Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wah, iron. Get over it already!

Recently a friend of mine was experiencing health issues that could be easily helped by a change in diet. I am am firm believer in doing everything you can to change your diet and avoid taking pills to fix problems, before resorting to pills. I'm not saying that pills don't have their uses, I'm just saying that Americans are way too willing to take the quick fix rather than finding the root of the problem. The root of a lot of our health problems stem from the SAD (Standard American Diet). In a comment on her blog, I mentioned that a vegan diet might be worth considering as an option to try to correct the problem. Wow, the crazy mis-informed nonsense that came back from people commenting made me insane. I tried to reply to the comments, but well, she moderates comments and doesn't like any conflict on her site, so my reply was never posted. I'll have to reply here instead (too bad they won't be able to see the reply).

The topic today is iron. One of her commenters replied that she shouldn't consider a vegan diet because:

"There really aren't any vegetable-based sources of iron that are as effective as red meat. By all means make it humanely slaughtered organic red meat, but red meat is still your very best source of dietary iron."

The humane meat part of this comment will be my next post, if my head doesn't explode first. There are plenty of good sources of iron in a vegan diet. And, if you are really worried about absorbing enough iron, drink some orange juice too. Citrus helps the absorption of iron. The Vegan Society lists the following sources of iron: "dried fruits, whole grains (including wholemeal bread), nuts, green leafy vegetables, seeds and pulses [beans to us Americans]. Other foods rich in iron but which are usually eaten in smaller amounts include soya flour, parsley, watercress, black molasses and edible seaweeds. The use of ironware when cooking foods also contributes to dietary intake." So, eat those beans, seeds, and nuts. Here is more from the VeganSociety:

Up to 22% of the iron in meat is absorbed, while only 1-8% is absorbed from eggs and plant foods. If the body stores fall, the rate of iron absorption rises. About 40% of the iron in animal foods is in a form called haem iron, while the remainder, and all the iron in plant foods, is in the less well absorbed non-haem form. Iron absorption can also be reduced by tannins (e.g. in tea) and phytates (found in nuts, grain and seeds). At this point one tends to wonder whether the rumours of vegans suffering from anaemia have substance, however, this isn't the whole story and the reader will be heartened to learn that research has shown that iron deficiency in vegans is no more common than in the rest of the population.

The absorption of iron from plant foods is improved by the presence in a meal of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), other organic acids such as malic acid (e.g. in pumpkins, plums and apples) and citric acid (in citrus fruits). Laboratory research in which experimental meals were given to 299 volunteers has shown that the inclusion of foods (such as fresh salad, orange juice or cauliflower) providing 70-105mg of vitamin C in each meal increased the absorption of iron. A particularly pronounced effect was seen when 4.5oz cauliflower containing 60mg of vitamin C was added to vegetarian meals, causing more than three-fold increase in iron absorption.

So basically, other factors in the vegan diet make up for iron that is less well absorbed from plant sources than from meat. And, you are not more likely to have an iron deficiency on a vegan diet.

Furthermore, the American Dietetic Association says "It is the position of The American Dietetic Association (ADA) that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, are nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."

Iron is no longer an excuse that can be used to justify killing animals. Go vegan.


  1. I am so with you - people would be amazed at how many of the little symptoms in their life (fatigue, soreness, stomach upset, weight gain etc) would totally disappear with a change in diet. Unfortunately, most changes sound so radical (vegan especially) that taking a pill or two before bed appears like the best option.

    I posted a blog a few days ago about being asked by a friend whether or not I could get enough protein in my diet without eating meat...obviously the answer is yes. (-:

  2. Nice blog. I checked it out and the pictures are beautiful. I love your header too. I added you to my blogroll. Thanks for the comments.