Vegan Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas
June 16, 2011

Vegan Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas | The Full Helping

As usual, wonderful and warm response to the latest Green Recovery post. Thanks to Wendy for sharing and to all of you for welcoming her story so graciously!

Yesterday, I promised you vegan enchiladas, and I do not disappoint: the following recipe for sweet potato and black bean enchiladas is probably my favorite enchilada recipe to date (I’ve made all kinds, ranging from the uber-traditional to the uber-weird). What made me think to make them, though, wasn’t merely the corn tortillas in my fridge, or the fact that warm weather and Mexican flavors pair naturally, but rather the fact that I’ve been thinking a lot about iron lately. Just the other day, I got this email:

I have been vegan for a little over 6 years and always strive to eat healthful whole foods. Recently I have noticed that I am loosing lots of hair on my head, so my doctor took my blood to test my iron levels. Even though I eat lots of iron-rich plant foods (seeds, nuts, dried fruit, beans, greens), my iron counts were still way too low. Now, I am taking an iron supplement, but I really want to eat my nutrients, not take them in supplement form. Could you give me some ideas on how to add more iron-rich plant foods into my diet so that I won’t have to be on this supplement forever? My doctor told me to start eating red meat and liver (!) and I was kind of horrified.

I should preface my response here with a few key points:

●Severe deficiencies of any kind (B12, D, iron, etc.) can often be an individual problem that really does demand close medical attention; you might have malabsorption issues or a health challenge that’s causing your levels to dip very low. Talk to a medical professional whom you trust about exploring the deficiency further.
●If you do have a severe deficiency, your doctor will likely recommend a medicinal dosage until the deficiency resolves
●Non-heme iron (the kind in plant food) can be more difficult to digest than heme iron, which is found in meat. Consequently, iron needs for vegans are generally thought to be slightly higher than those for omnivores
●Some dark leafy greens (namely spinach) contain compounds called oxalates that block our iron absorption if we eat them raw. This is a good reason to get a mixture of both raw and cooked vegetables, even if you love raw foods
●Strong iron supplements can be very binding, so try to take them along with lots of water and other foods that help you to eliminate well: this varies from person to person, but for me it’s lots of fresh juice, some whole grains, dried fruit, beets, band lot of salad, naturally.

Once you eliminate the possibility that you have a medical issue that goes beyond diet, and once you normalize the deficiency, you will indeed want to seek out some dietary changes that help you to keep iron high. A good ballpark range is 10-15 mg daily for vegan men, and 15-20 mg daily for vegan women. Fortunately, iron is readily available in vegan foods. My favorite sources are:

●Blackstrap Molasses
●Lentils
●Soybeans
●Quinoa
●Tofu and Tempeh
●Black beans
●Kidney beans
●Black-eyed Peas
●Dried Apricots
●Raisins
●Tahini/Sesame seeds

Some people are surprised to hear about that first item: molasses has iron? It does, and if your bloodwork ever indicates low iron levels, you may want to try having a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses each morning (straight up, or in a bowl of hot cereal). It’s a concentrated iron source (15% of your RDA per tablespoon on average), and many find that it helps to stave off any signs of iron-deficiency anemia. If you can’t tolerate the taste on its own—which is understandable, given how distinctive it is—I recommend hiding it in foods. Put two teaspoons in a bowl of oats, a teaspoon in a smoothie, or a nice hefty dose into a baked goods recipe You might even put it into one of my chia puddings!

Vegan Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas | The Full Helping

If those ideas don’t work, give these iron-rich enchiladas a try. The filling already provides some iron from black beans, but adding some blackstrap molasses makes it an even better food source. Beyond that, these are a perfect summer potluck or easy dinner recipe: if you cut the prep into a few phases (I made the sauce the day before I assembled these, the filling the morning of, and just baked them at night) they’re actually pretty easy to assemble. They’ll work nicely for a hearty summer meal or a warming winter one, and I can’t recommend them enough!

