On a vegan diet or thinking of switching over?

Here are some resources to help ensure you are getting plentiful iron!

Iron Explained

Iron is a mineral that is necessary for certain functions in the body such as oxygen transportation, hormone production, growth, development, and energy metabolism. [1]

A lack of iron intake can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.[21] This deficiency causes extreme fatigue, pale skin, weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath and more. [22] Anaemia is one of the most common deficiencies worldwide!

Needless to say, it is important that you are getting a significant amount of the mineral from foods in your diet! Plant based eaters who consume a well rounded diet should not have an issue intaking an appropriate amount of iron [2], however we have put together this guide to educate you about all things iron, and share good plant food sources of the mineral!

Forms of Iron

Dietary iron can be found in two different forms, Haem Iron (HI) and Non-Haem Iron (NHI).[25] HI is primarily found in animal products such as poultry, meat, and fish and can be absorbed more efficiently by the gut, due to haem transporters in the body which allow HI to directly enter the bloodstream.[21] NHI is found in plant foods and is the primary iron source for plant based eaters. Vegan iron is found in grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, leafy greens amongst many other plant sources. The body does not absorb NHI as well, however, it has been found that vitamin C can help increase the absorption of NHI in the body [3] [23] Try adding Vitamin C alongside your iron rich foods for optimal absorption of NHI![25]

Some ideas of how to pair vitamin C with iron

  • Fortified cereal + an orange
  • Beans + a baked potato
  • Kale salad + tomatoes
  • Oatmeal + strawberries
  • Tofu + brussel sprouts

Large amounts of calcium, especially from supplements, as well as phytates, tannins, and bran fibre are major inhibitors of iron absorption.[24] Calcium, phytates (ie. foods containing bran), and tannins (ie. tea or coffee) can bind to minerals in the intestine thereby inhibiting the absorption of iron.[25] Try to avoid drinking coffee and tea closely before/after or during your meals, to help support iron absorption. The tannins and caffeine in both can interfere with the absorption of vitamins and minerals, especially iron!

Plant based sources of iron/ Vegan iron

Product Amount per 100g
Seaweed 22.6 mg [9]
Dark chocolate 12 mg [8]
Mushrooms 8.8 mg [20]
Hemp seeds 8 mg [15]
Chia seeds 6.5 mg [13]
Tofu 5.4 Mg [5]
Almonds 5.4 Mg [5]
Legumes 5.0 Mg [5]
Sunflower seeds 4.9 Mg [12]
Oats 4.7 Mg [11]
Quinoa 4.6 Mg [16]
Dried coconut 3.3 Mg [19]
Spinach 2.7 Mg [8]
Dried apricot 2.7 Mg [17]
Raisins 2.6 Mg [5]
Pumpkin seeds 2.3 Mg [6]
Kale 2.0 Mg [14]
Palm hearts 1.7 Mg [18]
Peas 1.5 Mg [5]
Broccoli 1.0 Mg [7]
Pak choi 0.8 Mg [4]
Sweet potato 0.68 Mg [10]

Daily iron needs

In the UK it is recommended that the average young male should intake 11.3mg of iron daily while the average adult male should intake closer 8.7mg of dietary iron per day.[25] However the Iron requirements are a bit higher for women. Women who are pre-menopause need a higher intake of iron around 14.8mg per day, while post menopause women need 8.7mg, and following a menopause diet can further improve health outcomes.[25] If you are a young child or pregnant your iron requirements may differ, consult with your GP if you are unsure!

Recommended daily iron intake
Adolescent Males (11-18) 11.3mg 11.3mg
Adult Males (19+) 8.7mg
Females Pre-Menopause (11-50) 14.8mg
Females Post-Menopause (50+) 8.7mg

Next time you are doing your weekly food shop, try adding a few of these nutritious plant-based foods to your basket and remember our pro tips to ensure you are getting efficient and well absorbed iron in your plant based diet!

To book a consultation with a plant-based dietitian, click here.

By Faith Kinsley, dietetic student, revised by Reema Patel, Registered Dietitian