The NHS recommends a daily iron intake of 14.8mg for women aged 19-50 and 8.7mg for other adults.
Although a vegan diet can be high in iron, consuming a variety of plants high in iron is key. Good sources include:
✔️ Chia seeds (raw) – 16.4mg / 100g*
Super nutritious foods rich in iron and gluten-free, they’re also a great source of Omega 3. You're unlikely to eat 100g of the stuff in a day, but sprinkling them in salads or making chia seed pots for breakfast or dessert can easily help you make up the numbers
✔️ Cashews (raw) – 6.7mg / 100g*
Cashews are packed with great nutrients (including magnesium) and linked to many health benefits such as better heart health, lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar. Cashews are versatile, great on-the-go or as a topping on salads, stews, and curries
✔️ Sesame seeds (dried) – 6.4mg / 100g*
Like all seeds, these are a great source of key nutrients including iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, selenium, and fibre. Great as a salad topping, tahini (sesame paste) is a great addition to salad dressings and the key ingredient in hummus and baba ganoush
✔️ Oat bran (dry) – 5.4 mg / 100g*
Like fortified breakfast cereals (also recommended by the NHS as a good iron source), Oat bran is high in iron, as well as fiber, calcium, protein and magnesium
✔️ Spinach (cooked) – 3.9mg / 100g, (raw) – 2.1mg / 100g
Dark leafy greens (such as watercress, broccoli and spring greens) are generally recommended by the NHS as great iron sources. Eat them raw - except for spinach, as more iron is released when lightly boiled (who knew?!)
✔️Almonds (raw) – 3.7mg / 100g* Good source of iron, as well as magnesium, Vitamin E and unsaturated fatty acids which benefit your brain health. Great as a snack, in smoothies, or as a topping in salads or desserts (we like them crushed on ice cream scoops)
✔️ Jerusalem artichokes (raw) – 3.4mg / 100g*
Besides being a great iron source, they are also rich in potassium and vitamin B1 (which support muscles and nerves) and offer many health benefits because of their role as a prebiotic. Shaved raw Jerusalem artichokes are great as a salad topping or carpaccio
✔️ Lentils (cooked) – 3.3mg / 100g*
Easy to prepare, lentils have numerous health benefits like the ability to maintain and improve heart health and fight blood sugar fluctuations. Besides being rich in iron, they have high protein – for example our Zesty Xinxim(Planty's fragrant lentil stew) packs 25g of protein per single serving (as much as a steak)
✔️ Tofu and tempeh – 3mg / 100g*
It’s no wonder you can find these in many of our Planty meals, tofu and tempeh are great sources of both iron and protein (for example Planty's Sweet Chilli Tempeh Stir Fry has a whopping 33.5g of protein per serving)
✔️ Chickpeas (cooked) – 2.9mg / 100g*
A great one to mix in stews and curry in winter and in cold and warm salads during the summer, and found in hummus, falafel and our own Planty Harissa Carrot tagine. Good to know, hummus made from chickpeas and tahini (sesame paste) provides around 3 mg of iron per 125g.
✔️Red kidney beans (cooked) – 2.9mg / 100g*
Packed with essential amino acids, vitamin B9, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and a number of other important health-promoting nutrients, they are a superfood in their own way and a great easy addition to stews, soups and salads
A few other things to watch out for:
Iron from plants is not as easily absorbed as from red meat, but cutting red meat has many other health benefits (the choice is yours - always)
There are lots of factors that affect the amount of iron that your body absorbs from your diet. Vitamin C increases iron absorption, and vegans tend to consume a lot of foods rich in this nutrient including kiwi, oranges, red pepper, and broccoli. Pair iron-rich food with food high in Vitamin C to increase absorption (for example smoothies and juices can work a treat here)
Coffee and tea can significantly reduce the absorption of iron, so avoid drinking them with or shortly after your meals
Incorporate a variety of foods in your diet to reach your daily iron requirements. Don't rely on one source only.
Everyone’s health is different. Talk to your GP for more information specific to your own needs.
Some of our references: NHS, Vegan Society, Vegan Diet Society, BBC Good Food.