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The Best Vegan Iron Sources for a Plant-Based Diet

Vegan Iron sources

Last updated on December 3rd, 2023

Iron is important for absolutely everyone so keep reading because I’m going to share the best vegan Iron sources!

Without the right quantities of iron in your body, and the ability to absorb it, you may feel an impact on your day-to-day life.

When moving to a vegan diet it’s common to worry if you’re getting what you need for a healthy mind and body and when it comes to iron you’re right to worry because it plays such an important role.

So, if you want to learn about the best vegan iron sources and what foods you need to eat to help absorb the iron you put in your body, then read on. We’re going to cover what you need to know to find the best vegan sources of iron.

The Best Vegan Sources of Iron

Iron isn’t especially hard to find but it’s important to make sure we have enough, so here are some popular vegan foods high in iron:

  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Cashew nuts
  • Kale
  • Lentils
  • Dried apricots
  • Spinach
  • Dried figs
  • Dried raisins
  • Tofu/tempeh
  • Chickpeas
  • Chia seeds
  • Linseed
  • Hemp seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Swiss chard

What is Iron and Why do we Need Iron?

Research shows that vegans need 1.8 times more iron in their daily diet than meat-eaters. So this is roughly 32 mg a day for women and 14mg a day for men.

The best Vegan Sources of Iron

Iron is needed in every stage of life and is especially important during growth and development. This is the reason why pregnant women need a significantly higher amount of iron to stay healthy.

Your body uses iron to make haemoglobin. This is essential for our bodies because haemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen from our lungs around our entire body. Also, myoglobin is made by iron and this brings oxygen to our muscles.

When thinking about incorporating iron-rich foods into our diet it’s useful to know that iron can be found in two forms in foods, heme and non-heme.

Vegans only eat non-heme iron as it’s the only type found in plants, whereas heme iron is only found in animal products. And as most people know, red meats are a popular place to find iron, but as a vegan, you can find non-heme iron, as long as you know what the best vegan iron sources are.

Non-heme iron is usually less easy to absorb by our bodies than heme iron. So, this would explain why vegans typically need higher levels of iron each day. So, this results in the RDI for vegans being 1.8 times higher than the RDI for meat-eaters.

However, a vegan diet is often higher in vitamin C and this helps the absorption of non-heme iron. So, for this reason, vegans usually have no problem consuming enough iron.

What are the Risks of not getting Enough Iron?

Not getting enough iron in your diet can lead to all kinds of negative impacts on the body, such as dizziness, low energy levels, poor concentration levels, headaches, tiredness and irritability.

Lack of iron - Vegan iron sources

Low levels of iron within our body can also result in an iron deficiency called anaemia. If you’re not getting enough iron and you’re feeling some of the following symptoms it could be a good idea to check with your doctor as you may be anaemic.

  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusually rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Cold hands and feet

How do we Absorb Vegan Iron Sources?

Eating amazing iron-rich foods every day is pointless if your body can’t absorb the iron you’re putting in.

So, it’s important you know the foods that will help and hinder the process if you want to get the most from the iron you’re eating. 

Drinking tea and coffee at mealtimes can have a negative impact on your body’s ability to absorb iron. On the other hand, eating foods high in vitamin C can increase iron absorption.

So, try pairing up the high-iron foods with some of these foods high in vitamin C:

  • Pepper
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Kiwifruit
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Potatoes
  • Pineapple
  • Grapefruit
  • Orange juice
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Kale
  • Cauliflower
Vegan Iron needs to be absorbed

The Health Benefits of Getting Enough Iron:

  • Better oxygen flow
  • Improved heart health
  • Improved respiratory functions
  • Healthy immune system
  • Stronger hair, skin and nails
  • Improved energy levels
  • Improved focus and concentration

There you have it. We covered what iron is, why we need it, and what the best vegan iron sources are. So, be sure to get all your vegan iron foods to feel the best you can every day!

A common issue for new vegans is hair loss or thinning. If this is something you’re wondering about then check out this post – Why Do Vegans Experience Hair Loss? And how to solve it?

Want some more ideas on how to be the healthiest version of yourself on a vegan diet? Then why not check out my post – What Vegan Foods Are High in Protein? And Why is Protein Important?

Meet the Author

Author Bio - Sinead OCarroll - The Wondering Wandering Vegan

Meet Sinead O’Carroll: Vegan explorer, sustainability advocate and the founder of The Wondering Wandering Vegan. Embracing veganism since 2018 and vegetarianism since 2005, Sinead is armed with a Vegan Health, Nutrition and Lifestyle qualification, and is on a mission to share her passion for cruelty-free living. 

With a taste for adventure and a heart for eco-conscious choices, she’s here to prove that vegans never miss out on flavour, fun or style. Join her in enjoying the delights of a vegan-friendly world! 🌱✈️🌍
Want to know more? Check out Sinead’s About page here.

Follow me on Instagram to see all the delicious vegan food I find, the vegan and cruelty-free products I use and what I get up to as a travelling vegan.

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