Vegan Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas | The Full Helping

Vegan Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas
Recipe Type: vegan, gluten free optional, soy free, tree nut free option
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • For the tomatillo sauce:
  • 8-10 tomatillos (I used ten very small ones), stemmed
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Dash tobasco sauce (or a dash cayenne)
  • 1 teaspoon agave or tbsp natural sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • For the enchiladas:
  • 3 large or 4 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive or other vegetable oil
  • 1 medium sized while or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups ooked black beans (or 1 can beans, drained and rinsed)
  • 3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (optional, but makes the filling nice and creamy)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 10-12 6-inch corn or whole wheat tortillas
  • 1/2 cup [url href=”https://www.thefullhelping.com/go-to-cashew-cheese-recipe/” target=”_blank”]cashew cheese[/url] or vegan cheese of choice (optional, for topping)
Instructions
  1. First, make the sauce.* Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Place the tomatillos in the water and cover the pot. Cook till the tomatillos’ skin is splitting and peeling off, about 10-12 min.
  2. Remove the tomatillos from the pot, allow to cool for a few minutes, then add them to a VitaMix or blender with all other ingredients. Blend on high till sauce is smooth (you can leave it a little textured if you like, but I prefer mine to be creamy).
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add the sweet potatoes. Cook till they’re fork tender (about 10-12 minutes), then drain.
  4. Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the onion. Saute the onion for 5 minutes, or until clear, stirring frequently. Add the cooked sweet potatoes, black beans, molasses, almond butter (if using), lime juice, salt, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, and black pepper. Stir everything to combine, then remove the skillet from heat. Use a potato masher or the back of a spoon to mash the mixture about halfway, until it’s still chunky but the potatoes and some of the beans are broken down.
  5. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking dish. Spread a thin layer of the tomatillo sauce (about 1/2 cup) on the bottom of the dish
  6. Assemble your enchiladas by placing about 1/3-1/2 cup of the filling into each of your tortillas, rolling them up, and laying them side by side in the baking dish. Cover them with all of the tomatillo sauce (they’s supposed to be smothered), and then dot them with the cashew cheese, if using.
  7. Bake the enchiladas for about 30 minutes, till the cashew cheese is browning and the enchiladas are hot and bubbly. Serve.
Notes
*In place of the tomatillo sauce, you can use 1 14-ounce can store-bought enchilada sauce of choice.[br][br]Leftover enchiladas will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. They can be frozen for up to 1 month.

 Vegan Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas | The Full Helping

Again, the enchiladas are easy to prepare ahead of time: whip up the sauce a day or two beforehand, make the sweet potato filling the day or night before (it’ll keep nicely in the fridge for at least 48 hours) and then simply assemble on the day of serving.

1 serving of these vegan sweet potato and black bean enchiladas provides you with over 30% of your RDA of iron. So, if you’re eating a balanced diet throughout the day, and if you pair them with a side dish (or array of side dishes) that also has a decent iron content, you’re in good shape to finish the day full of the plant-based iron you need. Keep in mind, too, that our bodies absorb iron better when we’re also eating vitamin C, so serving these with some fennel or red peppers is a great idea!

Hope this offers some clarity on iron, and inspires you to veganize your favorite enchilada recipe. Tell me, how do you get your RDA of iron? What are your favorite sources?

See you tomorrow!

xo

Images courtesy of Lighter

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    86 Comments
  1. i love homemade enchiladas! I made them last year during the winter, and am never going back. mine used a homemade red enchi sauce (blogged it! 🙂 ), but i really want to try your tomatillo sauce, I’ve never personally made anything with them, but love green enchis, too.

  2. I thought the molasses taste would be overpowering, but it’s not at all, in fact the filling is so good that it would make a good meal or side dish all on its own! I am always looking for ways to use blackstrap molasses, but happened to stumble upon this recipe when looking for a way to use up all the tomatillo salsa I just made. Thank you!

  3. My toddler had low iron starting at 10 months. He and I transitioned a full vegan diet around his second birthday and out of responsibility I decided to have his iron levels checked to ensure the new diet wasn’t causing any problems. It turned out, his levels were higher than ever:-)

  4. With your recipes is it possible to add a small shopping list to each recipe that I can copy and paste to my phone? Also can you consider adding prep and total cook time? Thanks 🙂

    • Jen, my recipes are pretty improvisational, so it’ll be hard to nail down cooking and prep times, but it’s a good goal to work toward!

