Thursday, March 5, 2009

Feisty Bento #306: How do vegetarians deal with anemia?


Top tier: cabbage; green beans; broccoli rabe
Bottom tier: black bean tortilla wraps - recipe will be posted tomorrow on Feisty Foodie!

I'm such an idiot... I've been rolling these up and then squishing them into the box because I couldn't figure out why the method I saw Rachael, Giada, whoever using... didn't work for me.  This morning, I logged into my Google Reader and briefly skimmed the other bento blogs that I read and found this post from Mer, read someone's comment, and realized... because I WAS DOING IT WRONG.

For some reason, I thought it was "fold sides, fold bottom up then fold top down voila."  No dearies, it's fold bottom up, THEN tuck the sides over that, then roll.  DUH.  I'll have to try that... next time I make these.  D'oh!  Hopefully my wraps won't be so darn ugly then! 

---not completely food related and some of you might find this gross---

So, I am encountering the first issue with this meatless thing.  I don't want anyone to worry about me - I am, in general, a fairly healthy kind of gal - I mean, I don't experience many issues (not more than your average person), nor do I have any big known issues currently.  Nothing that isn't being dealt with anyway.  But here's a little quirk: I've always been borderline anemic, and as I gained weight (from back when I was severely underweight to now), the doctor stopped mentioning that little bit in our checkups.  I do occasionally thirst for iron aka a big steak, usually after a lot of blood loss for whatever reason (you can take that as you will).  I've dealt with my near-anemia also by eating quite a lot of red meat over the years, encouraged by my parents who knew this.  Okay.

Growing up, I've tended to have occasional nosebleeds, random, no-reason (I wasn't hit in the face with anything, I didn't pick my nose and scratch myself) nosebleeds.  Eventually, it became clear that this happened often after I'd sat in the sun for a while, but beyond that, we never figured out a medical reason.  This slowed down a lot as I got older, although last year, when we were in the rainforest in Argentina, I got a bad one while waiting in line for the boat ride that takes you through the waterfall (the sun was pounding down on us).  And this morning, while showering, my nose began gushing and gushing - a worse nosebleed than I've had in a while - and I lost quite a bit of blood. 

Anyway, the point is, I'm used to this, and how I dealt with that is really to eat a big steak.  Iron out, iron in, makes sense, right?

OBVIOUSLY, I cannot do that right now, so I have to ask: any vegetarians out there who deal with anemia or the need for iron without resorting to supplements and/or meat subtitutes?  (I am avoiding those unless or until it becomes unavoidable that I need those nutrients.)  I have been feeling a teeny bit lightheaded/faint and hungrier tody than usual, so I need to know...  What do you guys usually do when this happens?  Any solid recommendations?  (First person to say, "Go back to eating meat," gets a fist in the face :) oh, and I've been feeling a lot more violent today than usual.  Interested in causing bloodshed instead of being the one to shed blood.) 

---end of possibly gross information---

Well, HAPPY BENTO~!!!  No bento tomorrow, I'll be at the gym, so have a great, gorgeous weekend!!!


  1. Couldn't you just hop on over to your local vitaminshoppe and pick up iron tablets?

    Quick and easy solution it seems!

  2. The quick and easy solution... but not to my question, which reads: "Any vegetarians out there who deal with anemia or the need for iron *without resorting to supplements* and/or meat subtitutes?" :) I don't want to take supplements. Thanks though!

  3. i JUST read an article about this in the lastest issue of vegetarian times. the article is available online here:

    the info in it should fix your problem.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. The best way is to eat more dark leafy greens, and whole grains, plus cook in a cast-iron pan (no joke!). Spinach, broccoli, and lentils are good sources.
    also make sure that with these sources, to make sure you are eating a bit of citrus or other VitaminC foods, which aid in the absorption of iron from those foods.

    A list I had handpwritten from [somewhere] in my pantry had this listed in order of best10-> worst1
    10.) Swiss Chard, cooked

    9.) Lima Beans, cooked

    8.) Tempeh

    7.) Bagel, enriched

    6.) Tofu

    5.) Quinoa, cooked

    4.) Spinach, cooked

    3.) Lentils, cooked

    2.) Blackstrap Molasses

    1.) Soybeans, cooked - 8.8 mg

  6. Not answering your question entirely, but I thought that this artical might be helpful in some way. :)

  7. Total has 100% of your daily RDA for Iron. Not sure if it meats your 'vegetarian' goals though - but it should.

    We just used it here for the kid's science project - the iron in it is enough that you can find it with a very strong magnet!!!

