Anemia Caused by Eating Vegetarian Should I be Concerned?

By Michelle Honeyager | Last Updated: May 19, 2017

Female Patient Being Reassured By Doctor In Hospital Room
Female Patient Being Reassured By Doctor In Hospital Room

Image: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

One of the most common arguments you’ll hear against going vegetarian is that you’ll get anemia. As if it’s your unavoidable fate if you are vegetarian, to get anemia caused by eating vegetarian. But the fact is, anemia can strike meat eaters and non-meat eaters a like. A study suggested that a well-planned vegetarian diet can provide the human body with the amount of iron it needs. In fact, the study states that iron-deficiency anemia is not significantly different than in meat eaters. But anemia can be a concern for vegetarians if they’re not eating right. Anemia caused by eating vegetarian should I be concerned?

Know your anemia types

Giving up meat suddenly without doing any key research is what’s likely to trigger anemia caused by eating vegetarian. You might be tempted to simply gravitate to eating more of the types of foods you’re used to eating that doesn’t contain meat. That might mean more refined carbohydrates like white bread, sugary cereals or cheese pizza. That’s when vegetarians can run into problems.

There are actually two types of anemia: iron deficiency anemia and B-12 deficiency anemia. It’s what it sounds like, one is caused by a lack of iron and the other a lack of vitamin B-12. A B-12 deficiency is actually what’s known as pernicious anemia. Iron plays a key role in making red blood cells, and can be a concern for vegetarians, as this vitamin is only available naturally through animal sources, meaning meat and animal products.

How to avoid anemia caused by eating vegetarian

With some proper research and work with your doctor, it’s entirely possible to avoid anemia caused by an improperly structured vegetarian diet. The first concern, of course, is making sure you’re getting enough B-12, since it comes from animal products like meat, dairy and eggs. This will look different for different vegetarian diets, since some people eat eggs and some don’t. Eggs and dairy will help you get the necessary B-12.

Even so, you can also look for other foods that are fortified with B-12, such as rice and soymilk. And then there’s always the option of supplements, though you’ll want to work with your doctor to find the right dose and option.

Then there’s the way to stop iron-deficiency anemia, which is to find foods that are high in iron. There are tons of vegetarian options to make sure you are getting high doses of iron. Some of the vegetarian foods with the highest doses of iron include soybeans, blackstrap molasses, lentils, spinach and tofu.

You may have to get a little more creative in the way you eat if you want to stay healthy as a vegetarian. But that’s one of the benefits of being a vegetarian. It forces you to look for more healthy, nutrient-dense ways to get in your daily calories, whether than means eating more spinach salads or incorporating more high-protein legumes into your diet. In the long run, your body will thank you for eating in a more health-conscious manner.

Anemia caused by eating vegetarian should I be concerned? If you have any other insights, please share in the comments below.

About Michelle Honeyager

Michelle Lovrine Honeyager is a freelance writer living in Southeastern Wisconsin. You can find out more about her at https://www.clippings.me/michellelovrine.

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