The Top 11 Vegan Iron Sources
Iron is an essential mineral that your body uses to make hemoglobin, which helps transfer oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Unfortunately, since most meat, fish, and poultry contain iron, it’s common for vegans to have iron deficiencies.
Symptoms of iron deficiencies include fatigue, chest pain, and headaches. The good news is that you can find many vegan iron sources in non-meat foods that will help you maintain healthy iron levels.
This article will help you understand your options whether you believe you have an iron deficiency or want to be proactive about preventing one. The foods below will give you the iron you need without relying only on supplements for your iron intake.
Lentils are an excellent source of iron, with the average cup of cooked lentils containing 6.6 milligrams (mg). These vegan-friendly legumes most commonly grow in Europe, Asia, and North Africa, with the four main categories of lentils being brown, red, green, and specialty.
Other Nutrients in Lentils
By consuming lentils, you’ll receive many other nutrients, including:
- B vitamins
How to Use Lentils
You must cook lentils before using them, and many people soak them in water to reduce the amount of time they need to boil. Putting a little salt in the water will add to their flavor, and some people pour dried lentils directly into soups and stews.
Lentils also make an excellent base for vegan meat substitutes, such as taco filling and vegan burgers.
Benefits of Lentils
Researchers believe that lentils reduce the risk of diseases like cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. In addition, because of their phenolic content, they also have antibacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Tofu contains a natural source of iron, given that it comes from soybean curds. The average half-cup of firm tofu contains three milligrams of iron. That means vegans will be receiving more iron than the same serving of red meat.
Other Nutrients in Tofu
Tofu is an excellent source of protein and essential amino acids, along with the following vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A
How to Use Tofu
Tofu is a favorite meat substitute among vegans, given that it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. So, you can bake, saute, scramble, fry, air-fry, and grill it, just as you would with meat. As a result, there’s a near-endless number of delicious recipes you can make.
Benefits of Tofu
Tofu has several antioxidant phytochemicals, which decrease inflammation. It’s a low-calorie food, and because of the soy isoflavones that it contains, it may reduce the chances of bone loss, particularly in women after menopause.
There’s a reason that Popeye was notorious for eating spinach—this leafy green has a high iron content, making it one of the excellent vegan iron sources. You can buy raw spinach in bunches, pre-packages, or frozen.
A 3.5-ounce serving of spinach contains about 2.7 milligrams of iron. That accounts for about 15% of the daily recommended intake, so vegans will likely need to consume other foods on this list to reach their ideal iron consumption.
Other Nutrients in Spinach
Some of the other nutrients you’ll receive by eating spinach include:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
How to Use Spinach
Spinach goes beautifully with many ingredients, especially in recipes involving sauteing or baking. Doing so shrinks spinach into a more palatable form and makes it easier for people to consume a greater quantity. You can also eat spinach in pasta or raw in salads.
If you buy frozen spinach, it is very easy to portion it into a specific amount, which you can toss into your meal and quickly give a boost of iron to whatever dish you’re cooking.
Benefits of Spinach
Spinach contains carotenoids that prevent eye conditions like cataracts and can strengthen your vision overall. It also has a high antioxidant content, removing free radicals from your body that can cause illnesses like cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
4. Pumpkin Seeds
A one-ounce portion of pumpkin seeds can deliver an impressive 2.5 mg of iron. Luckily, you don’t have to wait for Halloween to consume this holiday favorite, as plenty of vegan and non-vegan stores sell roasted and raw pumpkin seeds.
Other Nutrients in Pumpkin Seeds
By eating pumpkin seeds, you’ll benefit from a boost of the following nutrients:
- Vitamin K
How to Use Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent food to eat raw, but you can also crush them and use them as a coating for vegan meat substitutes like tofu. They also make great soup garnish, and you can use them for crunch in cookies or homemade granola bars.
Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
Studies show that eating pumpkin seeds may reduce the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Because of their high magnesium content, they can also help regulate blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
5. Kidney Beans
Beans of all kinds typically have some iron, but kidney beans are an especially great option for vegans, given that one cup of them cooked can give you anywhere from 4.4 – 6.6 mg of iron. Several varieties of kidney beans exist, including white, red, purple, and black.
Other Nutrients in Kidney Beans
Some of the most outstanding nutrients in kidney beans include:
How to Use Kidney Beans
Kidney beans are the go-to bean in many chilis, but you can also put them in soup or pasta. You can even eat them cold in salads or mush them up and use them as a base for a vegan burger.
Benefits of Kidney Beans
Since kidney beans have high fiber content, they can help regulate bowel movements and prevent blood sugar spikes. Furthermore, the combination of them having fiber and being a complex carbohydrate means that they can help lower blood cholesterol levels.
Cashews are a common ingredient in many vegan dishes, and it just so happens that they contain around 1.9 mg of iron per ounce. Although cashew trees are from the New World, Brazil and India are the biggest commercial cashew producers.
