Written by: Melanie Legend @melanie.legend

Iron deficiency is one of the most common forms of anemia, especially amongst the plant-based population. (1) This can be attributed to many lifestyle factors, however, diet is the easiest one to control and correct.  We are going to explore what iron deficiency is and discuss lifestyle modifications that can assist in its prevention.

What is Iron?

Iron (Fe) is a mineral that is important for healthy growth and development. The body uses iron to make RBC (hemoglobin), a protein that helps carry oxygen to the tissues of the body. Iron is also essential to the production of certain hormones and therefore has a vital role to play in the body. (2)

What is your daily requirement for iron?

Iron requirements are dependent on age, sex, and dietary lifestyle. There are differences between iron from plants and iron from meat. Iron found in meat produces heme iron and non-heme iron, while iron found in plants are 100% non-heme. Non-heme iron is said to be not as readily absorbable as heme iron. However,  when vegans only consumer non-heme iron, our body learns and adjusts and increases its intake to suit its needs. The interesting thing about non-heme iron is that the body learns to regulate and no longer absorb iron when it’s iron storage is high and no longer needs any. With non-heme iron (in meat), our body will continue to absorb while it is not needed which can lead to excess iron intake that can lead to negative effects. Those that are vegan/plant-based likely will need almost double the intake of non-heme iron than the amounts listed below.

Life Stage Recommended Amount
Birth to 6 months 0.27 mg
Infants 7–12 months 11 mg
Children 1–3 years 7 mg
Children 4–8 years 10 mg
Children 9–13 years 8 mg
Teens boys 14–18 years 11 mg
Teens girls 14–18 years 15 mg
Adult men 19–50 years 8 mg
Adult women 19–50 years 18 mg
Adults 51 years and older 8 mg
Pregnant teens 27 mg
Pregnant women 27 mg
Breastfeeding teens 10 mg
Breastfeeding women 9 mg

Iron Deficiency Anemia:

Common signs:

  • Brittle or spooning of the nails
  • Cracks at the sides of the mouth
  • Pale skin
  • Swelling or soreness of the tongue

Common symptoms: (3)

  • Fatigue or feeling tired (most common symptom)
  • Coldness of the hand and feet
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Weakness
  • SOB (Shortness of breath)
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Irregular heartbeat (could be a sign of a more severe deficiency)

If you are experiencing any signs and symptoms and are concerned about the possibility of having an iron deficiency talk to your doctor.

What foods provide iron?

Iron is found in these plant-based foods include:

How can I increase absorption following a vegan & plant based lifestyle?

Foods containing vitamin C (citrus fruits, melons, strawberries, sweet peppers, tomatoes, dark leafy greens, and broccoli) will help with the absorption of non-heme iron. Vitamin C attaches to non-heme iron and becomes a more absorbable form for the body.

We suggest mixing your PROFI protein powder in your morning smoothie. Here’s a delicious recipe to try out:

Profi Iron Booster:

1 scoop of PROFI Vanilla Protein

1 cup of Frozen Wild Blueberries

1 cup of Orange Juice

1 bunch of Cilantro

1 cup of Frozen Strawberries and Blackberries, mixed berries

PROFI protein contains 3.5mg (19% of your daily requirement) of iron! Mixed with this delicious smoothie you are maximizing absorption and satisfaction!

Let us know what you think. Tag us on Instagram @profiprohealth!

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3685880/
(2) https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-Consumer/
(3) https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/iron-deficiency-anemia