If you are just starting out a plant-based diet, you may be concerned about whether you can get enough iron as a vegan. The most common nutrient deficiency in the world is iron deficiency and thus it is common for people to assume that they may not get enough of it on a plant-based diet. The good news is that a plant-based diet can provide you with all of the iron you need because many plant foods contain large quantities of this mineral.
Why is iron important?
Iron is a mineral that your body uses to produce hemoglobin and myoglobin. Your red blood cells use hemoglobin to transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Myoglobin is a protein that transports oxygen to your muscles. Iron is also necessary for the production of hormones, as well as the formation of tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissue.
What happens if I don’t get enough Iron?
Because your body will use what it has stored in your muscles, bones, liver, and other places, you may not notice anything at first. When these supplies run out, however, your red blood cells shrink, carrying less hemoglobin. This will mean that less oxygen is given to the rest of your body, resulting in anemia.
Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia — a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.
How much iron per day should I intake?
The recommendation is that most adults should have a dietary iron intake of 8.7mg (milligrams) per day (those who menstruate should aim for an intake of 14.8mg per day).
If you’re pregnant, the dose increases to 27 mg, and if you’re breastfeeding, the dose reduces to 10 mg.
How can I get enough iron as a vegan?
It is likely that if you have a diverse diet, you will not have any issues getting enough iron. I have been eating plant-based for 4 years and my blood tests have always come out perfect in relation to iron.
Eat plenty of beans, whole and fortified grains, leafy green vegetables, and dried fruits to meet your iron needs as a vegan, and include vitamin C-rich foods in as many meals as possible. Citrus fruits and juices, cantaloupe, kiwi, pineapple, strawberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, peppers, tomato juice, cabbage, and cauliflower are all high in vitamin C.
Vegan Food Rich in Iron
- Molasses – The best source of nonheme iron is blackstrap molasses. Iron in 2 tablespoons – 7.2 milligrams. Because molasses contains a lot of sugar, it should be taken in moderation.
- Lentils – Lentils are available in three colors: brown, green, and red. Lentils are abundant in potassium, fiber, and folate, a B vitamin, in addition to iron. Iron is found in 6.6 milligrams per cup. On top of that, lentils are loaded with protein!
- Tofu – 3 miligrams of non-heme iron are found in a half-cup of firm tofu.
- Spinach – 6.4 milligrams of iron per cup of cooked spinach. Adding spinach to your meals, whether cooked in a soup (together with lentils?), blended into a smoothie, or eaten raw, is a simple method to get more iron into your plant-based diet.
- Sweet Potatoes – They may not be the highest in iron but they do have 2.5 mg of iron per half cup. On top of that they are rich in vitamin C and you can’t go wrong by adding more sweet potato to your diet.
- Beans – adding more beans to your diet can really help you up your iron intake – Beans such as black beans, navy beans, and kidney beans are all good sources of iron. A half-cup (86-gram) portion of cooked black beans contains around 1.8 grams of iron, or 10% of the daily value (80). Next time you feel like having a burger – you can try a red kidney bean patty instead.
As you can see, if you are on a somewhat varied plant-based diet, it would be kind of hard not to get enough iron. If beans and lentils are common in your meals, if you try to get some greens and use tofu from time to time, there is no reason to think that you would be iron deficient on a plant-based diet.
How do I know if I am getting enough iron?
If you are in doubt about whether or not you are getting enough iron on a vegan diet, you can track your food with an app such as Cronometer, and find out just how much iron you are taking in per day. It is also a good idea to get a blood test if you are in doubt so that you have a good base when starting your plant-based journey.