  5. Has anyone tried making these with red enchilada sauce? Tomatillos aren’t available for me at the moment, and I’m curious if these would work with red sauce…

  6. Hi! Quick question – I don’t have tomatillos available, but really want to make this. Would a good jar of salsa verde work?
    I’ve been taking my blackstrap molasses because of this. My favorite way is mixed in with homemade almond milk – it’s like a yummy, cold coffee drink! But way better for you and no coffee breath or crash 🙂
    Thanks!

  7. Oh my gosh heaven! I paired this with couscous (with avocados and some tomatillo sauce mixed in), and cornbread (vegan, of course!). I had an omnivorous friend over for lunch and he couldn’t believe how he didn’t feel like he was in a food coma after all of that, and how amazing vegan enchiladas can be. Awesome recipe! This is definitely on my to-make-again list! 😀

  8. I love you Gena! Wow, became a Vegan two months ago after reading ‘Mad Cowboy’.
    It’s a whole new perspective on reality – a happier, more positive one!
    The hardest thing to start with is “what do I eat?” People like you are the light and the way. I can’t wait to try some of these recipes! They look great!

  9. Excellent article (which I shared). It perfectly answers the questions that many Vegans and non-Vegans alike have regarding iron. Also it is a good article which debunks the myth that we need animal foods to get enough iron. Thank you so much for the great recipe as well!!

  10. Dates also contain a fair bit of iron and when you combine iron rich sources with vitamin C rich sources you increase the iron absorption to the max. Cheers for a wonderful post and recipe. I headed here from a link from another website and kept this information for future reference. Again, thanks for posting this. It’s something that we vegans really need to keep on top of to ensure that we are proactive eaters rather than having to rely on supplements to boost our natural foods 🙂

  11. I made these tonight and they were AMAZING!!!! UNBELIEVABLE!!!! Happened to stumble upon the recipe by accident this morning which was perfect because I had 4 people over for dinner tonight. It was the perfect meal and they all loved it (everyone wanted seconds!) I replaced the agave/sugar with stevia and that tasted just as good. It also give me an excuse to open the bottle of molasses that I had in my pantry for way too long. Thanks to you, I now have a new favorite dish for dinner parties (or for myself when I want to cook once and have leftovers for the week). Thanks! Love your blog/site/recipes – Keep up the great work, Gena!

  12. I made these for “Mexican night” at Bible study tonight and they were a hit with the meat-eaters (and me). The tomatillo sauce is a nice counter to the sweetness of the filling. Will definitely keep this recipe in my aresenal!

  13. I just made this for dinner and my husband and I scarfed it down! So, so good. Thanks again for a great recipe, Gena!
    I thought I had some blackstrap in my pantry, but when I went to cook I couldn’t find any. So I used agave nectar instead. I didn’t get all the iron goodness, but it still tasted delicious!

  14. I thought I had iron deficiency but then went to the doctor who decided upon thyroid problems, put me on a “healthy” dose of synthroid and sent me on my way. I felt better, then started to become more educated and not so comfortable with the hormone replacement therapy, changed my diet, stopped my synthroid, went back to the doctor a year later and all my levels were normal. I now always ask my doctor what options are available and what could be the underlying cause. I still haven’t found anyone who is willing to look to nutrition first or even as supplemental therapy. Your patients will be lucky!

  15. This recipe is the epitome of vegan deliciousness and is a recipe worth repeating! These enchiladas tasted so yummy that those first bites had me wishing we had invited company for dinner; so we could share the incredible flavors of this dish with our non-vegan friends! I think this recipe could easily be a winner in all circles! Yep, it’s all that good! 🙂

  16. My husband and I had the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas for dinner! My husband hates sweet potatoes; but I wanted to try this recipe anyway—the pictures made it look so good. After eating a few bites of the roll-ups tonight, my husband said, “these are excellent!!!” I smiled and told him sweet potatoes were the main ingredient in the filling. His comment was, “well, that’s the first time I have ever liked sweet potatoes!” Thanks, Gena!
    Everyone should try this recipe. At least add it to your “To Make” list! You won’t be disappointed!

