerate fruit, others have difficulty digesting meat and protein.
“My advice is to listen and take note of how your body feels when you eat.
“Are you bloated, do you have pain in your gut, loose stools, headaches or fatigue?
Rebecca is a qualified naturopath, as well as being a plant-based chef and raw dessert chef.
“I am more inclined to advise people to source good quality ingredients, grow what they can, and cook from scratch as much as time and money allows.
“Eat three meals a day and snack only if you are hungry, growing, pregnant or exercising.
“Try to consume 30-35ml of water per kg of body weight. Add plenty of vegetables, fresh herbs, variety and colour.
“Our gut flora thrives on variety, so mix up your veggies, fruits, grain, legumes and proteins. Eat the rainbow.”
To get the most out of the eBook, the author suggests reading it from cover-to-cover and choosing a 14-day period where you are at home and have minimal social engagements.
Rebecca is passionate about naturopathy which she describes as a holistic, comprehensive view of the body in its entirety and “a wonderful adjunct to Western Medicine for patients as it ensures medical due diligence is exercised, adequate diagnostic testing where appropriate and an individualized approach to restoring health”.
Rebecca’s advice is to “eat the rainbow” when it comes to healthy food choices.
She says many of her clients are seeking ways to regain optimal health following extended periods of lockdown during the pandemic.
“There is no doubt that most of us found ourselves allowing more in alcohol and comfort foods over lockdown, which is nothing to feel ashamed about.
“In such a difficult, confining and overwhelming time, we sought comfort where ever it may lie for us.
“This is not a failure, it was merely a way for so many to cope. I never judge anyone’s choices, I merely try to support, understand and listen.
“Often we already know what we need to do to rebuild or move forward, simply sharing and being heard without shame or judgment is therapeutic.
“I cannot describe to you the genuine joy that seeing people thrive provides.”
14 Day Whole Food Feast retails for $19.95 and on the Rebecca Winkler website. Discover more and contact Rebecca via her Facebook page, Instagram @rebeccawinklernaturopath or email [email protected]
Get to know farro and other superfood whole grains
By Casey Barber, CNN
Quinoa has reached a level of superfood status not seen since the great kale takeover of the aughts. Equally embraced and mocked in pop culture, it’s become the symbol of the grain bowl generation. It’s not the only whole grain that’s worth bringing to the table, however.
The world of whole grains is wide, and if quinoa and brown rice have been the only grains on your plate, it’s time to expand your palate. Here’s an introduction to whole grains, along with tips for cooking and enjoying them.
What’s a whole grain?
The term “whole grains” encompasses all grains and seeds that are, well, whole. They retain all their edible parts: the fiber-rich outer bran layer; the carbohydrate-rich endosperm center, which makes up the bulk of the grain itself; and the inner core, or germ, which is packed with vitamins, protein and healthy fats.
On the other hand, refined grains such as white rice and all-purpose flour have been milled to remove the bran and germ, stripping away much of the fiber, protein and vitamins, and leaving only the starchy endosperm.
“A lot of people don’t realize that whole grains contain several grams of protein in addition to vitamins and antioxidants,” said Nikita Kapur, a registered dietitian nutritionist in New York City. With every serving of whole grains, “you get a ton of minerals, B vitamins and fiber, which is especially important for good health.”
So-called “ancient grains” fall under the umbrella of whole grains, though the phrase is more of a marketing term than a marker of a more nutritious option. Ancient grains refer to whole grains like millet, amaranth, kamut and, yes, quinoa that have been the staple foods of cultures for several hundred years. They are not hybridized or selectively bred varieties of grains, like most modern wheat, rice and corn.
And though quinoa has gotten all the press as a whole grain superfood, there’s good reason to try others. Trying a variety of whole grains isn’t just a way to mix up your same-old side dish routine. It’s also a chance to get a wider portfolio of minerals and more into your diet.
“Suffice to say, we need to have a more diverse plant-based diet” to get the full complement of recommended nutrients in our meals, Kapur said, “and we can’t get it from the same 10 or 20 foods.
