After a summer of frolics and fun, I’m a little suspicious that my slightly erratic eating habits have led to a drop in my iron levels. Those feelings of breathlessness and fatigue… yeah, it’s time to up my iron intake, starting with a one-week iron-boosting diet to get me back into good habits.
If you’re just interested in the meal-plan, you’ll find that below. If, however, you want more info on vegans and iron, and a summary of things that can enhance or inhibit iron absorption, check out this link.
One-Week Iron-Boosting Diet Plan
Alright, so now we’ve got all our inhibitions out of the way, let’s take a look at how this plays out in terms of actual iron-boosting meal planning.
It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I, as a British-Canadian, have an ongoing love affair with tea. To minimise the effects of those tannins I’ll be cutting my tea intake this week and adding in some vitamin C-rich foods and/or orange juice (shellac-free and vegan, of course).
If you drink coffee, you might also want to cut down a little or stagger your cups between iron-rich meals and snacks. If you’re a fan of fizzy, carbonated soda style beverages, consider switching these to herbal tea for the week. It helps that it’s fall and a little chillier. And, if you choose to make lemon and ginger tea you’re also boosting your vitamin C intake. Bonus!
Unleavened breads (like pitas) are also out for the week, as are things made with soy flour or other legume-based flours. I don’t tend to eat oats, bran or cereals all that often, but if you do you might want to make sure these are cooked and combined with vitamin C-rich foods, or fortified to compensate for any inhibition.
Cutting out cashews, peanuts, and almonds will be a bit trickier for me and, as these do contain some iron, I plan to counteract their inhibitory factors by eating them alongside vitamin C-rich foods. For instance, there’s a peanutty dish with lemon juice, and cashews and mango as snacks. You might also want to mix peanut butter with tomato products to make pad Thai.
You’ll see in the meal-plan below that some of the meals have a very high iron content. This is typically because a fortified food is included in that meal. Although I’ve listed the iron content of that meal, remember that phytates, phosphates, tannins, and oxalates present in that food or meal will inhibit iron absorption. This meal plan provides figures for iron content, not iron absorption.
Onto the meals themselves!
c30.6 mg iron.
c350.5 mg vitamin C.
Breakfast: Wholegrain bagel with almond butter and raspberry jam. Cup of black tea. Glass of orange juice.
Lunch: Tortilla wrap with refried pinto beans, lettuce, carrot, peppers, quinoa, and avocado
Dinner: Lemon juice and peanut butter-baked tofu. Steamed broccoli. Baked acorn squash with molasses and cinnamon.
Snacks and beverages: Kale chips with lemon juice and nutritional yeast. Lemon and ginger tea. Water.
c54.5 mg iron.
c182.8 mg vitamin C.
Breakfast: Iron-fortified quick oats with hemp hearts, raspberry jam, and a glass of orange juice.
Lunch: Baked beans and mushrooms on wholegrain toast.
Dinner: Baked potato with houmous and a green salad (lettuce, kale, arugula, cucumber) with pumpkin seeds and shredded carrot.
Snacks: Roasted, salted cashews. Seaweed snacks. Lemon and ginger tea or rosehip tea (unless pregnant). Water.
c22.23 mg iron.
c674.8 mg vitamin C.
Breakfast: 1/4 cup of split red lentils in a thermos, mixed with dehydrated red peppers, turmeric, ascorbic acid powder, garlic powder, coriander seed, and a dash of salt, topped up with boiling water, stirred and sealed. Cup of tea. Glass of apple juice.
Lunch: Three-bean salad with shredded carrot, kale, tomato, parsley and sesame oil dressing. (Make double quantity, without the dressing, for use later.)
Dinner: Roasted cauliflower and chickpeas with tahini and lemon juice, roasted bell peppers, zucchini, garlic, and onions, served with brown rice.
Snacks: Dried mango and cashews. Glass or orange juice.
Day Four (a weekend day)
c61.9 mg iron.
c340.5 mg vitamin C.
Breakfast: Tofu scramble with red peppers, tomatoes, garlic, nutritional yeast, and mushrooms, on wholegrain toast. Coffee. Orange juice (as a mimosa!).
