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I am 49 year old female post menapause,  following a vegan diet with fish/seafood 3 times per week.  25% of my haemoglobin unstable/variant. 

Do you think l can get enough iron from eating this way.  I also run 5 x per week. Following 2 days fasting and other days eat 1,000 cal. 




Edited by Shezian
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Shezian, I've been eating vegan for 18 months and I was often 300% the Iron Rda. Blood analyses revealed Fe and Ferritin substantially higher than the lower bound of the normal range, Fe still under the 50th percentile but that seems to be good. 

I'm not sure what you mean by '25% of my haemoglobin unstable/variant. '

Fish is not particularly rich in iron, although that's heme-iron, best for those who have not high ferritin.

Besides the fish you eat, some iron rich foods which I can think about right now, there are more. Iron is not a problem at all in a well designed vegan or pesco-vegan diet.

  • Cashews, almonds, other nuts and seeds
  • cacao powder and very dark chocolate
  • chia seeds
  • spinach and other green leaves veggies
  • whole grain and other whole cereals
  • Legumes, especially lentils
  • Soy products.

Of course in younger females , since their Fe requirements are very high, they should always check their iron preferably using an app like cronometer.

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Some ideas on how to increase iron absorption in vegan diets:


Absorption from iron-rich plant foods increases markedly when foods high in vitamin C (such as red bell peppers or strawberries) are eaten at the same time because iron is converted from a ferric form to a more readily absorbed ferrous form. The citric acid in citrus fruits also enhances iron absorption. Obsolete food-combining rules that insist fruit must be eaten separately from other foods can be ignored, especially by consumers low in iron.

The beta-carotene in yellow, red, and orange foods also aids iron absorption.

Vegans eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and typically get more than one and a half times as much vitamin C as nonvegetarians— a clear advantage when it comes to iron absorption. For example, 5 ounces (150 ml) of orange juice containing 75 mg of vitamin C has been shown to increase the absorption of iron from foods eaten at the same time by a factor of four. Other studies show 50 mg of vitamin C to enhance iron absorption sixfold. Eating ¾ cup (185 ml) of any of the following provides 50 mg of vitamin C -- broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, bell peppers, snow peas, cantaloupes, citrus fruits and juices, guavas, papayas, strawberries, and vitamin C– fortified juices; so does having a kiwifruit, ¼ cup (60 ml) of sweet red bell pepper, or a big salad. Even after cooking, some vitamin C remains; for example, vegetables retain about 85 percent of their vitamin C when microwaved, 70 percent when steamed, and 50 percent when boiled. (Losses vary with cooking time and temperature.) A large baked potato retains 30 mg of vitamin C after baking. 2,49– 51

Onions and garlic can increase the availability of iron (and zinc) from grains and legumes by 50 percent, further boosting iron intake. 52

In contrast, absorption of dietary iron decreases in the presence of tannins and other polyphenols in black tea, coffee, cocoa, and red wine. Calcium supplements also inhibit iron absorption. 2,6 To maximize iron absorption, it’s wise to consume these inhibitors an hour apart from iron sources.

--Brenda Davis, Vesanto Melina   Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition

Edited by Sibiriak
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 Not all of my haemoglobin is unstable, only 25% of it is a variant meaning its a different shape, hence why my haemoglobin has always been low, even though my iron has been normal. Its a variant called hemoglobin Tulon. Very rare. 

As far as fasting goes, l eat unlimited non starchy vegetables with 2 tbs, of olive oil 2 days per week just to maintain my weight. 

I tend to always eat vitamin C with all of my meals to increase absorption of iron from foods. 

But what nobody can answer is do clams, oysters and mussels have iron? Also how does it compare to red meat?


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6 hours ago, Shezian said:

...do clams, oysters and mussels have iron? 



All shellfish is high in iron, but clams, oysters and mussels are particularly good sources.  For instance, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of clams may contain up to 28 mg of iron, which is 155% of the RDI (3).   However, the iron content of clams is highly variable, and some types may contain much lower amounts (4)



Animal products such as meat, poultry, and seafood  contain both heme and non-heme iron.   I don't know how the percentage of heme iron in the iron from red meat compares to that in clams etc.    Plant foods contain only non-heme iron.

While heme iron is better absorbed,  it has also been associated with negative health effects.   That may or may  not be a concern--I'm just mentioning the issue.