  17. Dear Gena,

    I love this blog – you are a beacon of sanity and deliciousness.

    My problem is with Calcium, especially now that I’ve stopped drinking skim milk. What do you recommend?

    Thank you, again.

  18. Random q: How do you know if a can of (in this case) black beans is BPA free? I’ve read the cans in our Whole Foods and I’ve yet to find one that states it on the package. Are there brands that are known and I’m missing this info? I’d love to know I’m getting BPA free canned foods when I do buy them.

    Thanks

    • Kelli, as far as I know, the only brand of BPA-free canned beans is Eden Organics. They have a new canning liner that is BPA-free and the cans say “BPA-free” right on them in the lower left-hand corner.

      Besides Eden Organics beans, the only other canned goods I know of that are BPA-free are Native Forest coconut milk (however they do not say it on the label). As far as I know, all other cans of food out there besides these two brands has BPA in them. Hope this helps!

  19. Made this recipe today for lunch. Hubby and I loved it. Just a couple of minor edits in the instructions: Once the onions were sauteed I turned the oven off and added the rest of the ingredients. There’s no mention of when to add the sweet potatoes so I added them once the onions were done.
    Awesome job!

  20. What a great Post! I’m soakin’ my black beans now!!!
    Thanks for the info Gena and starting the interesting conversation above. I will be sharing this with a friend of mine who was recently diagnosed with anemia. Food is a powerful medicine when empowered with more knowledge!
    Also…. a speical request?
    Gena, Can you please do a feature or blog for vegan/veg women on important food to-do’s post partum and when breatfeeding as I know lots of women who’d benefit from this little spoken of subject and lots of midwives who could share with their clients! Thanks as always from Oz! xoxo

  21. So many things I could say about this!

    First, low iron can make you feel tired. But you may not have anemia. It’s important for the doctor to check stored levels like ferritin. Most mainstream docs will say “normal” when NDs and out of the box docs will want intervention even in low “normal” ranges.

    I’ve had both high iron and low both times not eaten meat. A friend of mine who eats meat had worse iron deficiency leading to anemia. One does not cause the other. Heavy periods can make iron stores worse.

    Beans can help, but didn’t help me. I was frustrated. My levels also went down eating more greens, wheatgrass, chlorophill. I had to get shots once and then infusions. But normally I take VegIron because the pills are small. I up it to three pills, and no stomach issues.

    Nettles and nettle tea are another good source of iron. You need to have vitamin C in there (just like vitamin D needs fat) to be absorbed. Nettles have it! Read gingeristhenewpink blog and she got her iron up with drinking lots of nettle tea. It is much milder than wheatgrass and won’t make ya gag. 🙂

  22. First time I make a comment, although I enjoy reading your blog every day. Thank you, Gena, for the awesome information about iron. I would LOVE to read other posts about vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, especially if you mention some food sources for them. We recently switched to a more plant-based diet (my husband, our 2 year old son, and I) and I am very interested in making sure that we get all the nutrients from food, especially for our son. The recipe looks tasty, as usual.

  23. Wonderful recipe! Sweet potato and black bean enchiladas are my favorite kind. I’ve been a vegetarian for three years and haven’t gotten tested for iron. I do love blackstrap molasses and tahini so I hope they are keeping my iron levels up.

  24. I am *swooning* over those enchiladas! Will be planning them soon. 🙂

    As for the iron… :bites lip: I eat raw spinach almost every day. It’s my very favorite green. And frankly, since going vegan (11 weeks now) my appetite has decreased, my cravings have mostly dried up, I’ve lost 18lbs, and I just don’t eat that much food, period, so I’m mildly concerned about my numbers. 75% of what I do eat is nutrient-rich and plant-strong, but 75% of potentially not enough would still be not enough. I’m thinking that when I come back from France, in August, I’ll probably pop in to the doctor’s for a check-in just to make sure. I had more energy at first, have been feeling run-down lately, but 1) I’ve been highly stressed, and 2) not sleeping, so I’m betting it’s more related to that than nutrients.

    • Jess,

      Raw spinach is fine — the problem is eating raw spinach and counting on it to be your sole source of iron. I eat both raw and cooked, and love the variety!

