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!

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Gingered Butternut Squash Soup (slow cooker)

This was a yummy warming soup that was great for this chillier weather we are having. I was hoping this would come out with a stronger “thai” or spiced flavor but I could not really taste the lemongrass, so if you rather leave it out, it would be fine. The candied ginger and the pepitas added some really good flavor and texture. Plus I love slow-cooker meals! (although I am sure you could make this in a soup pot on the stove) Start it in the morning and when you get home you have a fabulous dinner ready to go! Perfect! Enjoy this creamy squash soup 🙂

Check out these other slow cooker meals I made: Slow-cooked Open Enchiladas, Mixed Veggies with Peanut Sauce, Butternut squash, Apricots and Apples with Quinoa, Slow Cooked Corn Polenta and Chiles and Crock-Pot Oatmeal.

Before adding the squash and broth

Gingered Butternut Squash Soup (slow cooker)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 tablespoon, minced ginger root
1 teaspoon, fresh cracked pepper
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, smashed and cut in half crosswise
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted
8 cups butternut squash, cubed
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cups coconut milk
3 teaspoons red curry paste
1 lime, juiced and zested
1/2 cup pepitas, toasted
1/2 cup of candied ginger, chopped

  1. In a skillet or a meal slow-cooker liner, heat oil over medium heat and add onions, cook for 3 minutes till softened. Add ginger, pepper, lemongrass and toasted cumin, stirring for 1 minute. Either place liner in slow-cooker or transfer skillet  contents to stoneware. Add butternut squash and veggie stock.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours until squash is tender.
  3. Mix 1 tablespoon of coconut milk with the curry paste and blend well.
  4. Add to slow cooker along with the rest of the coconut milk and lime juice and heat till cooked through, about 20 minutes. Discard the lemongrass.
  5. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.
  6. Serve with toasted pepitas and candied ginger.

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