Although adequate dietary iron is required for essential functioning of the body, iron is also a pro-oxidant, and too much of it can induce oxidative stress (inflammation) and DNA damage due to the iron-associated production of a dangerous free radical called hydroxyl (-OH ).  Specifically, heme iron has been linked to metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis,  cancer and other serious medical conditions.


Developing a heme iron database for meats according to meat type, cooking method and doneness level (2012)


Although both non-heme and heme iron can induce oxidative DNA damage by catalyzing the formation of reactive oxygen species [4, 5], heme iron specifically has additional detrimental effects. Heme iron is associated with increased cytotoxicity of fecal water [6, 7] and the promotion of chemically-induced colorectal cancer in rats [8]. Furthermore, heme iron intake increases endogenous formation of N-nitroso compounds (NOCs) [9, 10], which are known carcinogens [11].


Interest in heme iron intake has been escalating over recent years, leading some investigators to estimate intake of heme iron using proportions of total iron. There are two methods of estimating heme iron: by using 40% of total iron from meat [15, 26, 27] or by using meat-specific proportions: 69% for beef; 39% for pork, ham, bacon, pork-based luncheon meats, and veal; 26% for chicken and fish; 21% for liver [16]. Although the animal specific proportions are more realistic, our data shows that heme iron values in different types of meat derived from the same animal have varying heme iron contents.

Using such estimations has led to inconclusive data for the association between heme iron intake and a variety of cancers. For colon cancer, one study reported an association between heme iron intake and higher risk for proximal colon cancer [27], another two studies reported suggestive/borderline statistically significant positive associations [16, 28], whereas the most recent study was null [29]. In addition, a positive association between heme iron intake and lung cancer risk has been reported [30], as well as a suggestive, but not statistically significant, positive association for upper digestive tract tumors [26], but no association for cancer of the breast [31] or endometrium [32] in a Canadian cohort of women. 

Iron intake, body iron status, and risk of breast cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis (2019)


Iron has been shown to promote breast carcinogenesis in animal models through generation of oxidative stress and interaction with estrogen. Heme iron, which is found exclusively in animal-sourced foods, is suggested to have a more detrimental effect. Epidemiological evidence of the association between iron and breast cancer risk remains inconclusive and has not been comprehensively summarized. This systematic review and meta-analysis evaluated associations between both iron intake and body iron status and breast cancer risk




Heme iron intake and serum iron levels may be positively associated with breast cancer risk. Although associations were modest, these findings may have public health implications given the widespread consumption of (heme) iron-rich foods. In light of methodological and research gaps identified, further research is warranted to better elucidate the relationship between iron and breast cancer risk.


Shellfish is also known  for high heavy  metal content.    For example:

Consumption of seafood and its estimated heavy metals are associated with lipid profile and oxidative lipid damage on healthy adults from a Spanish Mediterranean area: A cross-sectional study (2017)


In conclusion, in adults without risk factors for CVD, increasing shellfish consumption, even by a moderate amount, could favour a pro-atherogenic lipid profile and a higher level of oxidised LDL. These associations are likely influenced by the estimated exposure to As [arsenic] and Hg [mercury] from shellfish despite these values are lower than the PTWIs [ provisional tolerable weekly intakes ].


Perhaps our heavy metals expert  McCoy  would care to mussel in on this topic.



Edited by Sibiriak
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I am a vegetarian (vegan on most days) and my iron intake seems more than adequate, at 324% of RDA over the last 4 weeks, according to Cronometer..

I hadn't examined it closely, since I've never had trouble getting the RDA, but it appears that adding spices such as cumin and turmeric are an easy way to get iron.

As to absorption, my latest blood work shows:


Iron: 127 ug/dL (35-168)
Ferritin: 30ng/mL (22-415)

Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 14.39.48.png

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I have always has slightly Lowe haemoglobin, hence my concern. I didn't know spices added iron, thats good to know. 

Valter Longo recommends eating fish/shelfish 3 times per week whilst following a mostly plant based diet, which is what l am trying do do. He sais that most vegans end up being malnourished and thinks its a good idea to follow this kinds of plan. 

As a precaution l also supplement with liquid iron (floradix), a few times per week and take a multi vitamin. Hopefully when l get my bloods in Jan, my iron will be good. 

thanks again .

