In this article, I will tell you about many different ways how to get iron on a vegan diet. I will go through vegan foods that are high in iron, through smart ways to maximize iron absorption, and provide some inspiration for meals so you have a solid foundation to get started with your iron-rich diet.
- Why is iron so important on a Vegan diet?
- What Vegan Foods Are High With Iron?
- Nuts and seeds
- Other sources
- Why Do You Need Iron?
- What’s Your Daily Iron Intake?
- How to maximize iron absorption
- Some Questions You May Have
- Final thoughts
Why is iron so important on a Vegan diet?
Iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in many bodily functions, from carrying oxygen in the blood to aiding in cell growth. Because it’s so important, it’s essential to make sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet – especially if you’re vegan.
While iron is found in a variety of plant-based foods, it’s not always easy to absorb. Even though vegan and vegetarian diets tend to be similar or higher in iron than non-vegetarian diets. However, the type of iron found in plant-based diets (non-heme iron) isn’t as well absorbed as heme iron (the main type of iron found in animal products).
In this article I will go through vegan foods that are high in iron, I will go through smart ways to maximize iron absorption
What Vegan Foods Are High With Iron?
There are many different groups of food that are high in iron, but some of the best sources include legumes, nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Here are some specific examples:
Beans, peas, and lentils are high in iron. These legumes also include substantial amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and may help you feel more healthy.
Disclaimer: All nutritional values in this article were taken from the USDA site.
According to the USDA half cup of tofu (124g) will provide you with 6.6 mg of iron. No wonder that is probably the main substitute for a meatless meal.
The same amount of iron (198g) can be provided by a full cup of boiled lentils. That is 37% of your daily RDI (Reference Daily Intake)
#3: Pinto beans
5.1 mg of iron is present in 100 grams of raw pinto beans. Furthermore, they are high in thiamine, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in non-heme iron, as well as a variety of nutrients, minerals, fiber, and good fats. Adding a small portion of nuts or mixing them in your meal (think porridge for an instance) is a very good idea.
#4: Pumpkin, Hemp, and Flaxseeds
Seeds are a rich source of protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and antioxidants. They are also a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 acids.
If you’re trying to get iron, 1 cup of pumpkin seeds (64g) has a total of 2.1 mg. Flaxseeds, on the other hand, provide 3.6 mg of iron per 64 grams.
#5: Cashews, Pine Nuts, and Other Nuts
1 cup of cashews contains 8.5 mg of iron, which is equal to 1.9 mg per 1 oz. Pine nuts, on the other hand, offer just 5.5 mg of iron in 100 grams (1.6 mg per 1 oz).
One thing to remember is that roasting nuts may decrease their nutrients, so roasted nuts may have less iron than you might expect.
#6: Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of iron. 100 grams of sunflower seeds can get you up to 5.3 mg of iron. They are also an amazing source of Magnesium, Vitamin B6 and are protein-rich.
#7: Sesame seeds
Sesame seeds are delicious and nutritious at the same time. 100 grams of these seeds will get you 14.6 mg of iron, 18g of protein, lots of magnesium, calcium, and dietary fiber.
Sesame seeds, according to WebMD, have a slew of health advantages, including (but not limited to) fighting infections and lowering cholesterol levels.
#8: Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is high in iron. 100 grams of tomato paste contains 3mg of iron. It means that one tablespoon (16g) will contain 0.5mg of this mineral.
Spinach is a dark, leafy green that is an excellent source of iron. 100g of raw spinach contains 2.9 mg of this mineral. It’s also high in vitamins A and C, as well as magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
If you’re looking for a way to increase your iron absorption, consider eating spinach along with foods high in vitamin C.
#:10: Swiss Chard
100 grams of Swiss Chard provides approx 1.6 mg of iron, making it an excellent source. It’s also high in vitamins A and C, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
Mushrooms are a good source of iron, with 100 grams of raw white mushrooms providing 1.5 mg. They are also high in selenium, potassium, and vitamin D.
