Iron in a Vegan Diet

What are the best sources of iron on a vegan diet? Here’s where to find it (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

Your body needs iron to be healthy and strong. It is needed to make proteins, such as haemoglobin and myoglobin.

If you follow a plant-based diet, it’s important to ensure you include enough vegan iron sources in your meals everyday.

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
  • Chickpeas
  • Molasses
  • Beans
  • Artichokes
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds (these are great sprinkled on top of your morning cereal or porridge)
  • Fortified cereals

Be sure to eat plenty of vitamin C to help you absorb the iron in your food and avoid drinking coffee or tea with your meal, as this can reduce absorption.

Tofu curry
Image Credit: AdobeStock

How much iron do we need?

The UK’s recommended daily amount of iron 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 those 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 as a vegan

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, in fact!

Serving examples

Food: Fortified cereals
Serving: 40g
Iron (mg): Varies according to brands: Grape-Nuts and Raisin Bran are amongst the highest, with up to 12mg per serving

Food: Baked beans
Serving: Half a tin
Iron (mg): 2.5

Food: Spaghetti
Serving: Medium-sized serving
Iron (mg): 1.3

Food: Kidney beans
Serving: Quarter of a tin
Iron (mg): 2

This page was reviewed by Claire Lynch, RD and nutritionist Rohini Bajekal from Plant-Based Health Professionals in November 2023. For more information, see this fact sheet about iron on a plant-based diet.

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