      Gena

    • PS – stupid question. Is blackstrap molasses special or will any do? My jar just says “molasses” on it.

  25. Great piece on iron. Anemia is common in people of Mediterranean decent is quite common. A key to looking at iron levels is whether they’re stable. I have low iron levels but my nurse practitioner, and the doctor who oversees her work, check my levels to make sure they’re stable (roughly the same number each time bloodwork is done). Despite my best efforts I can never get my levels to what doctors expect iron levels to be, but my numbers are always stable. I’m what they call a functioning anemic. My body has adapted to these low levels and I don’t have any side effects of low iron (low energy, hair loss, etc). I’ quite fortunate. I give credit to my healthy diet.

  26. Hi Gena,

    I don’t comment often but I wanted to second how important it is to look into iron-deficiency further as a woman, rather than just say ‘oh, well I get periods so that must be it’. This is one of those ways that I think women really do lose out – when doctors just assume that the fact of being a woman means your body isn’t good enough to take care of itself.

    I was reading an interesting article a little while ago (here: http://professorkateclancy.blogspot.com/2011/01/iron-deficiency-is-not-something-you.html) where they went ahead and used the tests that would be used on a man who presented with anaemia on women who would normally just be given supplements and told their period was to blame.

    86% of the women had further conditions (gastro-intestinal bleeding mostly) which were affecting their iron levels and which had been ignored.

    My body is not broken just because it’s female, and the way a lot of doctors approach women has made me very vigilant to assumptions and very much inclined to research.

    • Yeah but there is nothing wrong with stating the fact that menstruating need more iron because of the fact that we bleed. Just different needs! I wouldn’t assume doctors are telling you you’re broken! But I agree about the possibility of underlying conditions that may be ignored because it’s easier to say, oh it’s because you menstruate. But even with those conditions you can’t deny that loosing blood would make it even harder for the body to keep iron stores.

  27. I totally corrected my third-trimester iron dip by adding a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses each day. When my bubs was ~7 months old, I started letting him lick the spoon. He never developed the toddler anemia that’s so common in exclusively breastfed youngens. Just anecdotal, but I adore me some blackstrap. =)

    Gena, I’ve never heard that people may have trouble absorbing non-heme iron for a period after switching to a plant-based diet. Do you know of somewhere I could read more about that? Thanks!

    Also, omgenchiladaslookyum.

  28. Gena – these look amazing! I was going to make chickpea enchiladas for dinner tonight… Now that I’ve seen this post, I might just have to add some sweet potato to the mix! Thanks <3

  29. Yay, I’m happy to see that I eat a lot of iron rich food. My favorites are dried apricot, black beans, quinoa and tofu! I really appreciated this post, more ‘spotlight on’ posts would be great!

  30. Gena. I am in my low 30’s and have had low iron for over 10 years. My iron(ferritin) was at 7 which is very low. I tried eating meat and took supplements….it would gradually get better but still it was between 11-18. Do you want to know what I did to have normal iron values? I took wheatgrass every single day for months. Wheatgrass is a powerhouse of nutrients which made my iron levels 45 . I also tooke E3 Live. For the first time my iron is good and it because of nature.
    Teresa

  31. Terrific post, Gena! Luckily, I am not iron deficient, but your suggestions are fantastic!

    The one supplement that I’m convinced is valuable to everyone (in addition to B-12) is Vitamin D as the RDA is considered extremely low, with the vast majority of experts recommending supplementing with 1500 – 2000 mg./day – which is extremely hard to achieve no matter what one’s dietary preferences. I know your opinion differs, but there seems a great deal of evidence that high levels of Vitamin D can serve as a preventative measure to a vast majority of health conditions including as we’ve long known, osteoporosis.

  32. I had never had a problem with iron, in spite of being vegetarian since the age of 12, until I trained for a marathon. Turns out I had a combination of too much exercise, bleeding juvenile polyps (sorry, TMI), and perhaps gluten intolerance that were leading to this problem. I mention this because I second your comment about looking for other causes. My doctor immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was my diet. I was the one who had to request a colonoscopy and a blood test for coeliac. I am not one for self-diagnosing, but after this experience I AM one for pushing your doctor when something doesn’t sit well with you. I went 15 years on a plant-based diet before I ever saw an iron deficiency, and it wasn’t because I had used up all my iron stores or changed my diet.

