Thank you so much for sharing this, Meredith. I was never so vehement about my own vegetarianism, but I ate practically zero meat from roughly college through age 33 or so, for a variety of reasons. In that time, my iron levels apparently plummeted. Amazingly enough, I never became outright anemic, so my doctors didn’t notice… but I was suffering many of the health issues of incredibly low ferritin nonetheless before a doctor finally thought to test it and discovered that I was just above the threshold for hospitalization.
And I developed my deficiency while eating all the “right” veggie foods for iron: beans, lentils, nuts, spinach, broccoli, dried fruits, whole grains, etc. Worst of all, I’m not a good candidate for oral iron supplementation… and intravenous iron supplementation is strongly discouraged by a lot of doctors. Meaning, meat is truly the only reliable (and, in my case, probably the healthiest) way I can get my iron up.
Everyone’s body is different. Depending on age, fertility intentions, pregnancy status, menstruation intensity, and biochemistry — and even interactions between any given food with whatever else our normal diet tends to offer — we won’t all be able to survive and thrive on the exact same diet as the next person, and the next, and the next.
Learning that vegetarianism was indeed not unequivocally healthy and that not all of us enjoy well-rounded, sustainable health while eschewing meat was humbling for me too. Thanks for spreading the good word, and in such a balanced, non-judgmental way.