Plant Based Diet
Plant Based Diet
By | November 20th, 2012 | Modified - December 4th, 2014

Non-Heme Vegetable Iron Is A Reliable Source Of Iron In Combination With Vitamin C

Non-Heme Vegetable Iron Bioavailability - Vegan and Vegetarian Sources Of Iron
Non-Heme Vegetable Iron Bioavailability – Vegan and Vegetarian Sources Of Iron

There are two forms of iron in our food, heme iron and non-heme iron. Meat contains heme and non-heme iron, and plants only contain non-heme iron. Heme iron contains the hemeprotein, which allows it to be better absorbed by the body than non-heme iron.

This may appear to be a concern for plant based eaters – vegans since their diets only contain non-heme iron, but it doesn’t have to be. Vegans who eat a well balanced plant-based diet eat a higher ratio per calorie of iron than people who eat primarily meat.

So even though non-heme iron is not absorbed as well as heme iron, a vegan and vegetarian diet offers higher amounts of iron which cancels out heme-iron’s better bioavailability. Bioavailability is just a fancy term to categorize the body’s ability to use a particular nutrient.

Vegans and vegetarians who eat a well-balanced diet also benefit because their diets tend to be high in vitamin C. Vitamin C greatly increases absorption of non-heme iron, by binding with the non-heme iron and allowing it to reach the intestines for absorption into the bloodstream.

Recommended Daily Allowance Of Iron

The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following:

  • Infants and children
    • Younger than 6 months: 0.27 milligrams per day (mg/day)
    • 7 months to 1 year: 11 mg/day
    • 1 to 3 years: 7 mg/day
    • 4 to 8 years: 10 mg/day
  • Males
    • 9 to 13 years: 8 mg/day
    • 14 to 18 years: 11 mg/day
    • Age 19 and older: 8 mg/day
  • Females
    • 9 to 13 years: 8 mg/day
    • 14 to 18 years: 15 mg/day
    • 19 to 50 years: 18 mg/day
    • 51 and older: 8 mg/day
  • Females who are pregnant:
    • 14 to 18 years: 27 mg/day
    • 19 to 30 years: 27 mg/day
    • 31 and 50 years: 27 mg/day
  • Females who are lactating:
    • 14 to 18 years: 10 mg/day
    • 19 to 30 years: 9 mg/day
    • 31 and 50 years: 9 mg/day
  • Plant Based, Vegan, Vegetarian Sources For Iron

    • Chick peas (1 cup): 12.5mg
    • Quinoa (uncooked) (1 cup): 7.8mg
    • Peaches, Dried (1 cup, halves): 6.5mg
    • Spinach (1 cup): 6.4mg
    • Almonds (whole) (1 cup): 5.4mg
    • Spirulina (1 tsp): 5 mg
    • Raisins (1 cup): 4.3mg
    • Pumpkin seeds (1 ounce): 4.2mg
    • Sesame Seeds (1 ounce): 4.12mg
    • Swiss Chard (1 cup cooked): 3.96mg
    • Pears, Dried (1 cup, halves): 3.78mg
    • Blackstrap molasses (1 tbsp): 3.5mg
    • Prune juice (8 ounces): 3mg
    • Figs (dried) (1 cup): 3mg
    • Kale (chopped) (1 cup): 1mg
    • Dates (5 individual): 1mg

    References:
    Iron Content of Common Foods
    Ferralet 90
    The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine

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    About Author:

    I obtained a Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University. I eat a plant based diet and I am an avid researcher of the benefits of a whole food, plant based alkaline diet. I obtained a BA in Organizational Behavior and Communications from NYU, worked as an elementary school teacher, and have studied social work. I am a web designer/developer and I enjoy boxing, kick boxing, cycling, power walking, and basically anything challenging. Eating a plant based diet and exercising is a great way to achieve healthy living. ~ Natural Life Energy

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