Consuming enough iron is a concern for many people, but it is especially important for vegetarians and vegans. Since the average person gets the bulk of his or her iron from meat, vegetarians must find different sources to help them reach their recommended daily allowance. This is especially true for vegetarian and vegan women of child-bearing age. Luckily, there are plenty of foods that serve as perfectly healthy vegetarian sources of iron.
In general, vegetarian sources of iron include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Dried fruits and seeds
- Peas and Beans
- Other various foods, including tahini, molasses, tofu, and dark chocolate
Iron Rich Foods for Vegetarians and Vegans
Following lists some of the iron rich foods for vegetarians and vegans which should be included in their diets.
1. Fruits and Vegetables
- Strawberries. Strawberries are one of the sweetest sources of iron you can find. They are also packed with vitamin C. A serving (1 pint) contains 1.5 mg of iron and 114 calories.
- Potatoes. Potatoes pair well with many dishes and are one of the best non-meat sources of iron available. They also contain high levels of vitamin C, which aids in iron absorption. A serving (1 medium potato, skin included) contains 3.2 mg of iron and 278 calories.
- Brussels Sprouts. Brussels sprouts not only offer a great source of iron they also provide folate, fiber, antioxidants, and several vitamins. A serving (.5 cup) contains 0.9 mg of iron and 28 calories.
- Arugula. This dark leafy green is low in calories, but high in nutrition. Add it to salads, pizza, soups, and pasta. A serving (.5 cup) contains .146 mg of iron and only 3 calories.
- Collard Greens. Collard greens are packed with vitamins A and C, calcium, and cancer-fighting properties. They also provide plenty of iron. A serving (1 cup) contains 2.2 mg and 11 calories.
- Broccoli. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli are filled with iron and vitamin C. This provides some of the easiest to absorb iron available. A serving (.5 cup) contains .3 mg and 15 calories.
- Spinach. These leafy greens are iron powerhouses. Cooked spinach is loaded with iron and vitamin C. A serving (1 cup) of spinach contains 6.4 mg of iron and 41 calories.
- Kale. Kale also provides high amounts of iron and helps to fight anemia and fatigue. A serving of kale (1 cup) contains 1.1 mg of iron and 1.3 calories.
2. Dried Fruits and Seeds
- Sundried Tomatoes. Sundried tomatoes are a vegetable version of dried fruit. They are great on pizza, in omelets, in salads, on sandwiches, and used in pasta sauces. A serving (1 cup) contains 4.9 mg of iron and 139 calories.
- Raisins and Other Dried Fruit. Dried fruit is full of nutrients and convenient for snacking. You can eat them alone or in mixes of various fruits, nuts, and seeds. A serving (.5 cup) of raisins contains 1.6 mg of iron and 247 calories.
- Sunflower Seeds. Sunflower seeds are loaded with vitamin E, but are also a great source of iron. A serving (1 cup) contains 7.4 mg and 269 calories.
- Pumpkin Seeds. When eaten raw, pumpkin seeds offer the biggest benefits, but they are also delicious roasted. A serving (1 ounce) contains .9 mg of iron and 126 calories.
3. Peas and Beans
- Peas. Peas provide plenty of nutrients, including iron. They are great served as a side dish or added to salads, soups, and pasta dishes. A serving (.5 cup) contains 1.2 mg of iron and 62 calories.
- Lima Beans. Lima beans make a great cooked vegetable side dish in any meal. A serving (1 cup) contains 4.5 mg of iron and 216 calories.
- Black-Eyed Peas. This member of the legume family is packed with iron and its absorption counterpart, vitamin C. A serving (1 cup) contains 4.3 mg of iron and 220 calories.
- Lentils. Lentils are a great substitute for meat, especially because they can be used to mimic hamburgers and meat loaf. They provide plenty of iron, as well as essential amino acids and vitamins. They are also packed with protein, making them an ideal meat substitute. A serving (1 cup) contains 6.6 mg of iron and 230 calories.
- Soybeans. Soybeans are considered a super food because they are packed with protein and fiber. They are also a good source of unsaturated fat and loaded with iron. A serving (1 cup, boiled) of soybeans contains 8.8 mg of iron and 298 calories.
- Pinto Beans. Pinto beans are another great meat substitute used to bulk up recipes. They are packed with fiber and pair well with rice, vegetables, and salads. A serving of pinto beans (1 cup, boiled) contains 3.6 mg of iron and 245 calories.
- Black Beans. Like most beans, black beans are loaded with protein, fiber and iron. A serving of boiled black beans (1 cup) contains 3.6 mg of iron and 277 calories.
- Whole Wheat Pasta. Vegetarians are challenged with replacing the calories meat eaters consume without overdoing it on starchy carbohydrates. Many rely on pasta as a staple, but this can be unhealthy if overdone. Luckily, whole wheat pasta is a great option. It provides magnesium, potassium, and calcium, and is a great source of iron. A serving (.25 cup) contains .4 mg of iron and 44 calories.
- Whole Wheat Bread. Whole wheat bread provides plenty of iron, as well as protein, fiber, and B vitamins. A serving (1 slice) contains .7 mg of iron and 69 calories.
- Brown Rice. Brown rice is a great addition to just about any meal. It contains plenty of fiber and bulks up recipes, helping you feel full longer. A serving (1 cup) contains .8 mg of iron and 216 calories.
- Oatmeal. Oatmeal is sometimes overlooked as a bland food, but it is one of the healthiest options available. It is packed with nutrients and provides plenty of soluble fiber. A serving (.5 cup) contains 1.7 mg of iron and 154 calories.
- Prune Juice. Prune juice is high in vitamin C, which helps your body absorb its iron content more easily. A serving (1 cup) contains 3 mg of iron and 182 calories.
- Tofu. Tofu is made from soy and is a very popular meat substitute for vegans and vegetarians. A serving (.5 cup) of tofu contains 3.4 mg of iron and 88 calories.
- Tahini (Sesame Butter). Tahini is often used in hummus and other Middle Eastern dishes. A serving (1 tablespoon) contains .4 mg of iron and 86 calories.
- Dried Thyme. Most people know many herbs provide medicinal benefits, but fewer realize herbs can also be nutritious. Dried thyme is packed with iron and can be added to a variety of recipes. A serving (1 teaspoon) contains 1.2 mg and 3 calories.
- Molasses. Blackstrap molasses is a great source of iron. It is a tasty addition to breakfast or can be used in baking. A serving (1 tablespoon) contains .9 mg of iron and 58 calories.
- Dark Chocolate. If you are tired of meeting your iron recommendations from greens, try this indulgent treat. Dark chocolate (100 g) contains 6.3 mg of iron and 578 calories.
There is no reason why vegans and vegetarians should be deficient in iron. All of the delicious, healthy foods above are iron rich foods for vegetarians and provide plenty of iron-rich choices.