How do Vegans Get Their Iron: Top Plant-Based Sources Explained

When people think about iron-rich foods, images of juicy steaks and hearty hamburgers often come to mind. However, those who follow a vegan lifestyle don’t have to miss out on this essential mineral. Iron is crucial for maintaining healthy blood and transporting oxygen throughout the body, and fortunately, plant-based diets can be packed with iron-rich options.

Vegans and vegetarians typically require 1.8 times the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of iron compared to meat-eaters. If you’re wondering how to meet those iron requirements without reaching for a filet mignon, fear not! Our leafy green, plant-powered friends have got us covered with a wide variety of accessible and delicious iron sources.

From beans, lentils, and tofu to the humble spinach leaf and fortified cereals, vegans have an array of options to ensure they’re getting the iron they need. And it’s not just about eating iron-rich foods, but also focussing on boosting absorption; enjoy your greens with a splash of vitamin C (think a generous squeeze of lemon) to enhance your body’s ability to absorb plant-based iron even more.

Importance of Iron for Vegans

Role of Iron in the Body

Iron is a crucial mineral playing many roles in maintaining our health. We all, vegans included, require iron to keep our bodies functioning efficiently. It’s like the multitasking captain of the nutrient world! Iron’s primary duty is to assist in the formation of hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen from our lungs to the rest of the body. Let’s not forget about myoglobin, either – this little protein ensures oxygen reaches our muscles, giving us the strength to conquer that next workout session.

Iron also helps in maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails, as well as supporting energy production, growth, and metabolism. Essentially, it’s our best friend in keeping our bodies in tip-top shape.

Iron Deficiency and Anemia

As amazing as iron is, it can’t do its job properly if there isn’t enough of it around. Cue the appearance of iron deficiency and its possible sidekick, anemia. Vegans, in particular, need to pay close attention to their iron intake. Although plant-based diets can provide iron, the type they contain is non-heme iron, which our bodies may have a harder time absorbing compared to the heme iron found in animal products.

Symptoms of iron deficiency can include fatigue, shortness of breath, and even a higher risk of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes. The vegan lifestyle is all about a healthy mind and body, so it’s vital to keep our iron levels up and those energy levels soaring.

To help our bodies absorb non-heme iron better, it’s useful to pair plant-based iron sources with vitamin C-rich foods. So go ahead and combine that spinach with a healthy squeeze of lemon or have an orange after that lentil curry.

While vegans may need to put in a little extra effort to manage their iron intake, it’s a small price to pay to ensure our bodies stay happy, healthy, and full of that veggie-fueled energy. Just like anything in life, a bit of balance and creative meal-planning goes a long way – cheers to keeping iron levels as high as our spirits!

Plant-Based Sources of Iron

Vegans can obtain iron from various plant-based sources. This section highlights some excellent food options to help you meet your iron requirements while following a vegan diet.

Leafy Greens and Vegetables

Iron-rich leafy greens include spinach, kale, and swiss chard. Spinach, for example, contains about 2.7 mg of iron per 100g. Apart from leafy greens, other iron-fortified veggies are broccoli, peas, brussels sprouts, and beetroot. These vegetables don’t just provide iron, but are also packed with other essential nutrients and antioxidants.

Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are not only high in protein, but also have a decent amount of iron. Some examples of iron-rich beans include:

  • Kidney beans: 5.2 mg per cup
  • Soybeans: 4.5 mg per cup
  • Lima beans: 4.5 mg per cup

Lentils, chickpeas, and black-eyed peas are also good sources of plant-based iron.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are nutritious and versatile snack options that provide iron. Some of the best choices are pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, and almonds. Sprinkling these on your salads or eating them as snacks can help increase your iron intake.


Whole grains such as quinoa, barley, and brown rice contain iron. Besides, fortified cereals and bread are also great options to ensure you’re getting enough iron. Always check the label to confirm if a product has been fortified with iron.


Certain fruits are surprisingly iron-rich, including dried fruits like raisins, apricots, and prunes. Also, consuming vitamin C-rich fruits like oranges and strawberries can help boost iron absorption.

Other Plant Sources

Some lesser-known plant sources with notable iron content include:

  • Tofu: A popular and versatile vegan staple made from soybeans.
  • Molasses: A sweetener that can be added to baked goods or drizzled over oatmeal.

Remember, combining iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources can help increase iron absorption in the body and keep you feeling energized throughout the day. Don’t be afraid to mix and match these options while remembering that variety is the spice of vegan life!

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