NO! If you are a plant-based eater or would like to transition to a more plant-based diet, fear not! You can get as much iron for your body and not have to eat animal meat.
Many people across the globe are moving to a more plant-based diet to participate in increased planet sustainability or to make an impact on reducing factory animal farming. For whatever the reason that may drive the movement, plant-based eating has grown more popular.
Back to iron! There are two types of iron: heme and nonheme. Heme is found in mainly in animal sources whereas nonheme is predominately found in plants. Nonheme iron is not as readily absorbed as heme so it is super important for plant-based eaters to get an adequate amount through food.
Why is iron important anyway? The clearest indicator of low iron levels is anemia, which is a low level of iron in the blood. This can cause symptoms such as fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, hormone imbalance, mood irregularity, coldness in hands and feet, rapid heartbeat and so on.
Plant based foods high in iron include: lentils, quinoa, swiss chard, sunflower seeds, tofu, tahini, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black eyed peas, pumpkin, sesame and hemp seeds, spinach, kale, potatoes (in the skin), oyster or white mushrooms, palm hearts, olives, prune juice, spelt, oats, almonds, cashews and other nuts and yes, even dark chocolate!
If I could share a trick with you: increase your body’s absorption of iron by consuming the high iron foods along with foods high in vitamin C such as broccoli, tomato and citrus fruits in the same meal! Imagine a quinoa, kale, garbanzo bean, fresh tomato and mushroom dish with a citrus vinaigrette! Or for a snack, how about some almonds and cashews dipped in dark?!
So, if you are trying to make a more healthy change for yourself or for the environment, the moral of the story is that you do not have to eat animal meat to get the iron your body needs; however, do need to make sure you are getting enough!