Since I have turned towards a plan based diet 2 years ago I have read a lot of books and did almost 6 months of self-study to be able to justify my eating choices – not for others but for myself. Knowing that the way I eat is great for me plays a massive role in what I do and how I chose to live. This might be very silly and romantic even but the reason I am choosing plants over dairy, meat and processed food is that I am hoping to grow old and feel vital and full of energy until my very last day. So I listen to my body very carefully every day. I am very conscious about how my body moves, how my breathing patterns change and how my metabolism and my digestive system is going. So when I start feeling sluggish or tired I try to figure out if there is anything I ate that influences my energy level or if there is a lack of movement and I didn’t work out or I didn’t give myself some time to relax and unwind.
So a couple of month back I started feeling very tired during the day, so when I say tired it wasn’t just that. I would literally fall asleep on my desk if I wouldn’t be for my colleagues sitting around me. It was a tiredness that is hard to describe but it wouldn’t let me do my job properly and I rushed to bed every night at around 9pm and would sleep until 8am. I literally felt sick. I saw my doctor and we did a blood test which showed an extreme low level of iron. Since I do look after myself a lot I was quite upset and tried to find a way to get my iron up without the supplement my doctor gave me. Iron is not as straight forward as you might think. You cannot just eat iron rich foods and that’s that. There are many foods preventing the absorption of iron into the body:
To name a few:
- Calcium which is obviously in any dairy products. So including dairy into your diet will not help you with iron deficiency. But calcium is also in tofu, broccoli, almonds, figs, turnip greens and rhubarb. Since I know that I have reduced my consumption of tofu and it wasn’t difficult at all. But I guess if you are right at the beginning of your plant based journey it might be difficult to say no to tofu.
- Polyphenols are major inhibitors of iron absorption. Polyphenols are found in cocoa, coffee and some herbs. These foods or substance should not be consumed within two hours prior to and following your main iron-rich meal. It was hard for me but i did cut out coffee and replaced with chamomile tea.
- Phytate is a compound contained in soy protein and fiber. Even low levels of phytate (about 5 percent of the amounts in cereal whole flours) have a strong inhibitory effect on iron bioavailability. Phytate is found in walnuts, almonds, sesame, dried beans, lentils and peas, and cereals and whole grains. Phytate compounds can reduce iron absorption by 50 to 65 percent. Honestly, I am reading this and thinking to myself – shit, what can we eat now ? I was really confused by the lists that tell you what not to eat to increase your iron levels. I did one thing here which is cutting out soy milk and replace with almond and oat milk. But I honestly don’t want to think forth and back everytime I eat nuts, lentils and beans. And I don’t want a deficiency to take over my life. Not gonna happen.
So what have I done to get my energy back?
I have taken the supplements my doctor gave me. He suggested that when your iron level is so low you need to get it up on a reasonable level then you should try optimize your nutritional intake which made sense to me. I eat a lot of iron rich foods, I have cut out coffee, black tea, soy milk and almost all tofu or soy based products which wasn’t a big deal. But I still wanted to make sure now that I do not take the supplements anymore I want to boost my iron intake in a natural way. I am currently testing a product by Austrian company Feinstoff and I am really wondering why noone had ever thought of bringing a plant based vegan iron powder to the market? I mean seriously there is a allegedly superfood/detox-make-my-life-better powder for bloody everything. Why not something so simple as iron since especially so many women suffer from that. So thumbs up for Feinstoff. Feinstoff combines traditonal Ayurvedic plant powders with nutritional superfoods. The raw organic powder is called Iron Magic and contents beetroot, raspberry, carrots, aronia, amalaki, acai, nettle and chia. For 2 months I am taking 2 shots daily on an empty stomach an hour before I have a meal. And this powder has really worked for me. And I am not telling you this because Feinstoff has provided this powder to me because they haven’t – I have asked for it because I thought it might solve my problem. And it did and that’s why I am sharing this with you. I am not feeling sluggish or tired anymore. I can cope with less than 7 hours of sleep and it wouldn’t bother me. My concentration is back and I am happy I don’t have to take pills to sort out my iron issue.