The Best Plant-Based Sources of Iron for Vegetarians & Vegans
Looking for sources of iron for your vegetarian or vegan diet? Here are some of the best plant-based foods you can eat to get your iron fix!
Iron is a mineral that every human needs. In fact, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. (That goes for both meat eaters and non-meat eaters alike.) However, vegans and vegetarians can be more likely to have this deficiency because of the lack of meat in their diet. This isn’t necessarily because iron can’t be found in plant sources; in fact, many plants are a rich source of iron. However, vegans vegetarians are more prone to iron deficiency because the body doesn’t as readily and effectively absorb the iron from plant products as it does with meat products. This doesn’t mean that you have to live deficient forever, though, it simply means that you have to make sure you eat enough iron from iron-rich plant based sources, and possibly take a supplement to make sure it is absorbed. To help you out with that, here are some of the best vegan-friendly foods you can incorporate in your diet to get you your iron fix:
Spirulina is called a superfood for a reason. Most athletes and vegans already love it because of its “superfood” qualities, but if you are new to the scene and are just hearing of it now, spirulina belongs in the sea-plant family. It has a ton of health benefits that athletes and vegans love, and it is a particularly great food for vegans because of its high iron content. Just 1Tbsp of spirulina contains 11% of your daily iron intake. Stock up on some spirulina and incorporate it to your meals as much as you can to achieve the recommended iron intake. You can either toss a tablespoon in your morning or post-workout smoothie, or find yourself some healthy recipes and products with spirulina so you can have it as a healthy snack.
Ever wonder what makes Popeye so strong when he eats spinach? Maybe it’s because of the high levels of iron in this particular leafy green! Try eating it cooked rather than raw, simply because when cooked down, it’s easier to eat a larger portion of spinach than when it’s completely raw. A cup of cooked spinach contains a respectable 6.43 mg of iron, or about 36% of your daily recommended intake. Spinach can be a great addition to any dish. Put it in your stir fry, bake some tasty dishes with it, sauté it, boil it, and just experiment! There are a ton of ways you can cook and incorporate some spinach into your diet. Look up some yummy recipes and start cooking!
Quinoa is a seed that has been gaining a lot of love lately, especially with the health buffs and vegans. Carbs are something your body needs and quinoa is considered to be the healthiest alternative to rice and pasta and the healthiest way you can get your carb fix. But did you also know that it contains iron? If you’re going to go for some carbs, you might as well get some iron in you, as well. Quinoa contains about 2.75 mg of iron in one (cooked) cup, which is about 15% of your daily recommended intake. Pair it with some savory dishes, toss it with some salad, or even use it for some baking. Quinoa is a great way to get your carbs, fill up, and also get some more iron.
Almonds are a favorite for a lot of people but especially the health buffs and vegans. They are not only a delicious snack, they’re also a great way to get some healthy fats and energy. Vegans and vegetarians will be glad to know that it also contains a decent amount of iron! One serving size of almonds (about 28g) contains 5% of your daily iron intake. They are best eaten raw, plain, and whole; however, you can also have it as a nut butter to dip your fruits and veggies in, bake them in some delicious vegan pastries, mix them in your smoothie, or you can even have them with some dark chocolate. Yum!
Cashews are typically considered a fancy party nut and eaten on fewer occasions, however, what you maybe didn’t know is that it has a higher amount of iron than almonds! Who says cashews should fall in the shadow of almonds? A serving of cashews (about 28g) contains 10% of your daily recommended iron intake. Cashews are super versatile - you can have them in your smoothie, you can bake them in savory creations or sweet treats, you can have it as a nut butter, or you can just get a handful and have some as a snack if you get hungry between meals.
Beans are well-known in the non-meat eating community for its high protein content. But did you know that it is also a source of iron? A cup of kidney beans contains about 8% of your daily iron needs. Beans are another food that can go with just about any dish. Have it with some savory veggies as a side dish, or you can even mix it with some quinoa to get a super filling and healthy meal.
Chocolate is often considered as a candy or treat because of all the sugar and processing it goes through to be sold as “chocolate” in your local stores. However, chocolate is actually one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Raw chocolate, that is. So, what is raw chocolate? Raw chocolate is pure cacao, before processing and sugar. You can purchase raw cacao nibs at a local health food store for their full health benefits, but it can be pretty bitter. Alternatively, always purchase dark chocolate (at least 75% chocolate) and dark chocolate powder to mix in smoothies. Raw chocolate has high levels of antioxidants and it also has a high amount of iron. One ounce of dark chocolate has about 19% of your daily recommended intake! If you don’t want to eat it plain, take some dark chocolate and melt it in a pot, and drizzle it over some berries for a delicious dessert! Or, if you’re using chocolate powder, add a tablespoon in your morning smoothie with banana and strawberries for a sweet start to the morning. Who says healthy foods taste bad?
Choosing to go vegetarian or vegan can be excellent for your health. Their diets tend to be higher in fiber and nutrients as they are vegetable-based, but make sure to get all the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that your body needs. Eat these foods to increase your iron intake, and take a supplement if your doctor advises it!