One large-sized potato (370g) with the skin on contains 2.9 mg of iron.
One cup of chopped kale (67g) contains 1 mg of iron (it means that there’s 1.5mg of iron in 100 grams). It’s also high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium and magnesium.
100 grams of broccoli provides 0.9 mg of iron. It is also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate.
#15: Prune Juice
A cup of prune juice contains about 3 milligrams of iron, according to the USDA. Furthermore, prunes are high in manganese and potassium as well as vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
#16: Dried Apricots
Apricots, for example, are high in iron, fiber, and vitamins, making them ideal additions to a healthy snacking plan.
Dried apricots are a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. 100 grams of these delicious fruits offer 2.7 mg of iron.
Olives are a drupe-type fruit, belonging to the same family as mangoes, cherries, peaches, and pistachios. Olives are high in vitamin E and full of antioxidants. Besides iron, they contain quite a lot of copper and calcium.
100 grams of olives contains approximately 3.3mg of iron.
Mulberries are an excellent source of iron and vitamin C as well. 100 grams of this fruit contains 1.9mg of iron.
Watermelon is a great, refreshing summer fruit. It’s a good source of vitamin C. It also contains citrulline, which our body converts to arginine. Arginine is an amino acid that has several benefits for our health.
1 slice of watermelon (approx 1/16 of the whole fruit) will give you 0.7mg of iron.
100 grams of raisins contains 1.9mg of iron, which is about 10% of your recommended daily intake. These dried grapes are also a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, and magnesium.
#21: Dried Figs
Dried figs are sweet, chewy, and nutritious. They are a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. 100 grams of figs will give you 2mg of iron.
Spelt is a high-carbohydrate, high-fiber food. It’s particularly high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and niacin (vitamin B-3).
100 grams of spelt contains 4.4 mg of iron.
Oats are a nice and simple method to improve your iron intake. A cup of cooked oats has about 3.3 mg of iron.
There’s one thing that you need to be aware of: one of the most common oats ingredients is phytate, which may block the absorption of non-haem iron. (source)
Quinoa is one of the healthiest foods around. It is a highly nutritious grain that contains significantly more nutrients than rice and has a fluffy, porridge-like texture. Quinoa has twice as much protein and roughly 5 g more fiber than white rice. Quinoa has fewer calories and carbohydrates than white rice.
1 cup of Quinoa (185g) contains 2.8 mg of iron. Quinoa is high in iron and magnesium. Quinoa also has vitamin E and potassium. You can learn more about the health benefits of Quinoa on the Science Direct website
Tahini is a paste or butter made from ground sesame seeds. It’s a good plant-based source of iron and other minerals like magnesium, potassium, and zinc. It’s also one of the main ingredients in Hummus.
A tablespoon (15g) of tahini will give you 1.3 mg of iron. It’s also a good source of mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, both of which have been shown to be beneficial to general health.
#26: Coconut milk
Coconut milk is made from brown coconuts, which are the fruits of the coconut tree. Coconut milk is lactose-free, making it suitable for vegans.
Coconut milk is a great plant-based source of iron. One cup of coconut (240g) milk has about 3.9 mg of iron.
#27: Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is a thick, dark syrup that is made from the third boiling of sugar cane juice. It is a good source of dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B6
#28: Dark Chocolate
Real dark chocolate should contain at least 45g of cacao. Cacao is a high-antioxidant, nutrient-rich food. It is one of the best sources of magnesium and has a significant amount of zinc, potassium, iron, and copper.
One ounce (30g) of dark chocolate will give you about 3.4 mg of iron. It’s probably the most delicious way to get some iron for your body.
#29: Blackstrap molasses
Blackstrap molasses is sweeter and healthier than table sugar. It contains around 1.8 milligrams of iron per two tablespoons.
#30: Dried thyme
Dried thyme is a versatile culinary herb that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. Thyme is a good source of dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C.
