Dietary Guide for Iron Deficient Vegetarians
Vegetarians can optimize bioavailability of dietary iron to prevent and cure iron deficiency
Vegetarians have several sources available for dietary iron; still, many children and women of child bearing age may suffer iron deficiency. The reason is bioavailability of dietary iron. I have developed simple guidelines to optimize bioavailability.
Vitamin C, stomach acid, and a bit of sugar help increase the bioavailability. Tannins, Phytates, Oxallates, Calcium and Phosphorous hinder with bioavailability.
1. Don't drink tea (Chai), Coffee, Red wines 20 minutes prior to meals, anytime during the meals, and 20 minutes after the meals. Tannins in these beverages hinder with the absorption of Iron.
2. Don't cook curries with any dairy products (Milk, Butter milk, yogurt, cheese, and Khoya) with meals. Don't eat dairy products 20 minutes prior to meals, anytime during the meals, and 20 minutes after the meals. Calcium and Phosphorous in dairy products hinder with the absorption of iron. 'Aloo Paalak with Tomato' is better choice than Paalak Paneer.
3. Phytates are found in whole grains, lentils, beans. Presoaking, germinating and fermenting helps reduce Phytates. For example: sprouted Moong beans have lower Phytates and increased Vitamin C.
Fermentation in making Naan, Idli/Dosa reduces the Phytates. Fermented soy bean products (Tempeh) have lower Phytates.
Adding Dahi (Lactic acid) while kneading whole wheat flour to make Roti also reduces Phytates.
4. Vegetables are generally high in oxalates. Red/Purple color vegetables are rich in iron (Examples: Beets, Red Cabbage, Red bell peppers) followed by green leafy vegetables (Examples: Spinach, Broccoli, Mustard Greens, Methi, Kale, Beet greens, Turnip greens). Vitamin C increases the bio availability of iron. These vegetables may be eaten raw as a salad, or made into a iron rich raw vegetable smoothie .
If cooked, water and heat will destroy some of the vitamin C. While cooking add tomatoes, fresh lemon juice, and red bell peppers (Lal Simla Mirch) liberally to put more Vitamin C in the curry.
5. Dried fruits are high in iron. Raisins, dates may be eaten as snacks or desserts. Sugar in dried fruits help with absorption.
6. Limited amount of nuts such as Almonds are also high in iron and quite suitable as snacks.
7. Avoid antacids. Stomach acid helps with iron absorption.