Question:

If you are vegetarian, do you have to take iron tablets to compensate? 

Do you recommend any other foods or fruits? I drink a lot of milk (1% organic) and take the following pills daily:  

1. Move Free Ultra Triple Action
2. ‘C’ Vitamin 500 mg. 
3. MSM 1000mg 
4. Calcium 600 mg
5. Multivitamin Silver Centrum for men +50  

I am 81 years old and have a slight knee problem. Please let me know if you have any other recommendations. 

– Michael J.

Answer:

Your current nutrient supplements do not provide any iron (also known as ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, ferrous fumarate). If you consume a good amount of non-heme iron from plant sources such as vegetables like spinach, beans, nuts, and fortified grain products, it’s possible to meet your daily iron need without supplementation. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vegetarian adults over 50 years of age is 14.4 milligrams of iron per day, which is 1.8 times higher than for people who eat meat.  

Vitamin C helps absorb iron so you should take it with your richest iron meal. Your calcium supplement, on the other hand, reduces the availability of iron so take it at another time of day. Consult with your doctor if you’re concerned about anemia. 

The Vegetarian Resource Group offers sample high-iron menus and a discussion with sample menu for seniors. Unless you have specific symptoms, complaints or health conditions, there is no need to focus on a particular food. I’d recommend a diet rich in legumes, grains, green vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit with 2-3 dairy servings if you wish. Choose whole foods and limit processed foods, added sugar and alcohol. 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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