Published on May 14th, 2013 | by Becky Striepe2
Top 10 Vegan Foods that are High in Iron
Wondering where vegans get our iron? Check out these 10 foods that are high in iron and cruelty-free!
A lot of people – especially women who have heavy periods or are pregnant – need a little help to get enough iron, but for the average person, it’s really not very difficult to meet your iron needs with a plant-based diet. As vegan dietician Ginny Messina points out:
this is not a problem that is specific to vegans. Rates of iron deficiency anemia are actually very high among pre-menopausal omnivore women. It can help to take a low dose supplement (high doses can be hard on the stomach) with orange juice to boost absorption, or to include some fortified foods in the diet. There is some evidence that taking supplements of the amino acid L-lysine boosts absorption of supplemental iron.
Foods that are High in Iron
This list is based on 100 gram servings of each food. I left out things that would be insane to eat 100 grams of at the same time, like herbs and salt.
10. Sprouted Lentils – 3 mg
9. Raw Scotch Kale – 3 mg
8. Pinto Beans – 3 mg
7. Tofu – 5 mg
6. Dried Peaches or Apricots - 6 mg
5. Baked Potato with Skin – 7 mg
4. Raw Cashews – 7 mg
3. Pumpkin Seeds – 15 mg
2. Spirulina – 28 mg
1. Enriched Cereals – the amount of iron per 100 g serving varies, but these topped the list for sure.
[Source: SELF Nutrition Data]
Spotting Iron Deficiency
If you’re worried that you aren’t getting enough iron, your doctor or ob/gyn can do a simple finger prick test to find out if you’re deficient. You can also keep an eye out for these symptoms [source: Mayo Clinic]:
- fatigue or weakness
- shortness of breath
- pale skin
- cold hands and feet
- brittle nails
- pica – craving things that are not food, like dirt
- restless leg syndrome
- headaches, dizziness, or shortness of breath
Bonus Tips for Meeting Your Iron Needs
As long as you’re not deficient, it’s really not too tough to meet your daily needs for iron. The RDA for iron varies by age and gender, and the CDC has a comprehensive table showing the iron needs for different age groups. Check it out here!
Once you know how much iron you need, it’s just a matter of choosing enough iron-rich foods – like the ones listed above – throughout the day to meet that need.
Like Ginny Messina mentions, vitamin C improves iron absorption. There are also foods – like spinach and coffee – that hurt your iron absorption, so try to avoid eating those foods with the ones you’re depending on for your daily doses of iron!
You can also add a little bit of iron to your food by cooking in a cast iron skillet, but that’s not something you can totally rely on, especially if you’re good about seasoning your skillet. The better seasoned it is, the less iron is going to leach into your food. If you do want to get iron from cooking in a cast iron skillet, your best bet is oily, acidic foods. Think tomatoes sauteed in olive oil.