Most of you out there, especially you vegan and vegetarian guys will find this article to be more interest based and guys generally don’t often have issues with iron deficiency. Many vegan women and vegetarian women will also not need to worry about making sure they eat all these 10 high iron foods in one day either.
But there are some of you who might have some iron deficiency anemia and this is regardless of your vegan or vegetarian diet or even omnivorous diet.
In fact you likely have no greater chance of iron deficiency if you are omnivorous than if you are vegan. And for most of us who are not iron deficient, taking iron supplements is not a good idea as it can lead to increased rates of cancer and shorter lifespans.
Also, it would behoove all of us, not just vegans to choose our sources of iron form plants rather than animals. Heme iron or iron from the blood and meat of animals is much harder for us to down regulate. We can’t stop this iron from being absorbed into our bodies if we already have too much iron.
Plant iron or non-heme iron for example is much easier to down regulate if the body already has enough.
Okay, so we want to increase our iron intake but we don’t want to take iron pills or eat animal bodies. Good call. Here are my top 10 sources of iron for vegans and vegetarians. These are the best iron sources for vegetarians that met certain criteria as indicated below.
It is not a bad idea however to get yourself tested for iron levels once a year as part of your annual physical. That way if you are anemic you can do something about it. Try plants first or a vegan diet as much anemia is caused by ulcers and chronic but minuscule bleeding of the gut which is more prevalent in eaters of meat and dairy.
Before we get to vegan’s best iron sources we should first understand how much iron is recommended in the daily diet. For men it is 8mg per day. For women it is also 8mg per day after menopause. Before menopause women require just over double that amount or 18mg per day. During pregnancy this amount jumps up to 27mg per day and during lactation it is recommended women obtain 9mg per day. This is according to the Institutes of Medicine.
Infants, toddlers and children are anywhere from 15mg for menstruating teenage women to 7mg for 1 to 3 year olds of both sexes. Here are the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for all of us.
So let’s see how easy it is to obtain all the iron you need form plant foods.
Some of the top 25 plant sources of iron for vegans and vegetarians
These are the highest iron sources of foods for vegans and each serving is for 200 calories. They’re also the most common foods we’ll likely find and eat in North America.
For example, even though 200 calories of thyme has 90mg of iron, we’re unlikely to eat that much of it at one sitting or even in a month! So this is a more realistic list of foods that are high in iron and that we will most likely be able to eat regularly.
|Food||Mg of iron|
|Kellog’s All Bran Complete||39|
|Kellog’s Multigrain Cheerios||33|
|Raw swiss chard||19|
|Cooked Chinese cabbage||17|
|Raw red leaf lettuce||15|
|Regular raw tofu prepared with calcium sulfate||14|
|Cooked beet greens||14|
|Cooked mustard greens||12|
|Raw green leaf lettuce||11|
|Raw sugar snap peas||10|
|Cooked collard greens||9|
|Canned tomato sauce||9|
|Raw sprouted alfalfa seeds||8|
|Raw baby zucchini squash||8|
|Baked beans in tomato sauce||7|
The list above and the amounts of iron shown which is per 200 calories I researched from Nutrition Data.
I make no warranties about the validity of the information but it is likely within the ball park.
Also, this is by no means a comprehensive list, it should be looked at more like a guide of the types of foods and the amounts of iron you might find in them. For example, many packaged cereals that are fortified have 10mg or so of iron per 200 calories. Likewise, many canned tomato products will also offer around 9mg of iron per 200 calories.
The point is, iron shouldn’t be a concern for most of us vegans and vegetarians. As you can sees there are many sources of iron for vegans and vegetarians. The above is a good list but a list of only 25 vegan sources of iron.