11 Best Iron-Rich Foods Vegetarian Choices

A quick guide to 11 iron-rich foods vegetarians choose!

Health is the key to everything. Any deficiency in nutrient intake can lead to a total imbalance of health. One common problem is iron deficiency, and anemia especially in vegetarians, as their diet includes plant compounds. Iron is an essential nutrient, and its deficiency in the body leads to a total imbalance of health.

So, through this post, let’s look into an iron-rich vegetarian or vegan diet to increase iron absorption.

But, before that, let’s understand iron.

What is Iron?

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By Tatjana Baibakova on Shutterstock

Iron is a vital mineral that is required by the human body. It is very vital for many body functions. It is a dietary supplement that is naturally present in some food products. Dietary iron can be found in two forms –

  • Heme iron
  • Non-haem iron

Poultry, meat, and seafood contain both heam iron and non-heam iron.

Plant foods and iron-fortified foods contain only non-heme types of iron.

Role of Iron in the Human Body

Now let’s quickly check up on the role iron plays in the human body This will help us to relate the usefulness of iron and thereby we can eat mindfully.

  • Iron helps produce red blood cells in the body, and these red blood cells, also called erythrocytes, transport oxygen throughout the body.
  • It helps in maintaining a robust immune system keeping you disease-free and maintaining good health.
  • It is also necessary to keep your skin healthy and beautiful. It is proven that iron can reverse the effects of free radicals on the skin.
  • Iron aids in wound healing.
  • It activates vitamin B in the body.
  • Iron transmutes the blood sugar present in the body into energy.
  • It helps in maintaining healthy nails and hair.
  • Iron is also necessary for making hormones. Any hormone imbalance can affect a person in tremendous ways, from a simple change in weight to anything lethal.

How Much Iron Should I Take?

How much iron should I take?

The amount of iron a person needs per day depends upon age, gender, and the type of diet the person follows.

Here is a list of daily intake of iron for people of different ages and sex:

  • An adult woman (age 19-50 years) requires 18 mg of iron.
  • An adult man (age 19-50 years) needs 8 mg of iron.
  • Pregnant women require 27 mg of iron.
  • A breastfeeding woman needs 9mg of iron.
  • Children of age groups 4-13 years require 8 to 10 mg of iron.
  • Whereas teenagers and boys (age 13-18) need a daily intake of 11 mg of iron.
  • Teenagers and girls (ages 13-18) need 15 mg of iron.

However, people who follow vegetarian diets need double the amount of iron listed above. The human body doesn’t absorb the non-heme iron obtained from plant foods as efficiently as heme iron from a meat source.

But for vegetarians, their only source is plant-based foods. So, they need to find suitable sources and incorporate as much iron as possible.

Let us now check some of the best iron-rich foods and vegetarian choices.

11 Iron-rich Foods Vegetarian Choices

Green leafy vegetables, lentils, and certain fruits are rich in iron. Though maintaining a proper intake of iron through a vegetarian diet is hard, it’s not impossible.

Here are some plant-based foods to increase iron absorption

1. Spinach

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by Goruppa / unlimphotos

Spinach is a dense source of non-haem iron. This leafy green veggie has many health benefits to offer. It is very low in calories, making it a very positive choice of food.

This iron-rich veggie also contains essential antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Almost 100 grams of spinach provides 2.7 mg of iron.

Although the body does not easily absorb the non-haem iron available in spinach as that of heam iron, spinach also contains a perfect amount of vitamin C, which actively elevates the absorption of iron in the body.

2. Amaranth leaves

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By Sojibul on Shutterstock

Amaranth is observed in the foothills of the Himalayas, and it extends to southern India. They come in a range of colors like red, green, purple, to gold.

This ancient veggie is the storehouse of many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. One cooked cup of amaranth leaves consists of 2.7 grams of protein and 2.98 mg of iron.

The regular consumption of this non-heme iron-rich superfood helps tackle heavy mensuration and eases digestion.