    Oh, and my favourite sources of iron are probably beans, cooked spinach and bok choy.

  33. I forwarded this to my mom as soon as I read it. Awesome post, so much info. Your blog is such a wonderful place to come and search for information. Thank you for writing Gena!

  34. I love this post for 2 reasons.

    When I was at the grocery store this morning they had some tomatillos for sale and I thought, I really need to find a recipe that uses tomatillos because I’ve never cooked with them before and would love too.

    And the second, as a new vegan and a regular blood donor, I struggle to keep my iron levels high enough to allow me to donate every 2 months. I don’t like supplements, although I respect that some people have no option, and am thrilled with the idea of using molasses in hot water or simply by the spoonful to help with keeping my iron levels in a healthy range.

  35. I’m trying to pay attention and absorb this good info on iron, but find myself terribly distracted by the gorgeous gooeyness of this dish. I love tomatillo sauce but have a hard time finding them. I’ll be holding out on this dish until I do find some.

  36. I’m so glad you posted this! I am a new vegan (still under one year) and I knew I had to worry about b12, but was not aware of iron. I have been told I was anemic before in my life and recently I became concerned about hair fall-out. I am betting this is my problem and I’m going to amp up the iron rich foods (which I love anyway!) and see if it helps! Thanks!!

  37. Wonderful post once again, G! You sure know your plant- based diet information well and one day will make one awesome doctor. Patients who come to see you will consider themselves VERY lucky :)!

    You’re right- iron, b12, folate, vitamin D and other fat-soluble vitamins and minerals can be a scare when eating a vegan diet. Anemia also runs in my family and in fact, my mom had to stop being vegetarian because of it. I’m proud to say I’ve never had low iron or any deficiencies with my levels. I definitely owe it to eating a wide variety of plant- based foods in generous quantities: lentils, grains (quinoa, millet, amaranth, etc), seeds, dried fruit, nuts, soy products, leafy greens, nutritional yeast and more! A plant- based diet can be more fulfilling than a omnivorous one if you know how to properly get everything in!

  38. How about cooking on cast iron pans? From what I understand it can be a great source of iron. I cook pancakes, stir fries, veggie burgers, tempeh, and more on cast iron.

  39. Well-timed post! I just gave blood today. I’m starting the supplements for a while just because I have a history of low iron, but thanks for the refresher on iron in foods and other iron-related issues!

  40. Love this post! I am particularly aware of iron because last year (as a direct result of a medicine perscribed by my doctor, not my diet) I found out I was very iron deficient. Since, I’ve gotten my levels back up with supplements and an iron-rich diet. I love blackstrap molassas and am always looking for new ways to incorporate it into my diet. I never thought to put it into something savory; this recipe is SO creative! And sounds delicious.

    I do have one question for you. I know that you should try not to consume iron with calcium as it blocks iron absorption….But what about foods that are high in both iron and calcium?? I wonder how much iron our bodies are actually able to absorb from these foods. It doesn’t stop me from eating them, of course, as they’re very good for you, but I have always wondered about that. I’m sure I’m overthinking things, but I thought I’d ask in case you have an answer to the mystery…

    Great post 🙂

    • Isn’t it iron that blocks calcium absorption, not the other way around? I could be wrong, though!

  41. These look delicious! Definitely not a summer dish here in the southern US though with the boiling, saute, and oven!

    Question about the spinach….I eat raw spinach all the time in green smoothies and salads. Should I be cooking the spinach and using other greens like lettuce in salads?

    Thanks, great article!

  42. Swoon is right! These look amazing!
    Molasses in a chia pudding?! Interesting! I may just have to try that. I’m mentally organizing a potluck so you can make this for me.

