Plant-based eaters hear it all the time. “How do you get enough iron if you don’t eat meat?”
It’s a fair question, since we often associate iron-rich foods with meat and other animal products. But a vegan diet can be packed with all the iron your body needs. It’s just a matter of eating the right foods and knowing how to boost iron absorption.
From iron-rich vegan recipes to the best vegan iron supplement, here’s everything you need to know about avoiding iron deficiency anemia—while eating a delicious plant-based diet.
Why do we need iron?
Great Q. Iron is an essential mineral that helps your body make hemoglobin—a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. It also has a handful of other important responsibilities, like making hormones.
A lack of iron can cause a frustrating condition called iron deficiency anemia. Symptoms can include:
- Low concentration and brain fog
- Gastro-intestinal issues
- Low immune system
- Pale skin
- Cold hands and feet
Since easily absorbed iron is most commonly found in animal products, plant-based eaters can sometimes be more prone to developing iron deficiency anemia.How much iron do vegetarians and vegans need?
If you eat a plant-based diet, you typically need double the amount of iron intake as meat-eaters do. That’s because there are two different types of iron: heme and non-heme.
Heme iron comes from animal products like meat, poultry, and seafood. Non-heme iron comes from plant-based food. Both are excellent sources of iron, but the body doesn’t absorb non-heme iron as well as heme.
The amount of iron you need also depends on your age and sex. Here’s a helpful table to see what your daily iron intake should be (courtesy of the National Institutes of Health). If you eat a mostly plant-based diet, remember to multiply the recommended amount by two.
What plant-based foods are high in iron?
The list goes on (and on). There are so many delicious plant-based foods that are packed with iron—and other nutrients that your body needs to thrive.
If you eat a plant-based diet, these are the top foods you should eat to increase your iron intake:
- Iron-fortified breads and cereals
- Green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale
- White beans, kidney beans, and lentils
- Quinoa, steel-cut oats, and amaranth
- Green peas
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried fruits, like raisins and apricots
- Dark chocolate
- Baked potatoes
See? We told you they were delicious.How can I increase iron absorption through diet?
Step one: Incorporate a variety of iron-rich foods into your plant-based diet. Aim for a wide range of colours and food groups to diversify your iron intake and add even more nutrition to your plate.
Step two: Pair these foods with a healthy source of vitamin C to increase absorption, like citrus fruits, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, and strawberries. Vitamin A and beta-carotene have also been shown to boost iron absorption. Foods high in these vitamins include carrots, spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, red peppers, and oranges.
Step three: Avoid eating iron-rich foods with other foods that can block iron absorption. Click here to learn more about what those foods are and how to time them perfectly with your daily meals.
Step four: Take a high-quality, vegan iron supplement. But more on that later.Vegan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options to maintain healthy iron levels.
The world of plant-based cooking is neverending. There are so many mouth-watering recipes and easy-to-make options, packed with iron to boot. Here are a few of our favourite iron-rich vegan meal suggestions.
Colourful, delicious, and packed with iron. This vegan breakfast porridge takes just 10 minutes to make—but it’ll keep you energized all morning.
15 Minute Vegan Apple Pie Oatmeal
Iron, protein, and fibre—oh my. This vegan cinnamon-spiced breakfast oatmeal has it all.
Vegan Red Lentil Sweet Potato Curry
Bold flavour meets big iron. This creamy, Thai-inspired curry is bursting with iron-rich vegan goodness.
Buffalo Chickpea Salad Sandwich
Chickpeas are one of the best beans for boosting your iron. Now imagine they taste like buffalo wings—and put them on a delicious, plant-based sandwich.
Sweet Potato Linguine with Vegan Puy Lentil Ragu
Plant-based pasta is always a good idea. This vegan bolognese-style ragu is made for maximum iron intake—and tastiness.
This iron-packed, plant-based spin on India’s famous palak paneer dish takes only 15 minutes—and 1 pot.
Vegan Coconut Butter, Date, and Cranberry Energy Balls
The perfect high-protein snack for pre or post-workout. These delicious bites are packed with iron-rich ingredients and vegan nutrition. Plus, they’re super easy to make.
Seedy Chocolate No-Bake Granola Bars
Featuring candied ginger and a variety of iron-rich nuts and seeds, these vegan and gluten-free granola bars make the perfect snack in-between meals.Are there any supplements I can take to increase iron levels?
Yes, there are a ton of iron supplements on the market. Which is great—but it can also cause a lot of overwhelm and confusion about which supplements are the best quality.
Enter: Ferosom Forte. This vegan iron supplement has one of the highest absorption rates available. Why? It’s microencapsulated in Liposomal form and infused with vitamin C (which, as we now know, can help boost iron absorption).
It also has a proprietary LCE Coat™ that protects it from acid breakdown as it moves through the stomach. That means more iron gets absorbed into your body, and less gets dissolved into your gastro-intestinal tract.
The bioavailability of liposomal iron is 3.5 times greater than the free pyrophosphate iron, 2.7 times higher than iron sulfate, and 4.1 times higher compared with iron gluconate. In other words, this supplement is specifically designed for max iron absorption.Click here to discover why Ferosom Forte is the best iron supplement for vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike.