Today’s Vegan Mofo prompt asks me to focus on a nutrient so I thought I’d look at iron.
Iron is an absolutely essential nutrient as it is a key component of hemoglobin which helps carry oxygen around the blood. It’s something that is important for everyone but especially for anyone who does a lot of exercise and training like running. If you are doing hard training, perhaps lots of sprint sessions or threshold sessions, you need more iron. Hard training increases the number of red blood cells which means you need more iron to help create the hemoglobin.
My iron levels are at the lower end of ‘normal’ and have been even before I started running. So I try and make sure I have lots of foods high in iron, especially if I am doing any hard training. Dried fruit, lentils, chickpeas and sesame seeds are all good vegan sources of iron and are foods I eat regularly.
I often add tahini and dried apricots to my porridge in the morning, a rather nice combination especially with a dash of agave syrup. I also make my gingerbread smoothie quite a lot, it not only contains dates but also molasses which is packed with iron.
Despite the stereotype of the pale and wan vegan, iron deficiency isn’t anymore likely if you are vegan than not. If you eat a varied diet, including lots of iron rich foods and vitamin C (which helps the absorption of iron), you should be getting all the iron you need.
If you want to read more about iron have a look at this fact sheet by the Vegan Society and for more information on why you need more iron when training try this fact sheet from Sports Dietitians Australia.
Mostly, I don’t really think about the nutrients contained in my food, I just enjoy eating! However, as a vegan I find it useful to have an understanding of the key nutrients as it is something that non-vegans like to ask every now and then. I’d be surprised to find a vegan who hasn’t been quizzed at some point on where we get certain nutrients from or been told ‘you look healthy, for a vegan’.