Iron is an essential mineral that is important for healthy red blood cells, the cells that carry oxygen throughout your body.1
Despite common opinion, you don’t need to eat meat, or any animal products for that matter, to get enough iron. You can get all the iron you need from plant foods.
And, once you have a basic understanding of iron, you would probably like to know WHERE, specifically, to get iron on a plant-based diet. There are plenty of good sources of vegan iron. Many plant foods have some amount of iron, but certain foods have a higher concentrate of iron than others.
Here is a list of plant foods that are naturally high in iron, along with some recipes to help you integrate these foods into your weekly meal plan.
13 Plant Foods That Are High in Iron*:
1 Cup of Cooked Quinoa = 2.8 mg of Iron.
Quinoa is a great source of iron, and it goes well in a salad, mixed with veggies and beans, or on its’ own. Try this Red Bean & Quinoa recipe or a Fiesta Quinoa Salad for an extra iron-rich meal. Not only is quinoa a naturally good source of iron, but it’s a protein-rich plant food too!
1/2 Cup (125mL) of Cooked Spinach = 3.2 mg of Iron.
You can add spinach to so many things to up the flavour and iron content, such as: salads (or you could altogether replace the lettuce with spinach), smoothies, casseroles, or veggie-rice bowls. Whether you like to eat it raw or cooked, spinach is quite a versatile, nutrient-dense vegetable.
3/4 Cup (175mL) Cooked Lentils = Approx. 4.5 mg of Iron.
Lentils are a nutrient-rich plant food that can fill out many dishes. In particular, lentils go really well in shepherd’s pie. Here are a couple to try out: Lentil Shepherd’s Pie from Potato Strong and a Lentil & Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie by One Ingredient Chef.
4. Dried fruit
1/2 Cup of Dried Figs = 1.5 mg of Iron.
In addition to figs, other dried fruit such as apricots, peaches, or raisins are also good sources of vegan iron. Dried fruit makes a good snack while you’re on the go, and it goes well in baked goods too, like these Gingerbread Fig Bars from Feasting on Fruit.
1/2 Cup (125mL) of Cooked Green Peas = 1.3 mg of Iron.
A beloved vegetable by many, peas are a great addition to many dishes from shepherd’s pie to a stir fry to a veggie teriyaki rice bowl. Or, of course, you can just snack on them right out of the pod! Frozen peas are a convenient way to have peas on hand year-round. Just add a few handfuls into a casserole or stir fry and they’ll cook up in no time.
6. Pumpkin seeds
1 oz of Roasted Pumpkin Seeds = 4.2 mg or Iron.
Trail mix can always use a bunch of pumpkin seeds or add in a handful of pumpkin seeds to your oatmeal, for some simple ways to eat more pumpkin seeds. However, if you’re looking for something with a bit more chew to it, try these Pumpkin Spice Bars with Maple Frosting from Plant Powered Kitchen.
7. Red or White Kidney Beans
1 Cup of Cooked Kidney Beans = 3.9 mg of Iron.
Kidney beans really help to fill out a hearty veggie stew or chili. Here’s a No Fat Vegan Chili recipe from Potato Strong. Or, for a more unique dip or spread try Pumpkincredible Hummus with white beans, from Plant Powered Kitchen.
8. Soybeans, Tofu or Tempeh
3 oz of Tofu = 0.8 mg of Iron.
For the soy lovers out there, soybeans and tofu products do pack a nutritious punch. Whether you’re making a teriyaki rice and veggie bowl with tofu, pouring some soymilk on your cereal, or rounding out your meal with a few pieces of tempeh, mixing in a bit of soy products to your meals is a nice way to get some iron.
1 Medium Potato, With Skin = Approx. 1.6 mg of Iron.
Their health properties are often over-looked, yet potatoes are an affordable, iron rich staple to include in your diet. Both satisfying and healthy, there are many ways to cook potatoes! Boil, bake, or enjoy your potatoes in a casserole, like this Cheesy Potato-Kale Bake from Vegan Street.
10. Swiss Chard
1/2 Cup of Boiled Swiss Chard = 2 mg of Iron.
Dark, leafy greens are another great source of vegan iron. You can chop them up and add them to soups, stews or use them as wraps, stuffed with your favourite vegetables. However you eat them, they sure pack an iron-filled punch.
1/4 Cup of Roasted Almonds = 1.3 mg of Iron.
Almond milk is a good way to include almonds in with your breakfast cereal or oatmeal. Or, you could make your own homemade Raw Almond Butter with this recipe from Simple Veganista to dip fruit slices in or to make an almond butter sandwich. You may not think it, but almonds are also high in calcium.
1/2 Cup of Boiled Chickpeas = 2.4 mg of Iron.
Hummus, in particular, is a great way to enjoy chickpeas. It’s a popular dish, so there are numerous hummus variations out there such as Roasted Red Pepper Hummus or how about a Sweet Potato Hummus from Low Fat Vegan Chef. Chickpeas are also another good addition to a veggie stew or chili!
1 Cup of Cooked Oatmeal = 1 mg of Iron.
There are so many ways to incorporate oats into your meals. For instance, as stated on The Daily Beet, Oats Make a Powerful Breakfast. Or, if you prefer, you can finish off the day with Dessert Oatmeal. Either way, oats make a healthy addition to your daily diet.
Other good sources of plant-based iron include: tomato paste or puree; black strap molasses; other dark, leafy greens like kale or collard greens; whole grains; or split peas.234
Find more information about iron, including the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for iron, and other tips about getting the right amount of iron in your diet.
*Amount of iron in various plant foods from Care 2 and Dietitians of Canada.24
Learn More About Health on a Vegan Diet:
1 Watson, S. (n.d.). What You Need To Know About Iron Supplements. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/iron-supplements
2 Breyer, M. (2015, August 6). 12 Top Vegan Iron Sources. Retrieved from http://www.care2.com/greenliving/12-top-vegan-iron-sources.html
3 Power Sources. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/pplate/power-sources
4 Food Sources of Iron. (2014, February 28). Retrieved from http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Minerals/Food-Sources-of-Iron.aspx
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