Did you know that most of us are low in the critical mineral iron? Yep, iron deficiency is considered to be one of most prevalent forms of malnutrition. According to the World Health Organization, 2 billion people–over 30% of the world’s population–are so iron deficient that they are suffering from iron deficiency anemia. The problem is that most of us have absolutely no idea that our daily fatigue, brittle hair and nails (and hair loss), intolerance to cold, and anxiety is because we are low in iron.
Iron is a mineral that is found in rich abundance in animal proteins (heme iron), and can also be found in plants (non-heme iron). The problem is that the iron found in plant forms is not absorbed as well as the iron from animal proteins. So if you are like me, and eating animal protein is not a common occurrence, chances are you are iron deficient. To make matters worse, as a woman, we lose blood every month. Blood is where our iron stores live, so by losing blood we lose iron. And to really put the nail in the coffin, most of us aren’t consciously counting where our plant-based iron is coming from, preventing us from getting the amounts that are so critically needed. That is why I created this healing veggie bowl for low iron levels. To help us ensure that we are getting the iron that we need to feel energized, to have beautifully strong hair and nails, to ward off the cold, and to have a happy, calm state of mind.
If you are not a woman, or no longer menstruating, that does not mean that you are not at risk for low iron levels. All pregnant women are at higher than normal risk, as well as the elderly, and children. Iron loss, resulting from pregnancy, internal bleeding, parasitic infections, low stomach acid, and malabsorption are also factors. Vitamin A deficiency also may be a cause of iron deficiency.
People at risk for iron deficiency
- pregnant mothers
- vegan or vegetarians
- non-meat eaters
- infants and children
- low hcl (hypochlorhydria) levels
Signs you are Iron Deficient
- Fatigue, decreased energy levels
- Brittle hair and nails
- Heavy periods
- You’re pale (paleness)
- Intolerance to cold
- Shortness of breath
- Restless leg syndrome
- Cravings for dirt, ice, clay
- Hair loss
- Low thyroid function
- You’re vegan or vegetarian
- Celiac or Inflammatory bowel disease
Iron-Deficiency in Infants and Children
Menstruating women, vegan and vegetarians, and the elderly are not the only people at risk. Up to 35% of children in the United States under 2 years old are iron deficient. The cause being a too early transition from breast milk to pasteurized milk. Dairy damages the intestinal lining and interferes with the absorption of iron in some kids. In addition, pasteurized milk is a poor source of iron. So while the child was getting iron from the breast milk, they are now no longer. The absorption rate in breastfed infants is 50-80% from breast milk, while most formulas have an absorption rate of only 10%. That is why when the child is old enough it is so important to add iron-rich foods like the ones in this healing veggie bowl for low iron levels.
The reason why we should be aware of iron deficiency in children is because it has long-term consequences.
The following are side effects of low iron levels in children
- decreased ability to learn
- decreased appetite
- behavioral disturbances like crankiness
- frequent colds and infections
- lack of concentration and focus
If you think that you or your children might fall into any of these categories, eating a healing veggie bowl for low iron levels is going to be really therapeutic. It will help you to restore your iron reserves, bringing back the health you should be enjoying on a daily basis.
If you want to learn more about iron, and the top plant-based iron sources, check out this article here.
Making the Best Healing Veggie Bowl for Low Iron Levels
My goal for making this healing veggie bowl for low iron levels was to include the most iron rich foods available. This includes lentils, quinoa, sunflower seeds, dates, olives, molasses, tahini (sesame), cumin, asparagus, and parsley. In addition, it is important to include foods high in vitamin C. Vitamin C greatly increases the absorption of iron in the body. Therefore, to make sure we get the MOST iron out of this meal, I added foods rich in vitamin C too! This is going to help us absorb as much of the plant-based iron as we can. The vitamin C-rich foods are roasted bell pepper, lemon, asparagus, parsley, and garlic.
Each and every ingredient in this healing veggie bowl for low iron levels is going to bring you out of deficiency. Each ingredient was thoughtfully chosen to boost iron and to overcome the inherent low absorption rate of plant-based iron. This way we can eat plant-based and have the energy, hair, nails and mood we so deserve!
*One final note, avoid food rich in polyphenols when you eat the healing veggie bowl. This includes tea, coffee, and dark chocolate. This is because polyphenols inhibit the optimal absorption of iron. Also, if you suffer from low hcl levels (frequent plaque build up, indigestion, digestive issues, acid reflux), it might be necessary to take an hcl supplement to ensure proper iron absorption. I suggest taking this HCL supplement by Premier Research Labs.
Healing Veggie Bowl for Low Iron Levels
gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and paleo
makes 2 very large bowls, or 4 smaller bowls
For the Tahini Molasses Sauce
- 6 tbsp (1/3 cup) tahini (sesame paste)
- 1 garlic clove, roasted
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup organic plain yogurt
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or regular molasses)
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- add water as needed to thin
*This recipe will make extra dressing. Store in refrigerator and use on any grain or veggie bowl.
For the Veggie Bowl
- 1 cup lentils, cooked
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked
- 12 oz. asparagus, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tbsp grapeseed oil (or another neutral oil like avocado)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup roasted red pepper, sliced into thin strips
- 8-10 Medjool dates, quartered
- 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 1 medium yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1/2 tbsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
For the Sauce
Add all the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until creamy. Add water slowly if needed to thin. You will want a thicker dressing, consistency of yogurt.
For the Veggie Bowl
First, roast the asparagus. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut and prepare asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Mix with grapeseed oil and salt. Put on a prepared cookie sheet (greased or covered with aluminum foil). Roast for 10 minutes. Take out and set aside.
Next, make the turmeric onions. Heat coconut oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, turmeric and salt and cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the vinegar to the skillet for a few minutes until onions caramelize (cooked but not burnt). Remove from heat and set aside.
Toast the pumpkin seeds. Heat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees F. Add the pumpkin seeds to a cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes until toasted. Make sure not to burn.
If making two large bowls, divide ingredients into two. Add quinoa, lentils, roasted asparagus, red pepper, dates, olives and turmeric onions to the bowl. Top with parsley and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle on dressing and enjoy!