    I have trouble with anemia too - apparently one that comes from some kind of blood loss - but we have not found where I am leaking yet. I hate taking any more pills than necessary so I have stayed away from the supplements - and seems some forms are preferred over others.

  8. If I were you I would saute some tofu, broccoli rabe and spinach in a little garlic and oil, maybe some chili oil and soy. Salt and pepper. Serve it over Quinoa. Quinoa is the perfect protein for vegans. It has the same amount or better of all the major meat proteins. It is easy to find and easy to cook. Your vast cooking skills will make it easily edible.
    I bet you will find that your vampiric blood lust will subside *grin*
    Mrs. Flabby

  9. I'm a vegetarian/pescetarian dealing with occasional anemia, too. Here are some things that doctors and people at the blood bank have suggested:

    Shellfish (not an option for me)
    Cream of wheat
    Chick peas

    These foods enhance your body's ability to absorb iron: Broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomato, tomato juice, potato, green & red peppers, cantaloupe, oranges & juice, white wine.

    Red wine can inhibit your body's ability to absorb iron.

  10. Wow, thanks everyone for the great information and quick responses!!! This is all very helpful and I will keep all of this in mind in the upcoming weeks while I'm going meatless (not vegetarian though!). I actually also meant to ask specifically, when you're feeling a bit low-iron, is there any one food you guys eat a big bowl or plate of and feel much better right off the bat? Thanks again everyone!!! You rock!

  11. PS I had the bento pictured here and ate a big orange as well. Hopefully that will help :)

  12. doesn't spinach have more iron content than a steak?

  13. D'oh! I should learn to read before I make comments. Anyway, I'd like to edit my response to... tomatoes and apples! Both are really high in iron content...

  14. My list would look like the one from Maebius. If I need a boost, I go for the broccoli (raw or steamed or lightly sauted).
    I've been a vegetarian for many years and keep my iron up high enough to donate blood. And they are a picky lot!!

  15. My Mum is anemic and I used to be (I was once so bad I turned blue and ended up in th ER). I'm more of a carnivore than an omnivore so I delt with it by eating a LOT of meat and taking iron tablets. My Mum's not big on meat and the tablets don't do enough (she can't give blood, her iron levels are never high enough) so she turns to veggies. The one that our doctor reccomended as best is spinach. She'll just sit and eat a whole bowl of it, it really helps. Try eating it raw in a salad so you don't lose any of the nutrients you might while cooking.

    Good luck!

  16. Have you had a doctor check out the anemia? I went thru a phase where I ate LOADS of spinach and other things to help boost iron content of my blood but still showed up as anemic on my tests - they they broke down the results further and said my intake levels were fine but my anemia was from some kind of blood loss - which led to an upper and lower endoscopy and no real answer.

  17. I was anemic when I was a vegetarian as well, strikingly so as it showed up on some unrelated bloodwork. Since my condition is chronic and worsens when I'm loosing blood, I decided to give up vegetarianism. It simply wasn't practical for me. I considered the supplements, but I'm wary of anything when you get a list of poisoning symptoms before you even have the medication.

    If you're committed to remaining veggie, I'd suggest dark leafy greens and legumes with citrus or some other source of vit c as it aids absorbtion, I've been told. But, if you eat it with dairy or something with lots of calcium, it can impede iron absorption. The iron in veggies is harder for your body to absorb than when you get it in meat, so you're going to need more of it.

    You might also try bleeding less. Maybe that would help if your anemia is related to your period? If you went on something like Seasonale that kept you from having your period so often, it might keep your iron levels more steady.

  18. If Yvo isn't favorable towards taking a supplement, then why would she go on Seasonale that would alter her body's cycle? Especially considering the length of her experiment.

    Nori has good iron content along with other minerals and fiber. When no one's looking, sometimes I'll just eat it like chips. It's nice to have a beverage handy for that.

  19. Anemia is not fun.

    I just found out I am severely anemic and we do not know why.

    Doc does not want me changing my diet or taking supplements till we find out why it has worsened.


  20. Glad I'm not the only one with wrap-folding issues. ;)