I am disposed towards iron-deficiency anemia because I am both vegetarian and female. Naturally, women lose iron out of their bodies every month, so we have to have proportionally more in our diets.
Supplements are not the same as getting nutrients from nature. An iron supplement will never be as well absorbed by the body as heme iron obtained by eating animal flesh.
Is this the end of vegetarian Melissa? After 16 years, I don't even know whether I can easily digest flesh foods any more. Also, it rather disgusts me to think about it. I don't want to feel as though I've "failed" as a vegetarian, or consider myself a "traitor".
On the other hand, this is my health and well-being I'm talking about! Am I crazy? Why would I not have most nutritious, health-promoting, natural diet I can find? If having some clams or oysters or sardines now and then gives me not only Iron, but also Vitamin B12 and Omega-3 fatty acids, promoting goodness throughout my body, what's holding me back? An outdated identity of myself as a true vegetarian?
I've always maintained that if I were starving, I would kill other animals for food. If my plane crashed in the Andes and I had to turn cannibal until we figured out a way down the mountain, I would. (And then I'd write a book about it.)
But the identity is hard to let go of. It's something that's been with me for over half my life. I can keep trying the vegetarian route: lentils, beans, blackstrap molasses, cooking in cast iron, taking supplements. However, history indicates that these just don't go far enough.
I'm tormented by this. I don't know what to do yet. Part of me doesn't want to make a big deal about it, 'cause I feel like people will understand. "You had to change your diet in order to be healthy? Makes sense." Heck, all the people that actually care about me should be fine. So why am I so emotionally caught up in this?