One common misconception is that because vegans don’t eat meat, we can’t get an adequate amount of iron in our diets.
But as it turns out, research preformed by the World Health Organization (WHO), suggests that up to 80% of people in the world are iron deficient. It is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world across the board for both vegans and non-vegans.
So no matter who you are, you’re probably not getting enough iron through your diet!
Now, a little bit about iron.
There are two different types of dietary iron Heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is one type & it is easily absorbed by the body. It makes up 40% of the iron in animal meat. The second type is non-heme iron, which makes up the other 60% of the iron in meat. It is not as easily absorbed/readily available, but works the same way in your body. All plant-based sources of iron are non-heme iron.
Now you might be asking yourself, “if all plant-based iron is non-heme iron, doesn’t that make vegans more likely to become iron deficient?” It’s a valid question, but according to research from Loma Linda University, vegans and vegetarians are no more likely to be iron deficient than those who consume more heme animal-based iron.
It is worth noting though that it is sometimes recommended that those who only consume non-heme iron take in as much as 1.8 times more than the RDA (recommended daily allowance), just to be safe.
Although, since iron deficiency is such a widespread problem, we should all consume our daily recommended amount of iron and be aware of techniques that help iron absorption in our bodies. Eating vitamin C with iron & avoiding drinking coffee and tea with meals are a few ways to help iron absorption.
Listed below are some of my favorite sources of plant based iron 🌱
For reference, the daily recommended allowance (RDA) for iron for most males + women over 50 years old is 8 milligrams daily. The RDA for women ages 19-50, or anyone who menstruates, is 18 milligrams per day.
As you can see, many foods contain iron! These are just some of my favorites that are high in iron. There are many others that I didn’t name as well. Like seitan & other meat substitutes. Most pastas and rices are fortified or enriched with iron too.
The average serving of vegetables has about 3-4mg of iron, so generally speaking as long as you’re eating your daily servings of veggies and whole foods, you should be hitting your mark.
But of course when it comes to nutrition, trust your doctor and do your own research. Don’t just take my word for it.
This last picture says that spinach contains oxalates that block iron absorption, which is true, but only if the spinach is raw. It won’t be a problem if it’s boiled or cooked.