vegan diets are rich in iron

Vegan Diets Are As Rich in Iron as Non-Vegan Diets

vegan diets are rich in iron

Author: Animal Save Movement

Iron is an essential mineral found in both plant foods and animals and it plays a vital role in our blood system, particularly the function of our hemoglobin to carry oxygen to our cells. Every cell in our body requires oxygen which makes iron an extremely important mineral. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies with symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, difficulty thinking and concentrating, feeling weak and easily tired, cold hands and feet, headache, lightheadedness, brittle nails, chest pain, shortness of breath, and a pale complexion. Iron is also critical for children and toddlers to thrive. However, iron is also a pro-oxidant which means too much of it can lead to oxidative stress and cell damage.

Iron Requirements

AgeRecommended Daily Intake
7-12 months11 mg
Toddlers 1-3 years old7mg
Children 4-8 years old10mg
Children 9-13 years8mg
Teen boys11mg
Teen girls15mg
Pre-menopausal Women18mg
Post-menopausal female8mg
Adult men8mg
Pregnancy27mg
Lactation10mg


Heme vs. Non-Heme Iron

Heme iron is found only in blood and muscle tissue from animal flesh and is more readily absorbed in the body. Non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods like grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds and our body naturally has the ability to regulate iron absorption of non-heme iron which prevents an overload.

iron rich vegan foods

Improving Iron Absorption

The best way to improve iron absorption is to consume iron-rich foods with vitamin C rich foods such as citrus foods, sweet peppers, papaya, broccoli, and other fruits and vegetables. Lysine which is found in legumes, beans and quinoa aids in the absorption of iron. Beta carotene found rich in orange fruits and vegetables also increases iron absorption.

Avoid having too many calcium rich foods as it blunts the absorption of iron as well as tea and coffee which contain tannins which reduce absorption.

Excessive Iron Can Be Harmful

Increased intake of heme iron is associated with Type 2 Diabetes, increased risk of colon cancer, with no association with non-heme iron. A 12-year prospective study from the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES) II found high iron intake led to an increased mortality risk when combined with elevated transferrin saturation. Excessive heme iron is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, cancer and there are mixed studies in regards to cardiovascular disease.

Iron Content in Foods

FoodAmountIron (mg)
Blackstrap molasses2 Tbsp7.2
White beans, cooked1 cup7.0
Lentils, cooked1 cup6.6
Tofu1/2 cup6.6
Spinach, cooked1 cup6.4
Kidney beans, cooked1 cup5.2
Chickpeas, cooked1 cup4.7
Soybeans,cooked1 cup4.5
Tempeh1 cup4.5
Lima beans, cooked1 cup4.5
Black-eyed peas, cooked1 cup4.3
Beyond Meat meatless patty1 patty4.0
Swiss chard, cooked1 cup4.0
Bagel, enriched1 medium3.8
Black beans, cooked1 cup3.6
Pinto beans, cooked1 cup3.6
Veggie hot dog, iron-fortified1 hot dog3.6
Prune juice8 ounces3.0
Quinoa, cooked1 cup2.8
Beet greens, cooked1 cup2.7
Tahini2 Tbsp2.7
Collard greens, cooked1 cup2.5
Peas, cooked1 cup2.5
Sweet Potatoes, mashed1 cup2.4
Cashews1/4 cup2.0
Brussels sprouts, cooked1 cup1.9
Potato with skin1 large1.9
Bok choy, cooked1 cup1.8
Bulgur, cooked1 cup1.7
Raisins1/2 cup1.5
Apricots, dried15 halves1.4
Beets, steamed1 cup1.4
Soy yogurt6 ounces1.4
Watermelon1/8 medium1.4
Almonds1/4 cup1.3
Sesame seeds2 Tbsp1.2
Sunflower seeds1/4 cup1.2
Turnip greens, cooked1 cup1.2
Millet, cooked1 cup1.1
Broccoli, cooked1 cup1.0
Kale, cooked1 cup1.0
Tomato juice8 ounces1.0
Pumpkin seeds2 tbsp0.9


References

  • Veganhealth. Iron Part 2 - Research.
  • Grow by Web MD. Are you Getting Enough Iron?
  • Kids Health from Nemours. Iron.
  • Liu JL, Fan YG, Yang ZS, Wang ZY, Guo C. Iron and Alzheimer's Disease: From Pathogenesis to Therapeutic Implications. Front Neurosci. 2018;12:632. Published 2018 Sep 10. doi:10.3389/fnins.2018.00632
  • Logroscino G, Gao X, Chen H, Wing A, Ascherio A. Dietary iron intake and risk of Parkinson's disease. Am J Epidemiol. 2008;168(12):1381–1388. doi:10.1093/aje/kwn273
  • Mainous AG 3rd, Wells B, Carek PJ, Gill JM, Geesey ME. The mortality risk of elevated serum transferrin saturation and consumption of dietary iron. Ann Fam Med. 2004 Mar-Apr;2(2):139-44.
  • Stanford Children’s Health. Babies and Toddlers Need Iron to Thrive.

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