“One grain might have more manganese, another more zinc or magnesium, and another more protein,” she added. “Try one as a pasta, one as a porridge — you do you, as long as there’s a variety.”
Familiar foods like oats, corn, brown and other colors of rice, as well as wild rice (which is an aquatic grass), are all considered whole grains, but there are many others you’ll want to add to your regular repertoire.
Some whole grains to get to know
amaranth is a tiny gluten-free grain that can be simmered until soft for a creamy polenta-like dish, but it also makes a deliciously crunchy addition to homemade energy bars or yogurt bowls when it’s been toasted. To toast amaranth seeds, cook over medium heat in a dry pan, shaking frequently until they begin to pop like minuscule popcorn kernels.
Buckwheat is gluten-free and botanically related to rhubarb, but these polygonal seeds (also called groats) don’t taste anything like fruit. You might already be familiar with buckwheat flour, used in pancakes and soba noodles, or Eastern European kasha, which is simply toasted buckwheat.
Faro is the overarching Italian name for three forms of ancient wheat: farro piccolo, or einkorn; farro medio, or emmer; and farro grande, or spelled. The farro you typically find at the store is the emmer variety, and it’s a rustic, pumped-up wheat berry that’s ideal as a grain bowl base. Or make an Italian-inspired creamy Parmesan farro risotto.
Freekeh is a wheat variety that’s harvested when unripe, then roasted for a surprisingly smoky, nutty flavor and chewy texture. Freekeh’s taste is distinctive enough that it steals the spotlight in your meals, so use it in ways that highlight its flavor. It’s fantastic in a vegetarian burrito bowl paired with spicy salsa, or in a warming chicken stew.
kamut is actually the trademarked brand name for an ancient type of wheat called Khorasan, which features large grains, a mild taste and tender texture. It’s a good, neutral substitute for brown rice in a pilaf or as a side dish. Or try this high-protein grain in a salad with bold flavors like arugula, blood orange and walnut.
millet is a gluten-free seed with a cooked texture similar to couscous. Teff is a small variety of millet that’s most frequently used as the flour base for Ethiopian injera flatbread. Try raw millet mixed into batters and doughs for a bit of crunch, like in this millet skillet cornbread recipe, or use either teff or millet cooked in a breakfast porridge.
How to cook any whole grain
While cooking times vary for each grain, there’s one way to cook any whole grain, whether it’s a tiny seed or a large, chewy kernel: Boil the grains like pasta.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a handful of kosher salt. Add the grains and cook, tasting as you go, until tender. Small grains like amaranth and quinoa can cook fully in five to 15 minutes, while larger grains like farro and wild rice can take anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour — so keep an eye on your pot and check it frequently.
Drain well in a mesh strainer (to catch all those small grains) and either use immediately or allow to cool slightly, then refrigerate for later meals. Cooked whole grains can also be portioned, frozen and stored in airtight bags for up to six months.
If you want to cook your whole grains in an Instant Pot or other multicooker, this chart offers grain-to-water ratios for many of the grains mentioned here.
The CNN Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.
Casey Barber is a food writer, illustrator and photographer; the author of “Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food” and “Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats”; and editor of the website Good. foods Stories.
Travel: A quaint county seat with Mayberry charm | Lifestyles – Travel
I finally ventured out for my first road trip of 2022 earlier this month. It’s been way too long since I took a little trip and it was long overdue. My last little getaway was in Chicago the week of Christmas. The day I returned I wasn’t feeling very well and an at-home test confirmed that I had COVID — again.
The first time was in November 2020 and it was a severe case that landed me in the hospital with pneumonia and difficulty breathing and then many months of recovery. Luckily this time around it just lasted a couple of weeks. At the same time I was pushing through COVID we were in the process of moving. And my Dad, who had tested positive for COVID not long before me, passed away. So, it’s been a heck of a start to 2022. A getaway was much needed.
