Iron is a mineral that your body needs in order to maintain a healthy blood system. Iron is a key component in hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Because iron is an essential mineral in blood production, iron deficiency can lead to detrimental effects such as anemia - a condition in which blood lacks an adequate level of healthy red blood cells. When iron levels are low, you may experience a lack of focus, increased irritability, and reduced stamina.
Iron can be found in a variety of foods such as shellfish, spinach, liver, legumes, pumpkin seeds and red meat. Iron from dietary sources comes in two main forms: heme and nonheme. Plants and iron-supplemented foods only contain nonheme iron, whereas animal based products can contain either or both forms. Heme iron is more readily available and easily absorbed by the body but overconsumption poses serious health risks.
While iron has a “safe” upper limit of 40-45mg per day, we use a gentle dose of 8mg to ensure that you are getting no more than what you need for optimal health. When consuming doses higher than 45mg, one becomes at risk for iron toxicity which can cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, and pain. Men are particularly at risk considering that the average male in the US consumes significantly more iron than recommended (10-15 the recommended amount). This can have adverse side effects on men’s reproductive health so adhering to the daily recommended dosage is particularly important for men!
Fortunately, those following a plant-based diet can still meet daily iron requirements by eating sufficient non-heme rich plant foods such as dark leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and legumes. Non-heme sources of iron can meet a vegan’s nutritional needs without posing risk to our health since our bodies can better control the absorption of nonheme iron as compared to heme iron from animal-based sources.
Although plant-based foods contain iron in a form that is less available to the body, there are ways in which vegans can enhance the absorption of nonheme iron such as consuming vitamin C alongside these iron-rich plants. That’s one of the reasons we decided to include Vitamin C in the formulation of our Multivitamin for Vegans.
Considering there is a lesser degree of bioavailability of plant-based iron, vegans may need to ensure that sufficiency is prioritized. Nonheme iron, found in plant-sources, is around 1/2 as bioavailable as heme iron which is found in animal sources. Research into the iron levels of vegans showed that female vegans are particularly prone to iron-deficiency and anemia when compared to omnivores. This is especially true during times of menstruation when women lose a lot of iron. Additionally, endurance athletes lose iron through sweat and repetitive motions of their muscles. Thus, iron supplementation for women and athletes that follow a plant-based diet is especially pertinent.
Regular supplementation of iron helps to maintain a healthy blood system and keep your energy levels up so that you can step into each day feeling vitalized. This is especially important for vegans who are more prone to iron deficiency. While it’s safe to take iron everyday if you are adhering to the daily recommended dosage, iron is a vitamin for which more is not always better. This is because overconsumption of iron can be harsh on your body and lead to adverse side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and pain.
Those that eat a diet rich in iron may not need supplementation. If you eat shellfish, red meat, or eggs in combination with darky leafy greens, nuts, and seeds you may be meeting your daily iron requirements through your diet. It’s important to regulate your iron intake to avoid iron overconsumption or toxicity so make sure to consume no more than 40-45mg per day to stay within the recommended range!
If you adhere to the daily recommended dosage of iron, you may experience an increase in overall energy, enhanced immunity, and healthy and radiant skin, hair and nails.
However, overconsumption of iron can lead to adverse health effects such as stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting and/or liver damage. That’s why it’s incredibly important to monitor your iron intake and stay within the recommended range. If your diet is filled with iron rich foods such as red meat, shellfish, and dark leafy greens - you may not need to supplement with iron pills. By consulting with your doctor or nutritionist, you can avoid experiencing the negative side effects of overconsuming iron.
Iron supplementation is highly recommended for vegans since those following a plant-based diet do not consume many of the most iron-rich foods (such as red meat or shellfish). Because various animal products contain high levels of iron, vegans are particularly prone to deficiency. If you choose to consume mostly plant based foods, supplementation might be beneficial for you to ensure you are meeting your daily iron requirements and feeling your best.
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