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Are You Getting Enough Iron on the Raw Vegan Diet?

Posted Jul 16 2009 11:49pm

Are You Getting Enough Iron on the Raw Vegan Diet
by Joanna Steven
When I first told my doctor that I planned on getting pregnant some time this year, she immediately prescribed a multivitamin. Since I am aware of the fact that many raw women cannot stomach leafy greens and other super nutritious foods in the early months of their pregnancy, I decided to go ahead and take them. But when I noticed that each pill contained twice the daily requirement of iron, I was a little concerned.

According to the MedlinePlus Encyclopedia, iron overdoses can cause anything from dehydration to liver damage. When I told her that my hemoglobin level was already 44 (with 37 being the limit between normal levels and anemia, and 47 the limit between normal and excessive levels) without even taking a supplement, she mentioned the fact that as a vegetarian, taking iron supplements wouldn’t hurt, and that pregnant women need more iron anyway.

Still, I wasn’t convinced. If my iron level is so good without me even paying attention to it, I should be able to eat enough iron rich food to get me through my pregnancy without difficulty. I started incorporating various iron rich ingredients into my daily recipes, and realized that really, when we eat healthy, nutritious raw foods, we should get all the iron we need without taking supplements.

Most dieters are not aware of the fact that raw vegan ingredients contain more than enough iron for good health, more so than red meat and other supposedly iron rich foods.
For example, let’s look at hemp’s nutritional profile. A quarter of a cup of hemp contains 40% of our daily iron requirement. By contrast, a serving of red meat contains only about 10 to 15%. We would need to eat 10 steaks a day to get enough iron, while a little more than ½ a cup of hemp is more than enough!

Another super iron rich food is parsley. Some people like to juice it, or add it to green smoothies. I personally find it a bit strong in smoothies, and I once read that parsley juice wasn’t recommended during pregnancies (parsley as a whole food is healthful, but massive quantities such as in parsley oil or large parsley juices aren’t recommended). My favorite way of eating it is simply in tabbouleh. And since I substitute the traditional bulgur wheat with hemp, my tabbouleh really becomes an iron powerhouse!

In the nuts and seed department, pumpkin seed and unhulled sesame seeds really shine. Just an ounce of either seed provide nearly ¼ of our daily iron requirement. I love sprinkling pumpkin seeds on salad, or adding them to flax crackers. And sesame seeds can be slipped into nearly anything as they are so small, or they can be a dish’s main attraction if you use tahini (sesame butter) as part of a salad or kale chips dressing. In general, other nuts and seeds such as sunflower, cashew or flax will provide around 10% of our iron needs per ounce.

Eating an iron rich raw vegan diet is really easy, and here are a few recipes to get you started!

Protein & Iron Strawberry Banana Shake (serves 2)
This recipe provides 30% of the FDA’s protein and iron requirement, as well as more than 300% of our daily vitamin C requirement, thus enhancing our body’s ability to absorb iron. It also provides 25% of our folate requirement, an important nutrient during pregnancy.

−    4 cup sliced, strawberries
−    2 large bananas, frozen
−    ¼ cup hemp seeds
−    ½ to 1 cup water
−    Agave or honey to taste, depending on the fruits’ sweetness

Directions:
Blend all the ingredients until smooth. If using fresh bananas, you can add a few ice cubes for a cool, refreshing smoothie.

Parsley & Hemp Tabbouleh
I often look at ethnic recipes for nutrition. Often, the ingredients within them have been combined, consciously or not, to ensure maximum nutrition absorption while tasting wonderful. This salad supplies more than 50% of our iron requirement for the day, as well as a generous 20 grams of protein.

Ingredients:
−    2 ounces parsley, chopped
−    1 Roma tomato, diced finely
−    1 T fresh mint, chopped
−    3 T hemp seeds
−    1 green onion, diced
−    1 T olive oil
−    1 T fresh lemon juice
−    Pinch salt

Directions:
−    Toss all ingredients together except for the tomatoes. Refrigerate until ready to use, and add the tomatoes just before serving. If the tabbouleh stays in the fridge for too long, it might start to dry out. Simply add a little more olive oil and toss one more time.

Quick & Easy Morning Cereal
This cereal is so quick and easy, and my husband likes it more than all the really complicated ones that needs lots of dehydrating and prep time. Adding nut milk make the mix even more nutritious.

Ingredients:
−    1 T pumpkin seeds, soaked
−    1 T sunflower seeds, soaked
−    1 T raisins
−    1 T dry apricots, finely diced
−    1 T prepared raw chocolate chips, chopped (or a few cacao nibs)
−    Anything you want to add! Berries, fresh fruits cut into small cubes etc. are especially good

Directions:
Toss all the ingredients together into a bowl, add some nut milk, and enjoy!

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