If you’re on a plant based diet and do not eat meat and dairy, like more and more people do, people often talk directly about the 3 alleged nutrient deficiencies: calcium, B12 and iron. But did you know that the vast majority of meat and dairy eaters do not have just just 2 or 3 but 7 (!) nutrient deficiencies? Shortages that are often even more serious than those of the plant based eaters? (Dr. Michael Greger, NutritionFacts, Omnivore vs. Vegas Nutrient Deficiences) In addition, meat eaters, compared to vegetable eaters, also found to consume much less fiber and have the lowest intake of vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin (vitamin B3) and folic acid (Schüpbach R et al. Eur J Nutr., Feb. 2017).
An incredible amount of unsubstantiated nonsense is told about nutrition. Take the nonsense about iron for example. I recently again read a misleading article in the Dutch Consumer Association’s magazine, which stated that you really need to eat meat to meet the iron needs of your body. Why? “Because iron from meat (heme iron) is absorbed best”, the article says.
It is true that heme iron (iron from meat) is very well absorbed by our body. But beware: this is not a positive thing.
A little “iron lesson”: we can get iron from many different types of food. For example, you have “heme iron” (from meat) and “non-heme iron” (from plant based food). It is true that heme iron from meat is very well absorbed by our body. But beware: this is not good at all. As a result, our body starts to “store” iron – even when we don’t need it. That is unhealthy. High iron levels are associated with type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and early death.
A recent study among more than 500,000 (!) adults showed that heme iron was linked to 9 different causes of death. This is partly because heme iron can cause carcinogens and DNA damage, oxidative stress (or: an excess of free radicals or a lack of antioxidants, which causes aging and inflammation (Etemadi et al. BMJ. May 2017).
If we eat plant sources of iron (non-heme iron), our body is better able to regulate intake.
If, on the other hand, we eat iron from plant sources (non-heme iron), our body is better able to regulate intake. So if our iron supply is low, we absorb more and vice versa. The body of people who eat vegetable food adapts over time to be able to absorb more iron. Non-heme iron, unlike heme iron, is not associated with chronic diseases, and it has the advantage that it also brings with it the many beneficial nutrients.
What are the best sources of non heme iron?
- Lentils, chickpeas and beans
- Soy and tempé
- Spinach, kale
- Hempseed, chiaseeds, linseeds, cashew nuts
The big advantage is: you also eat an enormous amount of fiber – found only in plants-; a nutrient, for which many people are deficient. On average, adolescents and adults are only consuming about 50 percent of their needs. This is a problem, because fiber is important for numerous body processes, such as: balancing blood sugar and managing digestion. A low-fiber diet can lead to diabetes and constipation, which area chronic conditions seen in many children. Plant fibers are best for weightloss, preventing, treating and reversing type 2 diabetes, and a healthy gut micobiota. The consumption of meat doesn’t come with all those wonderful health benefits. There is absolutely nothing in meat that cannot be found in a much healthier form in a plant based diet!