Iron for Vegans & Kale and Lentil Soup!

We all know that Iron is super important in our diets. Iron transports oxygen to the blood, regulates the metabolism, provides energy and stamina, and supports other important functions. Besides hearing “how do you get your protein?” vegans and vegetarians also hear a lot of “where does your iron come from?” I thought this was important topic to cover especially now as I am not only cooking for my husband and me but also my two kiddos 🙂

“Some might expect that since the vegan diet contains a form of iron that is not that well absorbed (non-heme), vegans might be prone to developing iron deficiency anemia. However, surveys of vegans have found that iron deficiency anemia is no more common among vegetarians than among the general population although vegans tend to have lower iron stores.

The reason for the satisfactory iron status of many vegans may be that commonly eaten foods are high in iron. In fact, if the amount of iron in these foods is expressed as milligrams of iron per 100 calories, many foods eaten by vegans are superior to animal-derived foods. For example, you would have to eat more than 1700 calories of sirloin steak to get the same amount of iron as found in 100 calories of spinach.

Another reason for the satisfactory iron status of vegans is that vegan diets are high in vitamin C. Vitamin C acts to markedly increase absorption of non-heme iron. Adding a vitamin C source to a meal increases non-heme iron absorption up to six-fold which makes the absorption of non-heme iron as good or better than that of heme iron” (http://www.vrg.org)

We can eat iron rich foods with vitamin C foods which can increase absorption, ex. rice & beans, hummus & lemon juice, falafel with tomatoes and cucumber, and beans, grains and seeds combined with fruits and veggies. There are also plenty of natural combinations;  leafy greens, broccoli, bok choy and tomato sauce have both iron & vitamin C!

Here is a list of great non-animal sources of Iron.

  • black beans, kidney beans, chick peas, pinto beans, lentils, soy beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas
  • blackstrap molasses
  • tempeh
  • quinoa
  • spinach, turnip greens, swiss chard, kale
  • tofu
  • watermelon, cantaloupe
  • enriched pasta and breads
  • green beans, beets, broccoli, bok choy, brussels sprouts, peas
  • whole grains; millet, bulgur, oatmeal
  • prunes, raisins, apricots
  • peanut butter, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, other seeds and nuts
  • potatoes that contain the skin
  • tahini
  • veggie burgers & hot dogs

Also:

Don’t drink coffee or tea or eat calcium supplements with iron rich meals.

Cook with a cast iron skillet, especially Vitamin C heavy foods!

Once you get into the swing of eating a balanced vegan or vegetarian diet, iron is not really a concern at all:)

Here is an iron-rich delicious meal!

 Kale & Lentil Soup

Thankfully my kiddos LOVE lentils as much as we do. It has been SUUUPER chilly this winter so that makes me think soup to warm us all up. I made a super tasty soup and added kale which not only increased the iron & nutritious content but also gave such a great bite & texture to the soup. I used a crock-pot, which I have always loved, but really understand now that it can be a busy mama’s best friend!! Since then we have also revisited the Crock-Pot Oatmeal. Just as good as we remembered!

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  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 2-3 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups lentils, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 14 ½ ounce can of diced tomatoes

Super simple 🙂 Put all of the above ingredients in the slow cooker. Set it on low 8 hours or high 4 hours, if you need it cooked quicker.

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When done I like to use my immersion blender and blend it up about half way, this way there is still some good pieces but the soup gets thicker.

Next add and let cook for just 10-15 minutes longer.
3-4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3-4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
1 bunch of kale, washed and chopped

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Serve and enjoy! Even better the next day!

Maple-Balsamic Tofu & Spinach with Saffron Quinoa Pilaf

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I have always valued a quick and delicious meal but now it is more important than ever! This was a great meal where I could cut and marinate the tofu in just a few minutes while the kiddos were playing and then whip this all up as soon as they went to sleep. Perfect! I was also able to use the marinade twice; cooking the spinach quickly after the tofu. I have always loved Saffron Rice Pilaf  and thought a quinoa twist on it would be fun!

Maple-Balsamic Tofu & Spinach with Saffron Quinoa

Tofu & Spinach

  • 1 block of tofu, pressed to remove water and cut in triangles
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • dash of salt
  • 6 ounces of baby spinach

Combine and marinate anywhere from 1 hour to overnight. Heat a frying pan and sear the tofu for a few minutes on both sides. Remove from pan and add spinach and any remaining marinade. Stir for just a few brief moments to wilt spinach and coat in the sauce. Remove and serve.

Quinoa Pilaf

  • 2 cups quinoa (4 cups water or stock)
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • lemon juice to taste
  • sriracha, to taste (optional) (I love that extra kick!)

Combine water and quinoa in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat, add saffron, tumeric and salt, and cover to cook for 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Stir in other ingredients and serve.

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