Most folks associate dietary sources of iron with animal foods like red meat and eggs. Fortunately, there are lots of veggie sources of iron, and with a little bit of knowledge, it’s easy to work sufficient iron into a vegan diet.
The tricky thing about dietary iron is that there are two sorts: heme and non-heme. Non-heme iron is the type found in plant sources of iron, and it is harder for the body to absorb than heme iron.
That said, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group, iron isn’t as big a concern for most vegans for a couple of different reasons:
Vegetable sources of iron are much higher in the mineral than meat sources. That’s a good thing, because the RDA for iron in a vegetarian or vegan diet is 14 milligrams for men and 33 milligrams for women, versus 8 milligrams for men and 18 milligrams for women that eat a standard American diet (SAD).
Vitamin C is also critical to iron absorption, and vegan diets tend to be higher in Vitamin C than the SAD.
There are lots of good veggie sources of iron. Here are just a few:
- Cooked beans or lentils contain about 2 milligrams per 1/2 cup serving.
- A cup of raisins or dates contain 5 milligrams.
- One cup of cooked Swiss chard contains 4 milligrams of iron.
- Quinoa contains about 3 milligrams in a one cup serving.
- Just 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses has 7 milligrams.
- Cooked spinach has 4 milligrams in a one cup serving.
Of course, this is just a partial list. In general, dark, leafy greens, any sort of beans, whole grains, and dried fruits are great sources of iron. When possible, it’s a good idea to combine your iron sources with something that’s rich in vitamin C to help your body absorb. For a more comprehensive list of vegan iron sources check out this chart from the Vegetarian Resource Group.
So, vegan and vegetarian people: what are your favorite sources for iron? Am I missing anything?