Iron is an essential mineral for everybody. It plays vital roles in the body, including moving oxygen around the body in the red blood cells. Most people can meet their daily iron needs through food. However, vegans tend to find it difficult to reach the recommended iron intake each day. This makes taking liquid iron supplements an important consideration.
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient issues in the world. Vegans are more prone to suffering from a lack of iron. It is possible to reach the recommended amount of iron on a plant-based diet. It takes careful planning to ensure you’re eating vegan foods that are high in iron.
For many vegans, a liquid iron supplement or iron vegan gummies are necessary to reach the minimum recommended intake.
In this article we will cover:
- What iron is and its functions in the body
- How much iron vegans need to avoid low iron levels
- The correlation between vegans and iron
- Vegan foods that are high in iron
- The best vegan iron supplements and why vegans might need to take them
What is Iron and What Does it Do in the Body?
Iron is one of the many minerals our bodies need.
Just over two-thirds of the total iron in your body is found in the red blood cells or inside the muscle fibers. The other third is found in enzymes or stored in the liver, spleen, bone marrow, and reticular cells.
Iron’s main function is to move oxygen in the bloodstream to the tissues. It also help the immune system.
So, iron is crucial for optimal health. As a result, vegan iron supplements are popular.
How Much Iron Do Vegans Need?
It’s much more difficult to get iron in the vegan diet. That’s why experts suggest vegans should consume around 1.8 times more iron every day.
The exact amount of iron vegan people need to consume is debatable until further research has been done. We don’t yet know the long-term effects of supplementing with iron vegan gummies versus food sources. We also don’t know the long-term impacts of being vegan and iron deficiency.
The NHS dietary guidelines for iron consumption varies depending on your age and sex.
- For adult women between 18 and 50 years old who are menstruating each month, the recommendation is 14.8 mg of iron every day.
- Adult men above the age of 18 and women above the age of 50 (or women who have been through menopause and are not menstruating) should be consuming around 8.7 mg of iron a day.
So, considering that vegans need to eat 1.8 times more iron than their meat-eating counterparts, plant-based individuals should aim to consume around 32 mg of iron per day. For vegetarians, the recommendation is around 14 mg of iron every day.
Veganism and Low Iron Levels
Low iron levels is more common in vegans because a lot of iron-rich foods are meats or dairy products. Because iron in the vegan diet is often too low, liquid iron supplements can be used to bump up your iron intake.
Lack of iron can range from mild to severe and it occurs in three stages:
- Depletion of iron stores – the body can store iron in the form of ferritin in the organs. When you lack iron in your diet, your body begins to pull iron from these stores. At this stage, you won’t experience any noticeable symptoms.
- Early low levels – at this stage, iron stores are becoming more and more depleted. The body may begin to produce red blood cells that contain less haemaglobin. You may start to notice some initial signs of anaemia, such as feeling low in energy or finding it difficult to concentrate.
- Iron anaemia – by now, your body’s iron stores will be low and it begins to function sub-optimally. This will be noticeable in your physical health. You will feel fatigued and lethargic, and you may have impaired cognitive function.
The common symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia include:
- Brittle or spoon-shaped nails
- Hair loss
- Irregularities in the heartbeat or palpitations
- Impaired immunity
- Lack of concentration
- Low energy and fatigue
- Mild memory loss
- Muscle weakness
- Pale skin
- Poor appetite
- Poor circulation (resulting in cold hands and feet)
- Rapid breathing
- Restless leg syndrome (this is very common in pregnant women)
If you are experiencing a combination of the above symptoms, you should immediately consult your doctor so that you can get the best vegan iron supplement for your needs.
What Vegans Foods Are High in Iron?
If you’re wondering how to get iron on a vegan diet, there are plenty of plant-based foods that are abundant in this essential mineral.
You might need to carefully plan your meals each week to ensure that you are achieving the recommended daily amount of iron in your diet. But alongside this, you also need to be aware of the different factors that can affect iron absorption in your body.
Here Are Some Vegan Foods High in Iron:
- Leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard
- Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, and green peas
- Nuts and seeds
- Plant-based milks, such as almond, cashew, hazelnut, coconut, oat, and rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole grains, especially those that are fortified with iron, such as breakfast cereals
Even if you know how to get enough iron in a vegan diet, there are additional factors that you need to take into consideration when you’re a vegan. This is because there are certain foods that can decrease the amount of iron that your digestive system can absorb.
Here are some of the important things that you need to know before taking iron supplements (with regard to iron absorption:
- Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron in your digestive system. Therefore, aim to consume foods that are high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, alongside your iron-rich foods.
- Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages when you eat iron-rich foods or take vegan iron capsules
- Avoid taking calcium supplements alongside capsule or liquid iron supplements, as calcium may reduce iron absorption.
- Make sure to eat lots of legumes, such as chickpeas and lentils, as they are packed full of Lysine, an essential amino acid that is predominantly found in meat and dairy foods.
Vegan Liquid Iron Supplements
Doctors will work with you to increase the amount of iron in your diet before recommending any sort of vegan iron supplement. However, if you have chronically low iron levels and you’re struggling to consume more iron as a vegan, your doctor might turn to supplementation.
It’s important that you consult your doctor prior to commencing any sort of tablet, capsule, or liquid iron supplement. Unlike other micronutrients where toxicities are very rare, iron toxicity is more likely if you consume too much of it.
No matter how delicious those iron vegan gummies are, you need to be careful not to overdo it! Excess iron gets stored in the body.
Therefore, if you’re taking too many supplements that are high in iron, you’re at risk of iron toxicity. This can lead to nausea, digestive issues, dehydration, liver damage, and comas.
Doctor Recommended Liquid Iron Supplement Intake
Your doctor may prescribe vegan iron capsules or a liquid alternative, such as Floravital liquid iron. Alongside this, they may offer a vitamin C supplement to boost iron absorption.
Even once your iron levels have returned to within a healthy range, your doctor will likely continue your iron vegan supplements for several months.
Your doctor may also refer you to a dietitian, who will work with you to make any necessary dietary changes to increase your diet. They will create a meal plan that has more vegan foods high in iron and vitamin C.
Your dietitian might even suggest that you begin to incorporate some meat or dairy products. However, if you would like to remain plant-based, then stick to the alternatives.
As a vegan, you can obtain an adequate amount of iron through eating a variety of iron-rich foods.
However, if you’re struggling with knowing how to get iron on a vegan diet. You may need to take a vegan iron supplement.
Always speak to your doctor before you start on any form of supplements. They will be able to monitor the amount of iron in your blood at regular intervals to ensure that the liquid iron supplements are working. Working alongside a dietitian to create an iron-rich and vitamin C meal plan may also be necessary.