There is a common misconception that vegans suffer from an iron deficiency when in fact the plant based diet can be very high in iron. The key is to plan your meals the right way. If you need to consume more iron-rich foods, check out the plant based iron sources below and incorporate them into your daily eating plan.
You will also find high iron recipes and a high iron meal plan at the end of this post. Vegans can get iron naturally by eating these high iron vegan foods without the need of any supplements.
If you are iron deficient, please talk to your physician.
Personal Iron Levels on the Vegan Diet
I have shared the full blood tests for me and my husband in my book Plant Powered Health. I got mine done 6 month into the vegan diet and my husband 9 months into the diet. It shows that we are not deficient in anything and our cholesterol is excellent.
Low Iron Levels
Low iron blood levels can have many causes and it is best to get it checked by your healthcare provider. You might have to take supplements for a while as you adjust your diet.
Other vitamins also play a role in the absorption of iron. That leads me to the conclusion that in order to maintain healthy iron levels, you need to make sure to get all your vitamins and minerals from a healthy balanced diet. Here are some other vitamins to consider:
- Low iron levels are also associated with a vitamin A deficiency (source)
- Folate and B12 deficiency can contribute to anemia (iron deficiency) (source)
- Vitamin C helps with the absorption of non-heme iron (source)
Iron is important for the production of red blood cells, muscle metabolism, neurological development, cellular functioning, and hormones.
A deficiency in this mineral can cause gut issues, anemia, weakness, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating (source). The iron RDA for women ages 19-50 is 18 mg per day. Adult males and women over 50 should consume 8 mg per day.
There is a difference between the iron found in animals and the iron found in plants. Heme iron, found in animals, is better absorbed but the body can’t rid excess heme iron easily. If it is over-consumed, animal derived heme can cause inflammation.
Non-heme iron is found in plants (and small amounts in animals) and you might have to eat a bit more of it or pair it with vitamin C rich foods for better absorption. Your body is able to shed excess non-heme iron and balance out iron storage.
There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that vegans are iron deficient. You can get healthy iron levels from a balanced plant based diet.
13 Plant Based Foods High in Iron
- 1 cup cooked soybeans: 8.8 mg
- 1 cup cooked lentils: 6.6 mg
- 1 cup cooked amaranth: 5.3 mg
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas: 4.7 mg
- 1 cup boiled potato with skin 4.4 mg
- 1 cup cooked black beans: 4.1 mg
- 1 cup cooked oats: 3.4 mg
- 2 tablespoon hemp seed: 2.8 mg
- ¼ cup raw cashews: 2.2 mg
- ½ cup dried apricots: 1.7 mg
- 1 tablespoon tahini 1.4 mg
- 1 cup raw Brussels sprouts: 1.2 mg
- 24 almonds, raw: 1.1 mg
High Iron Vegan Recipes:
Below you can find some high iron vegan recipes. Click on each link to get to the printable recipe. You can view the amount of iron per serving beside the recipe name. Remember, the RDA for women ages 19-50 is 18 mg per day. Adult males and women over 50 should consume 8 mg per day.
- One Pot Taco Elbow Pasta (9.7 mg)
- High Protein Breakfast Bowl (7.1 mg)
- Easy Vegan Thai Noodle Soup (7.0 mg)
High Iron Vegan Meal Plan:
The following is a high iron 1700 calorie meal plan example (mg of iron):
- Breakfast: 1 cup oats (3.4 mg), 1 cup berries (0.7 mg), 1 tablespoon hemp seeds (1.4 mg), 10 almonds (0.5 mg).
- Lunch: 1 cup boiled potato with skin (4.4 mg), ¾ cup black beans (3 mg), 1 cup broccoli (0.7 mg). Snack: ½ cup dried apricots (1.7 mg).
- Dinner: 1.5 servings of the sweet potato chili (9.2 mg).
- Total iron: 25.1 mg