Other Nutrients in Cashews
Some of the many nutrients you’ll receive by eating cashews include:
- Vitamin B6
How to Use Cashews
Cashews are an excellent snack to eat straight out of the bag. However, you can also blend them into vegan smoothies, use them in stir-fries, or puree them into butter. They’re also great to chop up and use in baking recipes.
Benefits of Cashews
Although cashews contain saturated fat, studies show that these nuts help lower the bad LDL cholesterol in American diets. Because of this, doctors believe that cashews also reduce the risk of heart disease, including strokes and heart attacks.
7. Swiss Chard
You likely won’t be able to rely on swiss chard alone to meet your daily iron intake as a vegan. However, this leafy vegetable offers around 0.65 mg of iron per 36 grams, which is around one cup, making it an excellent supplement to other foods on this list.
Other Nutrients in Swiss Chard
Swiss chard contains loads of essential nutrients, including:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
How to Use Swiss Chard
Swiss chard has a thicker texture and a bitter flavor. So, while it’s possible to eat it raw in salads, many people prefer to add it to cooked dishes such as stir-fries, soup, and even omelets. You can also saute it with spices as a veggie side dish.
Benefits of Swiss Chard
Thanks to its high vitamin A content, swiss chard supports organ maintenance. Its magnesium content also helps keep bones and cartilage strong while regulating muscle and nerve function.
8. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are one of the vegan iron sources that plant-based eaters adore, given their versatility. A one-ounce serving of chia seeds will give your body around 2.2 mg of iron.
Other Nutrients in Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are high in heart-healthy fats along with the following minerals:
How to Use Chia Seeds
When working with chia seeds, it’s crucial to mix them with a liquid, as eating them dry can cause them to expand and constrict in your esophagus. For this reason, they’re a great addition to smoothies, vegan yogurt, and oatmeal.
Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are high in antioxidants. So, they may reduce the impact of aging and diseases, including cancer. They’re also excellent heart and liver protectors while helping to lower blood pressure and keep inflammation at bay.
9. Dried Apricots
One cup of dried apricots can offer you around 3.5 mg of iron. In contrast, eating a whole apricot straight from the tree will provide you with only 0.6 mg. That said, vegans with diabetes should take care of their dried apricot intake, as they contain high sugar concentrations.
Other Nutrients in Dried Apricots
Some other nutrients you’ll benefit from by eating dried apricots include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
How to Use Dried Apricots
Dried apricots are an excellent snack to enjoy straight from the bag. You can also add them to rice, salads, and dip. Furthermore, they make a great addition to sweeten homemade trail mix naturally.
Benefits of Dried Apricots
Dried apricots are a fat-free food that aids digestion, thanks to their fiber content. They can also improve skin appearance thanks to the combination of vitamins and carotenoids. The beta-carotene in dried apricots may even help protect against UV rays.
Eating one cup of quinoa can provide 2.8 mg of iron into your diet. In addition, it’s a wonderful grain for gluten-sensitive vegans to use, given that it doesn’t contain this type of triggering protein.
Other Nutrients in Quinoa
Some of the other nutrients you’ll benefit from by eating quinoa include:
How to Use Quinoa
Like most grains, you need to cook quinoa before consuming it. You can then add your cooked quinoa to salads or use it in pasta dishes, veggie bowls, and as a filler for tacos.
Benefits of Quinoa
Because of its high fiber content, quinoa is an excellent iron-rich food for lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It can also help manage or reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
11. Blackstrap Molasses
Yes, sweet vegan foods can have iron in them too. Blackstrap molasses offers a massive 7.2 milligrams of iron per two tablespoons. Despite these attractive numbers, we put it last on this list since its high sugar content means it’s crucial to eat it in moderation.
Other Nutrients in Blackstrap Molasses
Unlike refined sugar, blackstrap molasses comes with several nutrients, including:
- Vitamin B6
How to Use Blackstrap Molasses
You can use blackstrap molasses as a sweetener in vegan desserts, a spread on bread, or add some sugar to your oatmeal or yogurt. What makes blackstrap molasses stand out from other sugar forms is that it undergoes boiling three times, which helps it maintain its nutrients.
Benefits of Blackstrap Molasses
Studies show that blackstrap molasses can help alleviate constipation issues, most likely due to its polysaccharides content. Its high antioxidant content may also work to lower the risk of common illnesses, including heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes.
However, you mustn’t eat too much of it. Otherwise, blackstrap molasses’ high sugar content could counteract its potential diabetes-reducing benefits.
Since there are so many vegan iron sources available, you can get your daily iron intake without using a supplement.
Experts recommend that the average meat-eating male consumes eight milligrams and that a female consumes 18 milligrams of iron per day. However, since vegans eat primarily non-heme iron from plant-based foods, you should multiply these numbers by 1.8, given that the body can’t absorb non-heme iron as easily.
If you have any concerns about your iron intake, we recommend speaking with your doctor. A quick blood test can reveal where your iron levels fall.
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