AN ESSENTIAL SUPPLEMENT FOR VEGANS
Iron is an essential mineral, necessary to produce haemoglobin, which plays an important role in storing and transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, including the muscles for healthy muscle contraction.
There are two forms of dietary iron known as haem and non-haem iron:
Haem iron can be found in animal-based foods, including lean red meats, poultry and fish
Non-haem iron can be found in plant-based foods, including nuts, legumes, grains, fruits and vegetables
Iron levels are tightly controlled within the body, with levels regulated by absorption rather than excretion, and many factors can hinder the amount of iron absorbed within the gastrointestinal tract.
Haem iron is more soluble and readily absorbed by the body when compared to non-haem iron. Non-haem iron is less soluble and poorly absorbed as it’s easily disrupted and inhibited by other dietary factors including tea, coffee, milk, wholegrains and chocolate. Combining foods rich in vitamin C with non-haem iron based foods, helps to solubilise and enhance the absorption of iron from the digestive tract. Haem iron is thought to have 2-3 times greater absorption than non-haem iron. Iron supplementation may be beneficial when dietary intake is inadequate, and deficiency is common in vegetarians, vegans, the elderly, and during infancy, adolescence and pregnancy.
Iron and B Vitamins – essential Vegan supplements
Some B vitamins, particularly vitamins B2, B6, B12 and folic acid, when combined with iron, provide important cofactors that help to maintain healthy blood in healthy individuals:
Vitamins B2 and B6 are important for the production of haemoglobin, which transports oxygen around the body in red blood cells
Vitamin B12 and folic acid are necessary for the production of red blood cells for oxygen transport
Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid are necessary for oxygen transport in red blood cells
Types of iron
There are a number of organic (eg: ferrous bisglycinate) and non-organic (eg: ferrous sulphate) forms of non-haem iron available for supplementation. Ferrous sulphate is commonly prescribed medically, and while highly bioavailable, gastrointestinal irritation is common. Ferrous bisglycinate is also highly bioavailable and is well tolerated and gentle on the digestive system.