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by Kelly Marra
When people find out I eat a vegan and mostly raw food diet, I invariably am asked three questions. “Where do you get your protein from, how on earth do you get enough calcium, and have you had your iron levels checked? You’re probably iron deficient!” Well, I tell them, have you looked at a gorilla, an elephant or a cow lately? They’re all vegetarians and they don’t seem to have a problem with getting enough protein, calcium or iron; they’re all huge! I can easily explain away the protein and calcium (eat leafy greens, nuts, seeds, etc) but when it comes to the iron in vegetarian foods people stop me. I hear it over and over again; meat is the best source of iron they say.
Yes, meat is a good source of iron, but it’s not as easily absorbable for our bodies as vegetarian sources of iron. And many vegetarian foods have higher iron content, too. Compare, if you will, the amount of iron in beef liver and pumpkin seeds. 3 oz of beef liver will provide you with approximately 5.8 milligrams of iron, yet if you consume 3 oz of raw pumpkin seeds you’ll get 12.6 milligrams of iron! More than twice as much!
When it comes to iron rich foods, focus on nuts and seeds. Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds are the top iron choices. Dried fruits, especially raisins and peaches, are great choices too.
Then we get to my favorite iron source: raw cacao. Chocolate goes well with just about everything, so if you suspect you might be iron deficient you can’t go wrong with raw chocolate every day. Just 2.5 tablespoons provides 20% of your daily recommended value!
It’s important to note that iron is more easily absorbed if it’s combined with Vitamin C. So try pairing iron rich foods with Vitamin C rich foods too. Eat nuts, seeds, dried fruits and cacao with things like citrus, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers or cabbage.
There are compounds called polyphenols in coffee and tea that can interfere with our body’s ability to absorb iron, these compounds can be found in some decaffeinated and herbal teas, too. Your best bet is to avoid drinking all coffee and tea an hour before and after eating.
Getting enough iron in your vegetarian or vegan diet is easy when you eat a variety of nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables every day. And don’t forget your raw chocolate! Here’s a delicious recipe for iron rich crackers. And if you’re needing other healthy recipes, check out the Raw Food Starter Series!
1 5 oz box Fresh Spinach or 2-3 bunches of Spinach
2-3 Carrots, chopped
1 Large Tomato, chopped
1 Large Red Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Handful Fresh Parsley
½ Red Onion, chopped
2 tsp Nama Shoyu or 1 tsp Salt
2-4 Garlic Cloves
1 Cup Sunflower Seeds, soaked in water for 8 hours
1 Cup Pumpkin Seeds, soaked in water for 8 hours
½ C Flax Seeds, soaked in water for 4 hours (optional)
Place the spinach in a food processor and process well. Add the carrots, tomato, bell pepper, parsley, red onion, nama shoyu or salt, and garlic cloves and process again. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Rinse and drain the pumpkin and sunflower seeds and add those to the food processor along with the flax seeds if desired. [Note: If you wish to dip these crackers into something I suggest adding the flax seeds, if you plan on spreading something on top of these crackers then they’ll do just fine without the flax]. Process the cracker batter well, but leave some texture for the crackers.
Spread the cracker batter evenly over 2 or 3 Teflex lined dehydrator trays. Score the crackers and dehydrate at 115 degrees F for 12 hours. Flip the crackers onto mesh dehydrator trays and continue dehydrating until dry.
Have you suffered from iron deficiency before? What steps did you take to pump up your iron? Share below!
Tooth Decay, fatigue, insomnia, anemia, anxiety, hormonal imbalance, osteoprosis: what do they have in common? These ailments and more can often be traced back to mineral deficiencies. How? Minerals are responsible for many physiological reactions. When we don’t get enough of them, our internal chemistry gets out of whack. Minerals are an extremely crucial part of a healthy immune system. For this, we have a course called Remineralize Your Body (say that 10 times fast!) that will take a good look at ancient cultures and wisdom to see how they managed to stay strong and healthy without pharmaceuticals and multi-vitamins! We will do this by using the lessons they taught us, but adapting them to your unique needs!
Kelly Marra is the kitchen and health conscious force behind RawLifeCoaching.com. She spends her time working in her ever expanding garden, creating new, healthy and delicious recipes in the kitchen and playing board games with her husband. With free time she loves to hike and take photos of everything.