Iron in a Vegan Diet

Your body needs iron to be healthy and strong. It is needed to make proteins, such as haemoglobin and myoglobin. Here’s where to find it as a vegan (and it’s not all about spinach….)

Unidentified person holding a bowl of raw spinach - a key source of iron for vegans
Image Credit: Unsplash

Vegan sources of iron

It shouldn’t prove too tricky getting enough iron as a vegan, as it’s found plentifully in many foods. Some of the best sources are:

  • Dark green leafy veg
  • Dark chocolate
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peas
  • Tofu
  • Dried fruit – raisins, dates, figs, prunes and apricots
  • Molasses
  • Beans
  • Artichokes
  • Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds (these are great sprinkled on top of your morning cereal or porridge).
Tofu curry
Image Credit: AdobeStock

How much iron do I need?

The UK’s RDA of iron[2] varies depending on your age and sex:

  • Male 19-50 years: 8.7 mg
  • Females 19-50: 14.8 mg
  • Females 50 years and over: 8.7 mg

A very small percentage of women develop iron-deficiency anaemia – this is especially the case with endurance runners, or women with heavy periods. If you have concerns about your iron levels, please visit your GP. They may decide to take a blood test and recommend supplementation if your iron levels are low.

How to get enough iron

  • A great way to guarantee you’re absorbing enough iron from plant foods is to eat a significant source of vitamin C with meals (such as an orange or orange juice), and avoid tea and coffee when eating.
  • Don’t accept nutrition advice from Popeye. While spinach does contain iron, it doesn’t have significant amounts of it – just 2.71mg in 100g[1], in fact!

References

[1] https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/11457

[2] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/iron/

This Nutrition page has been fact checked by the Spoon Guru Nutrition Team.

Food Serving Iron (mg)
Fortified cereals 40 g Varies according to brands: Grape-Nuts and Raisin Bran are amongst the highest, with up to 12 mg per serving
Baked beans Half a tin 2.5
Spaghetti Medium-sized serving 1.3
Kidney beans Quarter of a tin 2

PAGE UPDATED NOVEMBER 2020

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