Dry thyme is very rich in iron (approx 117 mg per 100g). That means that one tablespoon (0.9mg) of dried thyme will give you approx 1 mg of iron.
Why Do You Need Iron?
According to MayoClinic Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and more serious health problems like heart disease.
Females need iron because they lose iron each month during their menstrual cycle.
Pregnant women need iron to support the growth of their babies, and nursing mothers need it to produce milk.
Vegans may also need to supplement their diet with iron if they aren’t getting enough from their food sources.
Blood Production Health
Iron is an essential nutrient for producing healthy red blood cells. Hemoglobin is the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Without enough iron, your body can’t produce enough hemoglobin, which can lead to anemia.
Anemia is a condition that develops when your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells. This can cause a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and headaches. Left untreated, anemia can lead to more serious health problems like heart disease.
Iron is also important for physical health. It helps your body create energy and supports your immune system. Iron is also necessary for the growth and development of children.
So, as you can see, getting enough iron is essential for maintaining a good level of health. Thankfully, there are plenty of plant-based sources of iron available to vegans. Try to include a few of these iron-rich foods in your diet each day, and you’ll be well on your way to meeting your daily iron needs.
Iron is essential for the production of neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are responsible for mood, sleep, and appetite regulation, as well as cognitive function. A lack of iron can lead to a deficiency in these important neurotransmitters, which can cause a wide range of mental health problems.
Symptoms of serotonin and dopamine deficiency include depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, and problems with focus and concentration. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s possible that you are suffering from an iron-deficiency related mental health problem. Talk to your doctor about getting your iron levels tested.
What’s Your Daily Iron Intake?
According to the National Institute of Health, the daily iron intake depends on your age and gender however average iron intake for women older than 19 is between 17 and 18.9 mg/day and is a bit higher for men: between 19.3 and 20.5mg/day.
What’s interesting the amounts recommended by the British NHS are bit different as t’s 14.8mg a day for women that are older than 19, and only 8.7 a day for men over 18
How to maximize iron absorption
Here are 7 tips that will help your body to absorb the iron better:
- Eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods: Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron more effectively. So try to pair iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C, like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
- Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated helps your body absorb iron more effectively. So make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Avoid drinking coffee and tea with meals: Caffeinated drinks can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb iron. So try to avoid drinking coffee and tea with meals.
- Avoid eating high-fat foods: Fat can also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb iron. So try to avoid eating high-fat foods with meals.
- Avoid drinking alcohol: Alcohol can also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb iron. So it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol if you’re trying to increase your intake of this mineral.
- Use a cast-iron skillet: Cooking with a cast-iron skillet can help increase the amount of iron you absorb from your food (source).
- Take a vegan iron supplement: If you’re having trouble getting enough iron from food, you may want to consider taking a vegan iron supplement.
Important notice: Check with your doctor. If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough iron, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor. They may be able to recommend a specific iron supplement or other courses of action.
Some Questions You May Have
Is banana rich in iron?
Bananas are not high in iron, but they do contain small amounts. They also contain both vitamin C and potassium, which help your body absorb the small amount of iron that is present.
Do blueberries have iron?
While blueberries do contain iron, the amounts are very small. Blueberries are not a good source of this essential mineral. There are other foods that are better sources of iron, such as spinach, tofu, or tahini. If you’re looking to increase your iron intake, you should focus on eating more of these foods rather than relying on blueberries.
What depletes the body of iron?
Iron depletion occurs as a result of blood loss. In other words, the more you bleed, the more iron you can lose. Menstruation; giving blood; injuries; infections; and any condition causing chronic blood loss are all possible causes of iron loss.
Adding iron-rich plant foods to your vegan diet is a great way to ensure you’re getting enough of this essential mineral. There are many different foods that are high in iron, so there’s plenty of variety to choose from.
And don’t forget that cooking with cast iron cookware and cast iron pans can also help increase the amount of iron you absorb from your food.
So make sure to add some iron-rich foods to your next meal and enjoy feeling your best!