Iron, the essential nutrient that it turns out is not just for forging weapons. It is also needed to help transport oxygenated blood throughout the body. Iron deficiency can lead to weakness, hair loss, anxiety, irritability, depression, and, ultimately, anemia. In short, it’s not a good thing to miss out on iron. Most people get their iron from eating iron-rich foods like meat or fish, though a good amount can be found in plant-based sources as well.
It is in those plant-based products that many vegans find their iron. Considering that most doctors necessitate about 20mg of iron per day for adults, the search for these essential minerals is an important part of vegan dietary preparation. It isn’t just the amount of iron in food that vegans have to worry about, however. Iron absorption can also be a problem as well, and polyphenols in plant foods can block that absorption. That said, there are some tasty, ferrous foods out there for the iron-conscious vegan.
What foods contain the most iron?
Though it is of little concern to the vegans in the audience, it must be said that shellfish, particularly bivalves like clams, mussels, and oysters, contain a fairly large amount of iron. This amount can be variable depending on the size of the clam, the water quality, their diet, and so on, so it's not exactly precise enough for our standards. Red meat also has a lot of iron, but it is about as far from vegan-friendly as one can get.
With that out of the way, vegans are in luck. Beans, lentils, tofu, dark chocolate, some whole grains, nuts, seeds, and a number of leafy greens are all packed with iron. Eating a wide variety of these items will not only keep you full, it’s also very likely they’ll get you to that 18-20 mg of iron you need each day.
What fruits are high in iron?
Dried fruits like raisins, peaches, prunes, figs, and especially apricots are all fairly high in iron. For example, one cup of dried apricots, while high in sugars, actually contains 42 percent of your daily value or iron, as much as 8 mg. These fruits are frequently on the top of the list when it comes to seeking iron-rich vegan foods, mainly because they contain one of the highest concentrations of the stuff. Raspberries and coconut are both delicious and fruity sources of iron as well, and they contain far less sugar.
What vegetables are high in iron?
It’s no coincidence that Popeye reached for spinach every time he needed a boost. This green, leafy vegetable contains 32 percent of your daily value of iron in a single cooked cup. Peas, asparagus, leeks, green beans, and acorn squash also contain high amounts of the stuff. As before though, be aware that many of the vegetables contain polyphenols, which make it hard for the body to absorb that iron. This makes them bad for attempting to normalize your iron but perfectly fine as a daily source of the needed nutrient.
What other vegan foods contain iron?
Large white beans, quinoa, button mushrooms, and the seeds from squash or pumpkins all contain more than enough iron to supplement your daily needs. Many nuts, such as cashews, pine nuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, and Macadamia nuts are all nutritious sources of iron as well. Nuts are also a good source of calcium, protein, good fats, and other essential nutrients, especially for those who are living a vegan lifestyle.