It was a brief 24 hours in the Indianapolis area, but as always I packed a bit in and had a lot of good food. On our way down we stopped off in Rensselaer for lunch at Fenwick Farms Brewing Co. and took a little walk to check out the murals that are part of the Ren Art Walk. That evening I attended a media opening of the newly reopened Dinosphere exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
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It’s a place I adore and still enjoy visiting even though my kids are teenagers and young adults now. I love being greeted by the huge Bumblebee character on the way in from what is probably my favorite action move, “The Transformers.” The largest children’s museum in the world has so much to see and I’ve loved having the chance to explore it both with and without my kids.
After the event it was a quick overnight at Staybridge Suites in Plainfield, and in the morning we headed to Danville. Danville is the county seat of Hendricks County. I adore county seats with downtown squares and this is one of my favorites. On an earlier visit there we were in town for the Mayberry in the Midwest festival, which had lots of activities related to the classic TV show “The Andy Griffith Show” that was set in the fictional town of Mayberry.
Danville definitely has that charming, inviting, friendly small town vibe that feels like it could be a sitcom setting. We ate at the Mayberry Cafe where old episodes play on television screens and the menu is full of down-home, made-with-love comfort foods, with a specialty being “Aunt Bee’s Famous Fried Chicken.” I tried it and it was very tasty. The whole place made me smile like Opie after a fishing outing with his dad.
This time our dining destination was The Bread Basket. I had tried their desserts at a few events, but it was my first time dining in. It’s located in a house that was built for the president of Central Normal College in 1914 and is cute and cozy. It’s a breakfast and lunch spot, so plan to go early and be prepared for a wait during peak times (but it’s well worth it).
My Dilly Turkey Sandwich on fresh wheat nut bread with an Orchard Salad was delicious. I loved that they had a combo option where you could pick a half sandwich and half salad or cup of soup. But the desserts are the real star here. I stared at that dessert case for several minutes — and I wasn’t the only one.
I was seated next to it, and watched intently each time they removed a pie or cake from the case to cut a slice. I tried the Hummingbird Cake, which was a perfect treat without being too rich, and then noticed another that was so unique I had to get a slice to take home — the Blackberry Wine Chocolate Cake. If you go there and are overwhelmed with choices, go with this. You won’t regret it.
After lunch, we made our way over to the Hendricks County Historical Museum & Old County Jail, which is just off the square. For someone like me who loves history, this was a wonderful stop to incorporate into our day. It was built in 1866 and used as a jail all the way up until 1974. You can go into the old jail cells (two on the female side and four on the male side) and tour the sheriff’s home.
An exhibit has information and artifacts from when Central Normal College existed (later Canterbury College). There’s also a temporary chronological exhibit about music and musicians, featuring many Hoosier hitmakers.
After the visit, I took a breezy little walk around the square, where I was reminded that there is a nostalgic old movie theater. The historic Danville Royal Theater dates back to the early 1900s and shows current movies for just $5 a ticket.
It was then getting close to dinner time, so we decided to eat before we headed back home. A place in the nearby town of North Salem had been recommend to me and I am so glad we took time to visit. I chatted for a few minutes with Damiano Perillo, owner of Perillo’s Pizzeria. He’s a native of Palermo, the capital of Sicily. The food is authentic and almost all of it is made fresh daily, including their garlic rolls, marinara and alfredo sauces. The New York-style pizzas are perfection.
They even have a nearby garden where they grow many of the fresh vegetables and herbs used in their dishes. They have gluten free pastas, too, and the lady at the next table had some and was raving about it. We also tried the homemade Sicilian cannoli and the limoncello flute, and trust me when I say to definitely not skip dessert.
There was one last food stop. Although we had just eaten, I realized we’d be driving right by Rusted Silo Southern BBQ & Brewhouse in Lizton and just couldn’t pass it up. I made my husband pull in and pick up some food to go. We got the brisket and their house made pimento cheese, chorizo and kielbasa and took it home. I was introduced to it last fall and there is a reason they have been voted Best BBQ in the Indy area four years in a row. I loved hearing about how this eatery located next to a railroad literally stops trains in their tracks to get food from this award-winning BBQ joint.
All three of these places — The Bread Basket, Perillo’s Pizzeria and Rusted Silo are ones that you should absolutely include in your itinerary if you happen to be in the Indianapolis area.
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Guiding the way to thrive
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