  43. I love adding molasses to oats—thanks for spreading the awesomeness. I also really appreciate your sharing your thoughts on taking supplements. I remember in my first-ever nutrition class, the professor said, “The only thing a vitamin can cure is a deficiency of that vitamin.” While I think that can be interpreted as an oversimplification, I would agree that I find that to be technically true—some of the symptoms associated with nutrient deficiencies are bizarre! They can also be very serious.

    Having a doctor willing to delve a little deeper is so worth it. When I was feeling like death last fall and having lots of strange physical, mental, and emotional symptoms, my doctor suggested we check my B12 levels—go figure, I was really deficient. Taking a daily B12 supplement helped me get back to normal within a few months.

    Thanks for the recipe. I’ve been wanting to make enchiladas at home recently, and these look fantastic!

  44. I’ve been anemic for quite some time and just recently my iron levels were “normal” (unfortunately my other blood counts were oddly low so I have to go see hemotology next month… but that’s a different story).

    Typically I take a supplement in the morning and evening (65mg) and I try to take them with some vitamin C to help the absorption (drink it with some OJ, for example). I never really focused on the numbers too intensely when I eat, but I just tried to eat a varied diet and go on with it. I like the emphasis you brought up that it’s possible that certain people just utilize and absorb iron poorly and a supplement is just a necessity. I would much rather get my iron from food, but if my body doesn’t function properly to do so, then that’s not my fault and I’m not going to worry about it. 🙂

  45. Wonderful iron information, thanks! Something I should be more mindful of. I try to get iron from beans mainly, I eat a lot of tempeh, soy beans and lentils.

    The enchiladas look divine, I need to try these because they used to be one of my favorite non-vegan dishes to make and just fell out of the rotation when I went high-raw vegan and started trying so many new recipes and ingredients.

  46. Great post and thank you for touching on iron, Gena. As you said once a severe medical issue is ruled out or in a very small percentage of women who are unique circumstances, I think the average woman can chunk the iron pills (so hard on our systems and digestion anyway!)and get her iron from food based sources. My .02 only, of course. To each her own and I am just saying what I have done and it doesnt mean that approach will work for everyone.

    But I love blackstrap molasses and when I was pregnant and refused to take iron pills or huge horsepill prenatals (I was so sick w/ morning sickness, i.e. all day, all pregnancy sickness, they didnt stay down anyway and just made me even sicker) I had to get all my nutrients (other than folic acid) from food. And so that’s what I did. And molasses cookies are really good 🙂

    Love the enchilada recipe!

  47. So glad to see blackstrap molasses as your first suggestion! It really is a wonderfully nourishing food. Many people enjoy it more as a beverage (just stir about a tablespoonful into 6 oz of hot water.) The sweet, deep taste is very relaxing and easier to take when diluted in water.

    The iron in blackstrap molasses can be made even more readily absorbable when taken with the herb Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) and there are lots of wonderful traditional recipes for “blood tonics” and “blood building syrups” that include such herbs as yellow dock and dong gui which can be particularly helpful for vegan women who have menstrual difficulties along with pale complexion, tendency toward coldness, and thinness. (Oftentimes this correlates with anemia, but as an herbalist I don’t treat anemia, I work with a person’s whole constitutional picture!)

    I bet the enchiladas are awesome—but I must admit that personally I still can’t quite get down with the fake cheese. Maybe nooch on-top instead? Or top with salsa?

  48. OMG Gena these look unreal. I think I just decided what I am having for dinner.

    Question: How do you feel about food combining beans and starchy vegetables? I never know how to combine beans since they are both a starch and a protein. Thoughts?

    Thank you as always for another amazing dish 🙂

    Arielle

    • Arielle,

      I don’t personally practice or believe in food combining, but if you do, I’d say that you can combine beans as either protein or starch, though most food combiners find that they combine most easily with other starches.

      G

  49. After a few months of being vegetarian, I went and had my iron levels checked, just to be sure. They were right where they should be, and I was so relieved. I’m not sure why I was so anxious that they would be “off,” but was delighted regardless. I owe it to the beans, lentils, raisins, and nuts, I think. Great information; I especially appreciate the note about raw spinach. Most people don’t know that it can prevent absorption of iron, and just keep eating it raw in salads. An unfortunate cycle. Hurrah for equipping folks with knowledge! 🙂