Lunch: Sundried tomato and chickpea soup with tahini (Sarah Kramer’s recipe; make double quantity).
Dinner: Oh She Glows gluten-free seedy cracker/flatbreads made with fortified oats, with houmous and beet and cashew spread. Simple green salad (lettuce, cucumber, arugula, and kale).
Snacks: Houmous and sesame crackers.
c70.35 mg iron.
c346.7 mg vitamin C.
Breakfast: Fortified oats with hemp hearts, almonds, dark chocolate chips, and soy milk. Glass of orange juice. Cup of tea.
Lunch: Tofu stirfry with peppers, onions, carrots, garlic, and a molasses-based sweet and sour sauce, with brown rice.
Dinner: Three-bean salad, with quinoa, tahini, and lemon juice.
Snacks: Kale chips with nutritional yeast. Dried apricots.
c25.58 mg iron.
c149.45 mg vitamin C.
Breakfast: Kale, apple, celery, and spirulina smoothie with hemp hearts and pumpkin seed butter.
Lunch: Sundried tomato and chickpea soup with tahini. Wholegrain toast.
Dinner: Steamed broccoli and kale. Brown rice. Mung bean dhal with turmeric, cumin, and garlic. (Make extra dhal.)
Snacks: Pistachios, kale chips, and raisins.
c52.51 mg iron.
c476.1 mg vitamin C.
Breakfast: Overnight oats (iron-fortified) with mashed blueberries, banana, soy milk, and maple syrup. Cup of tea.
Lunch: Tortilla wrap with dhal, plain soy yoghurt, lightly steamed kale and cauliflower.
Dinner: Vegetable chilli with mushrooms, peppers, garlic, onion, carrots, tomatoes, kidney beans and soy ground round, with brown rice.
Snacks: Sesame snaps. White bean and parsley dip with pepper and carrot sticks. Lemon ginger tea.
This seven day iron-boosting meal plan works out to an average iron intake of 45.30 mg per day and an average daily vitamin C intake of 360.11 mg. This will go some way towards correcting an iron insufficiency or mild deficiency. For anyone who is severely anaemic, it’s clearly best to talk to your physician and figure out if iron supplements are your best course of action.
Once you’re back on top of your iron game, or if your iron levels are a little low, adding some of the iron-rich foods in this meal plan to your regular diet could help you stave off future iron deficiency. And, if you have any iron-boosting tips of your own, leave a comment below! Thanks!
Resources used for this article
Rushton, D.H. (2002). Nutritional factors and hair loss. Clin Exp Dermatol, Jul;27(5):396-404.
Quintaes, K.D., Farfan, J.A., Tomazini, F.M., et al. (2007). Mineral Migration and Influence of Meal Preparation in Iron Cookware on the Iron Nutritional Status of Vegetarian Students. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 46:125-141.
Sharma, D.C., & Mathur, R. (1995). Correction of anemia and iron deficiency in vegetarians by administration of ascorbic acid. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol, Oct;39(4):403-6.
Siegenberg, D., Baynes, R.D., Bothwell, T.H., et al. (1991). Ascorbic acid prevents the dose dependent inhibitory effects of polyphenols and phytates on nonheme-iron absorption. Am J Clin Nutr, Feb;53(2):537-41.
Hurrell, R.F. (2003). Influence of vegetable protein sources on trace element and mineral bioavailability. J Nutr, Sep;133(9):2973S-7S.
Vegan Health. (2013). Oxalate. Available at: http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/oxalate#fn59
Queensland Government. (2014). Foods that contain phosphate (PO4). Available at: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/nutrition/resources/renal_phosph_table.pdf
Cornell University. Tannins: fascinating but sometimes dangerous molecules. Available at: http://poisonousplants.ansci.cornell.edu/toxicagents/tannin.html
Taylor EN, Fung TT, Curhan GC. DASH-style diet associates with reduced risk for kidney stones. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2009 Oct;20(10):2253-9.
USDA National Nutrient Database. Iron. Availble at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/pubs/usdandb/Iron-Content.pdfWant carbon-neutral webhosting with great customer service? Try DreamHost and use code 'Vegans' for a third off!