Vegan diets are actually higher in iron than either lacto-ovo vegetarian diets or omnivore diets. Because dairy foods are deficient in iron and may inhibit iron absorption, vegans have an advantage over lacto-ovo vegetarians regarding this nutrient. In the case of plant diets, the issue is not how much iron is in the food -- there is plenty. Rather, it is a question of how much gets absorbed, since compounds in plant foods inhibit absorption of iron into the blood-stream. There is no doubt that iron from plant foods is less well absorbed than is iron from meat. Even so, vegans appear to be no more likely to be iron deficient than meat eaters.

Vegans do, however, have lower stores of iron in their bodies. Is this a concern? While low iron stores may reduce the risk of heart disease, they may also raise the risk of deficiency in certain circumstances. For now, the conclusion can be made that vegans should have the same attitude toward iron as the general population. That means vegans must pay some attention to this nutrient and be careful to get enough because -- for all types of diets, including those that contain meat -- lack of iron is the number-one nutrient deficiency in the United States. It is an important public health propblem, so make sure you eat plenty of iron-rich foods daily. Include a good source of vitamin C at each meal, too, since this boosts iron absorption.