RE: Iron in diet
Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 9:19 AM
First, of course, the doctor(s) will want to make sure it's nutritional and not something else like internal bleeding. If there is no medical reason for low iron (usually means blood loss of some sort) then there are definitely things your husband could be doing to improve his iron stores nutritionally, even on a plant-based diet.
For starters - is he vegan? Dairy and eggs actually inhibit iron absorption so if those aren't out already, I would consider losing those products. Secondly, depending on how low his stores are, he may need a supplement temporarily. This a man should never do without a health care professional's advice and monitoring. Over consuming iron is toxic and linked to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Remember that plant forms of iron (non-heme iron) are susceptible to "enhancers" and "binders." Enhancers include acids such as vinegar and vitamin C – so adding citrus fruits or vinegar to spinach salads or sautéing iron-rich greens with vinegar are great enhancers. Great sources of iron besides spinach and chard are dried fruits like raisins (make these a regular snack food), dried apricots, dates, and prunes. Adding blackstrap molasses to baked goods or into stews adds a wallop of iron too. Read more here about iron sources of food: http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/iron.htm.
Susan Levin, MS, RD
PCRM Director of Nutrition Education