Anemia is often reported as a risk factor associated with plant-based diet but it happens when the diet lacks the necessary balance. With some research and expert guidance, you can choose a plant-based diet that is rich in all nutrients including the ones whose deficiency leads to anemia.
In this article, we explain the ways to follow a plant-based diet without increasing the risk of anemia.
What Is Anemia?
Anemia is a medical condition that occurs when your blood does not carry enough oxygen to different parts of your body. Low levels of iron is the most common cause of anemia but many other factors like blood disorders, heavy periods and colon cancer can lead to anemia. In some cases, the condition can even be inherited.
Anemia is associated with three main blood issues; lack of red blood cell (RBC) production, blood loss and higher rates of RBC destruction.
The initial symptoms of anemia include tiredness, pale pallor, irritability, headaches, and difficulty focusing. When left untreated, the symptoms turn worse. The symptoms in the advanced stages of anemia include dizziness, brittle hair and nails, sore tongue, tinged eyes and shortness of breath.
How Is Anemia Linked To Iron?
Although there are several factors that lead to anemia, iron often plays a significant role in the condition.
Iron is an important part of a protein called hemoglobin that transfers oxygen from the lungs to all the tissues in the body. It also plays several roles in supporting metabolism and promoting development and growth. It is also important in creating hormones and ensuring the health of connective tissues.
When the body is deficient in iron, the RBCs will not be carrying enough oxygen throughout the body, thereby leading to issues like headache, fatigue, brittle nails and short breath. According to the Food And Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, adult females have to take 15-18 milligrams of iron every day while adult males have to take 8-11 milligrams. Meats and eggs are some iron-rich foods, indicating that there is a chance for developing iron deficiency on switching to a plant-based diet but including the right iron-rich plant foods will lessen the chances of being deficient in iron.
Plant Based Foods That Can Prevent Anemia
Here are some iron-rich plant foods that can successfully prevent the risk of developing anemia.
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich sources of iron. They are the perfect snack items that can be carried around easily. You can make creamy spreads by pulverizing nuts like almonds and cashew. Almond butter has 9.3 mg iron per teaspoon while cashew butter has 1 milligram of iron per teaspoon.
Legumes are important foods in a plant-based diet. Lentils, beans and peas are some of the nutrient rich legumes that contain numerous nutrients in addition to iron. Lentils contain about 17.9 grams of protein, 344 mg of omega fatty acids, 15.6 g of dietary fiber and vitamins A, C, E, K and B6. One cup of cooked lentils contains 6 grams of iron that is almost half of the recommended daily dosage for men.
Integrate the legumes into your daily meals to ensure that you get adequate iron.
Potatoes are rich in carbohydrates and various other nutrients including iron. Most of the nutrients in the potato are present in its skin, which means using potatoes with its skin is good for getting all of its nutrients. One cup of baked sweet potato without the skin has 1.4 milligrams of iron while a large unpeeled potato has about 3.2 milligrams of iron.
Quinoa is an iron-rich grain. It is a pseudocereal that is rich in protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. One cup of cooked quinoa has about 2.8 milligrams of iron while a cup of uncooked quinoa has about 7.8 milligrams of iron.
Quinoa can be eaten warm, cold, mixed with other fruits and can even be eaten soaked in porridges.
Not many people who eat an animal-based diet might have eaten palm hearts. Palm hearts, also called the heart of the palm are tropical vegetables that are found in the core of some palm tree varieties. Their texture and taste have a close resemblance to artichoke. They can be stir-fried, baked, barbequed, pulverized and sautéed. They are known for their high iron content. A cup of palm hearts contains about 4.6 milligrams of iron.
If someone following a plant-based diet is complaining of iron deficiency, realize that the real issue is the absence of iron-rich foods in their diet. If you have planned your diet in the right way by making sure your daily iron requirements will be met, there is absolutely no need of worrying about iron deficiency and anemia.