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Written by Blair Wolff   
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Monday, 31 July 2017

Iron Rich Foods

Pumping Iron, Not Emissions

Do you feel unbearably exhausted throughout your day? Does it feel like a struggle to think and focus even when you have chugged about 3 cups of coffee? Well, put down the Red bull, Rockstar or 5 Hour Energy. Your problem might not be a lack of caffeine but rather a lack of iron, medically termed anemia. Other symptoms of iron deficiency include weakness, pale or yellowish skin, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath, dizziness and chest pains.1 Iron deficiency anemia can be very serious and lead to hospitalization. In the United States, the number of emergency visits to hospitals with the primary diagnosis of anemia totaled 146,000 in 2013.2

Anemia Symptoms i
What is Iron?
Iron is an extremely essential mineral and a key component of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is “the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your lungs and transports it throughout the body.” Therefore, “when your body is lacking iron, your body is unable to make enough of these oxygen-carrying red blood cells.”3 Consequently, insufficient oxygen in the body leaves you feeling fatigued, affecting “everything from your brain function to your immune system’s ability to ward off infection,” according to Paul Thomas, EdD, RD, a scientific consultant to the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.4 Some causes of iron deficiency anemia include blood loss due to childbirth or menstruation, internal bleeding due to medical conditions such as ulcers and regular use of pain relievers such as aspirin, and inadequate iron intake.5

Iron, Red Meat and the Environment
Take a look at your diet to make sure you are getting enough iron. One of the major sources of iron is red meat, however the meat production industry can take a major toll on the environment. Research done back in 2013 showed that, globally each year, the livestock sector produces 586 million tons of milk, 124 million tons of poultry, 91 million tons of pork, 59 million tons of cattle and buffalo meat, and 11 million tons of meat from sheep and goats.6

The most popular red meat in particular has quite a negative impact on the environment. Raising cattle for food “requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and results in five times more climate-warming emissions. When compared to staples like potatoes, wheat, and rice, the impact of beef per calorie is even more extreme, requiring 160 times more land and producing 11 times more greenhouse gases.”7 Cattle also produce methane , the second most prevalent greenhouse gas contributing to global warming .8 The “average amount of methane produced by 2 cows each year is 504 lbs.” which is equal to 11,592 lbs. of carbon dioxide, which is “the average amount of carbon dioxide produced by one car each year.”9 To learn more about the negative impact the livestock industry has on our environment, check out the Greeniacs article, Cowspiracy .


Agriculture as a whole contributes to global warming , creating 15% of all emissions, however, half are from livestock.10 In 2014, scientists at Oxford University conducted a study of British people’s diets (30,000 meat eaters, 16,000 vegetarians, 8,000 fish eaters and 2,000 vegans), breaking down how much meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans contribute to carbon dioxide emission production. They found that “meat-rich diets - defined as more than 100g per day - resulted in 7.2kg of carbon dioxide emissions. In contrast, both vegetarian and fish-eating diets caused about 3.8kg of CO2 per day, while vegan diets produced only 2.9kg.”11 To learn more about meat-less diets, read Greeniacs articles “Plant Products” , “Eating Vegan” , and “Raw Foods Diet”.

Alternatives to Meat for Sources of Iron
So no judgment or shaming to meat-eaters, but if you do want to reduce your meat intake while keeping your iron levels at a high, there are plenty of alternative foods to seek your teeth into:
  • Spirulina—a blue-green algae also rich in essential amino acids, protein, and vitamins B, C, D, and E.
  • Lentils—also a great source protein, cheap and can be used in a variety of dishes.
  • Sardines—high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D – (Fish product).
  • Pistachios—high levels of vitamin B6, thiamine and copper.12
  • Dark Chocolate.
  • Spinach and other dark leafy greens.
  • Beans.
  • Dried fruit such as raisins and dried apricots.
Also make sure to take an iron supplement. You can find them at almost any grocery store or safe online website. A couple of popular natural iron supplements are Floradix liquid iron and Floravital (the yeast-free form).13 There is less risk of constipation since the iron is in a liquid form. These supplements also contain some “vitamin B12 and fruit juice concentrates for better absorption.”14

Here are a couple of links for iron-rich vegetarian and vegan recipes:
Iron Rich Vegetarian
Vegan Recipes

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Last Updated ( Monday, 31 July 2017 )