Can a Vegan Diet Make You Feel Cold?


Aside from having a cold, other things can make you feel cold frequently.

If you’ve somewhat recently gone vegan, there’s a chance that your diet could be causing you to feel cold.

If this is a common problem for you, you should see a doctor, since there can be some very serious causes.

Here, I’ll give you a brief overview of the possible causes of coldness, and we’ll see which ones might be linked to veganism.

Why Might You Feel Cold?

Aside from sickness or just being somewhere cold, WebMD outlines a handful of potential causes:

  • Anemia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Blood Vessel Problem
  • Diabetes
  • Anorexia

Anemia is the big one that could be related to being vegan.

There are many causes of anemia itself, but the most common is an iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency is one of the most common and concerning nutrient deficiencies on a vegan diet that often causes symptoms like being cold, fatigued, weak, or dizzy.

Vegan Diets and Iron Deficiency

Why is iron deficiency common on vegan diets?

There are 2 reasons:

  • Iron is harder to come by in plants
  • Iron from plant sources doesn’t absorb as well (it’s non-heme iron, compared to heme iron in animal sources)

In practical terms, vegans need to consume more iron than non-vegans, and typically have to put some thought into which foods to get it from.

Getting More Iron as a Vegan

If you think you might not be eating enough iron, start by making sure you’re eating enough iron.

Refer to this list of the best vegan sources of iron, and track your intake using an app like Cronometer.

If you’re consuming enough iron according to the app – great!

Otherwise, you need to keep trying to incorporate those foods high in iron by planning meals that include:

  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables

Alternatively, you can find a good vegan iron supplement if you just can’t eat enough.

Let’s say your iron intake is already good, could you still have anemia?

It’s possible, since as I mentioned, iron from plants isn’t absorbed as well as from animal sources.

Easy Ways to Increase Iron Absorption

Plants contain non-heme iron instead of heme iron (found in meats). Heme iron is anywhere from 2 to 4 times as easy to absorb (source). That’s why vegans need to aim to consume well over the typical RDA of iron.

Luckily, there are a few ways that you can increase how much iron your body can absorb.

The most important thing is to always try and eat vitamin C in meals with iron. Here’s a detailed look at how much vitamin C you’ll need.

Next up, soaking and sprouting any legumes you eat can also help. Legumes have high levels of antinutrients called phytates that bind to minerals like iron and reduce absorption. Soaking and sprouting significantly reduce phytate levels.

Be on the Safe Side

While you may be able to fix an iron deficiency on your own, you should go see a doctor to prevent any serious health issues.

There are other serious illnesses that could be making you feel cold, and this isn’t the sort of thing you want to try and self-diagnose if it’s a recurring problem.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. I've spent over 6 years as a freelance nutrition writer and researcher. During this time, I've tested over 50 vegan protein powders, and over 100 other types of vegan supplements.

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