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On 11/3/2019 at 8:31 AM, Sibiriak said:

In conclusion, in adults without risk factors for CVD, increasing shellfish consumption, even by a moderate amount, could favour a pro-atherogenic lipid profile and a higher level of oxidised LDL. These associations are likely influenced by the estimated exposure to As [arsenic] and Hg [mercury] from shellfish despite these values are lower than the PTWIs [ provisional tolerable weekly intakes ].


Perhaps our heavy metals expert  McCoy  would care to mussel in on this topic.

Maybe I'd need to read the articles in detail since the authors seem to contend that some dietary thresholds are not adequate to avoid an LDL increase. It would have been a useful comparison with hematic and urinary thresholds or BEIs (biological Exposure Indexes). Anyway, both Arsenic and mercury appear to have recognized urinary thresholds (which I posted in another thread), so it would be very easy to eat fish and deliver regularly a urine sample to the lab to check that the levels are all right. 

I 'll most assuredly follow my own suggestion as far as Cadmium goes, but I have to wait that creatine clears my system.

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  • 1 month later...

This may be of interest:

"The chemical form of iron is an important factor affecting the iron availability of vegetarian diets. Less than 40% of the iron in meat, poultry, and fish (10) is in the heme form, which is more efficiently absorbed than the remaining nonheme iron present in these and all other foods (1115). Nonvegetarian diets with substantial amounts of red meat supply about 2 mg/d, or 10–12%, of the total iron in the heme form (8); in comparison, diets based on poultry or fish contain less heme iron, roughly in proportion to the decrease in total iron content, and vegetarian diets contain no heme iron. Heme iron is better absorbed (≈15–40%) than nonheme iron (≈1–15%) (1115). Both forms are absorbed in inverse logarithmic proportion to body iron stores. However, the result is a greater range of efficiency for nonheme iron absorption, compared with that of heme iron, as iron stores vary from low to high normal values (1115).

Heme iron can account for nearly half of the iron absorbed by people with moderate iron stores consuming moderate to liberal amounts of red meat (12, 16). In contrast, because of apparent upregulation of nonheme iron absorption, nonheme iron contributes more than heme iron to the total amount of iron absorbed in people with low body iron stores (12). Thus, the generally less well absorbed nonheme iron in vegetarian diets is more responsive than heme iron to differences in body iron status: nonheme iron absorption can be more completely limited by those with high iron stores, while being nearly as well absorbed as heme iron by those with very low iron stores. However, the efficiency of nonheme iron absorption by those with low iron stores depends on the enhancing and inhibiting food constituents being consumed concurrently."


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Interesting article. In my experience, on my 1.5 years vegan stint, I ate from 250% to 300% iron RDA and my blood iron was about at the 30% percentile of the population, well within the normal range, whereas my ferritin was closer to the median, or 50th percentile.

I ate lots of cacao powder, chocolate, spinach, nuts. My iron consumption is slightly lower now that I'm following a lacto-vegetarian diet.

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My ferritin level tests over the years:

2003: 136

2005: 92

2006: 85

April 2007: 126  (went vegetarian in Oct 2007).

2008: 62

2012 I went vegan.

2016: 31

(normal range: 15 - 300)

I usually get around 200-250% of my RDA for Iron.

Edited by Matt
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I have always been under the impression that higher ferritin levels correlate with higher mortality rates.

Here is what my cursory search found:

The Risk of Too Much Iron : Normal Serum Ferritin Levels May Represent Significant 



"However, there is considerable evidence that within this range adverse e"ects of iron are implicated, which impact the development and progression of a number of common disorders. !ere is also considerable data indicating that lowering ferritin levels within the normal range to values corresponding to near iron depletion produces bene#cial results for a number of diseases. In addition, oxidative DNA damage is strongly and signi#cantly associated with ferritin levels within the normal reference range with no apparent threshold. It is hypothesized that optimum ferritin levels are at the low end of the normal reference range near the threshold for anaemia. Failure to measure ferritin and respond to results above this suggested optimum may do a disservice to patients. Either blood donation or phlebotomy is very e"ective in achieving these levels"

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4 hours ago, mccoy said:

Ron, would you feel safe with iron stores near to depletion levels?

Well, I am technically close, since my Ferritin is at 30 ng/mL, with normal values between 22-415 ng/mL.

I definitely don't feel anemic :) But I remember reading up on iron a few years ago and from what I recall, overall mortality increases with higher iron levels.

Edited by Ron Put
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