A lot of people considering a plant based diet ask – can you be vegan if you’re anemic?
It’s true that most iron sources come from animal products. Or at least, a high percentage of iron comes from these foods.
So, if you are looking to become a vegan, is it a good idea if you are already anemic? Or is there something you can do to prevent this condition from getting worse – or even find a solution for it?
Here is everything you need to know about veganism and anemia. Discover if there is any implication to anemia when you follow a plant-based diet. Let’s investigate.
Can You Be Vegan If You’re Anemic?
Anemia occurs when there is a reduction in your red blood cell level count. There are many reasons why this arises and poor diet is one of the causes.
When your diet does not include the right amounts of iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid, then you may suffer from anemia. Moreover, any malabsorption of these key nutrients can result in this condition, as well.
Since iron is commonly found in meat and other animal products, it is easy to assume that veganism will not do you well if you are already anemic. But is there truth to this? Or can you prevent anemia as a vegan?
Luckily, you can still get ample iron on a plant-based diet. There are many foods that have iron content in them such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, millet, and oatmeal. The same is true with lentils, beans, peas, and peanuts.
Even nuts and seeds have iron, specifically pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds. Some vegetables are also notable sources of iron such as kale, spinach, and sprouts.
Additionally, a consumption of vitamin C-rich foods can help you absorb iron better. This is why in addition to including iron-rich plant-based foods, you should also increase your vitamin C intake. Among the best ones are orange, kiwi, green or red pepper, kale, and other citrus fruits.
Folic acid and vitamin B12 are other essential nutrients that you need to get more of to ensure a proper absorption of iron. You can get your daily requirement for these nutrients by eating breakfast cereal, nutritional yeast, plant-based milks, and other foods fortified with B12 and folic acid.
Thus, you can be vegan if you’re anemic, as long as you support your diet with foods rich in iron. If you cannot get it from food, you can also take iron supplements designed specifically for vegans.
How To Be Vegan As An Anemic
If you wish to be vegan for health or ethical reasons, there should not be anything to hold you back from your decision.
Anemia should not stop you from veganism since there are ways to prevent it as a vegan. So, if you are suffering from anemia or hoping to prevent it in a vegan diet, here are some things you should keep in mind.
1. Support your diet with iron-rich foods.
This is a no-brainer if you are already anemic, yet hoping to become a vegan. Educate yourself with foods that contain a good amount of iron and be sure to consume these daily.
There are plant-based sources of iron, contrary to popular belief. In fact, you can get a decent amount of iron from foods such as dates, raisins, cashew nuts, lentils, pumpkin seeds, hempseeds, and linseeds, to name a few.
Keep in mind, however, that anemia cannot be treated in just a day of eating these foods. It takes time to recover from anemia but as long as you keep consuming iron-rich foods daily, you should be able to heal from it through dietary intervention.
2. Eat foods that help to absorb iron more efficiently.
As we have mentioned earlier, it is not enough that you eat foods that are high in iron. You also need to make sure that your body is able to absorb it efficiently.
The best way to make this happen is by incorporating plenty of vitamin C-rich foods in your diet. Aside from boosting the immune system, vitamin C promotes a better absorption of iron.
Opt for raw vitamin C food sources such as citrus fruits, guavas, kale, and herbs such as amla. These are all touted for their excellent vitamin C content, which are easily absorbed by the body. You should also avoid drinking caffeine without meals. It is best to drink your green tea or coffee half an hour after meals and not before.
3. Consume foods that serve as chelating agents to improve iron levels.
Speaking of iron absorption, there are certain foods out there that work as chelating agents to make sure nutrients are absorbed easily by the body.
These foods include high sulphur foods such as Brazil nuts, which helps to bond iron into the body. As a bonus, these are high antioxidant foods that contain selenium to fight inflammation and infections.
Other foods to eat that are chelating agents are cabbage, kale, and broccoli, as well as other cruciferous vegetables. The same is true with onion and garlic that are abundant in sulphur.
4. Take supplements.
And lastly, if you are not getting all the right levels of iron in your diet, then you will have to take supplements to support your health.
Among the common nutrients that vegans need, which they are not quite getting from a plant-based diet are vitamin B12 and folate. B12 is even harder to find unless you are eating animal products.
Thus, you should consume molasses, shiitake mushrooms, and nutritional yeast, particularly ones that are fortified with vitamin B12. But in addition to eating these foods, you should take B12 supplements, which should be easily available at a pharmacy or health foods shop.
Just be sure that you read labels to make sure that there are certainly no animal products included in producing the supplements. You can find plenty of vegan iron and B12 supplements that will address your anemia over time.
Veganism For Anemia
So can you be vegan if you’re anemia? Absolutely.
But you need to understand that dietary modifications are necessary to help you recover from this condition. Making changes to your daily meals and incorporating more of those iron-rich foods are important to prevent the condition from getting worse.
Consume plant-based foods that are rich in iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid to address your anemia. Supplements can also help a great deal, particularly if you are not getting enough of these nutrients from food.
It may take some time to fully recover from anemia. However, with consistency in eating the right foods and supplementing, you can free yourself from this condition as a vegan.