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Heart BEATS for India ~ Sophie Umansky

People maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet for a variety of cultural or religious reasons. However, this type of diet can put you at risk for developing anemia. But why is this?

Research suggests that vegetarians “have much higher rates of iron-deficiency” than their meat- eating counterparts. Those who eliminate meat from their diet are prone to suffering from iron-deficiency anemia, as meat products are known to be very rich sources of heme iron. Heme iron is found in meats, chicken and poultry, and is most easily absorbed by the body. Additionally, vegans, who eliminate all animal products from their diet including eggs and dairy, are also at a higher risk for developing anemia as a result of a vitamin B-12 deficiency, also known as pernicious anemia. Vitamin B-12 plays a critical role in the making of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body. Vitamin B-12 is only found naturally in animal products so vegans must find other ways to incorporate it into their diet.

So how can you incorporate iron and Vitamin B-12 into your diet without consuming animal products?

Although heme iron is only found in meat products, non-heme iron, another type of iron which is less easily absorbed by the body, is readily available in a variety of foods. Lentils, kidney beans, whole grains, leafy greens, tofu, fortified breakfast cereals, broccoli, dried fruits, and nuts all have high levels of non-heme iron. In order to help your body absorb the iron more easily, it is also recommended to “combine these iron rich foods with foods high in Vitamin C.” Vitamin B-12 can be found in fortified rice, fortified soy milk, some meat substitutes, as well as dietary supplements.

In many developing nations, such as India, the majority of the population maintain a vegetarian diet. However, foods rich in non-heme iron and Vitamin C are very hard to come by in developing nations and rural areas, as the majority of what the diet consists of is rice and other grains. The result is a large portion of the population who is anemic and/or iron-deficient.

In an effort to combat this, BEAT has partnered with INTACT India and the MMHRC hospital to deliver iron-rich foods to families in rural villages and provide quality healthcare and wellness checkups to people who are not able to get them otherwise. We will be working to purchase locally sourced iron-rich foods and distributing them to pregnant women and children in several rural villages in India. The MMHRC hospital staff have agreed to donate their time to conduct tele-medicine visits and monitor the improvement in iron-deficiency in these villages.

If you would like to help, please donate to this amazing cause through our website! We will be posting updates on the women and children who receive our help and you can see how your donation has made an incredible difference!

For more information on Intact and MMHRC, please visit their websites listed below:


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