As it is high in iron content and fiber, it is perfect for anemic patients. It also helps in diminishing cholesterol levels in the body, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. For vegetarians, it is the perfect choice to boost their iron intake.

3. Kale

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by Wavebreakmedia / unlimphotos

Kale is loaded with nutrients that are beneficial for human health. This is one of the healthiest vegetables available for vegetarians and vegans.

It comes in a range of colors, starting from green to purple. Scots kale is the most common type of kale available.

100 gms of kale consists of 1.5 mg of iron. In addition to iron, it has a perfect amount of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and C, calcium, manganese, copper, magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants.

Other iron-rich veggies include dandelion greens, collards, string beans, and leafy greens.

4. Beetroots

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Photo by Nick Collins on Unsplash

This root vegetable is packed with a good source of fibre, iron, vitamin C, folate, and Potassium.

One hundred grams of beetroot consists of 0.8 mg of iron and 1.5 grams of proteins. Water is the main content of beetroot. 80 to 87% of beet content is water and provides a good amount of fiber.

Along with being a good source of iron, beetroot provides other health benefits too, such as: helping lower blood pressure, improving stamina, helping with heart failure, and helping cells grow and function.

5. Potatoes

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Photo by Clark Douglas on Unsplash

Potatoes contain a good amount of iron and carbohydrates. Iron is mainly concentrated in the potato skin. One hundred grams of unpeeled potatoes consists of 0.8 mg of daily iron intake.

100 grams of baked potatoes contain 1.1 mg of iron. It has a significant amount of folate, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), B1, B6, and potassium.

100 grams of potatoes have 1.6 mg of proteins.

Potatoes help in averting cardiovascular diseases. It also comes to aids in balancing cholesterol levels due to its significant amounts of fiber.

6. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a type of edible fungi. Mushrooms are often regarded as vegan meat or vegetarian meat. This edible fungus is loaded with minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and antibiotics.

100 grams of mushrooms contains 0.5mg of iron and 3.1 mg of proteins. It has significant amounts of vitamin D and calcium. It lessens the risk of developing health problems like heart disorders, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, anemia, etc.

7. Oats

Oats are nothing but grains of the plant Avina Sativa, simply the cereal plant. After harvesting, these grains are processed for the nutrient-rich end product: oats.

A cup of oats consists of 3.4 mg of daily iron intake. These incredibly nutritious, processed grains are significantly loaded with vitamins B1, B5, folate, zinc, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, fiber, proteins, and antioxidants.

They help in maintaining good health by regulating blood sugar levels, and cholesterol levels in the body. It also eases digestion, preventing constipation.

They help in treating anemia and childhood asthma.

8. Tofu

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Photo by Sherman Kwan on Unsplash

Tofu is produced from soybean curd, which is the coagulation of soy milk. This is naturally gluten-free.

100 grams of tofu consists of 2.96 mg of daily required iron. Tofu is a significant source of iron and calcium. 100 grams of tofu provides 8 grams of protein, making it an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.

It helps in maintaining healthy skin and hair.

It helps prevent and regulate many health issues like cardiovascular diseases, breast cancer, and kidney malfunction. It also helps in regulating osteoporosis, menopause, age-related brain disorders, and lifestyle disorders.

9. Nuts

Nuts are an excellent source of iron which is in the form called non-heam iron. Here are the few nuts that have a significant amount of iron reserves in them.

1. Almonds

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Photo by Mockupo on Unsplash

Almonds and almond butter are the perfect sources of iron.

Half a cup of whole almonds consists of 3.1 mg of iron.

Apart from iron, almonds also have significant amounts of vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, folate, copper, zinc, fiber, etc.

It is an excellent source of protein. One ounce of almonds provides 6.0 grams of protein.

Almonds can be used in the form of almond butter, almond milk, flour, and oil.

2. Cashew nuts

Every 100 grams of Cashew nuts consists of 6.7 mg of iron.

One ounce of cashew nuts consists of 5.17 grams of protein and 0.9 grams of fiber. These sweet-flavoured nuts consist of a good amount of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, and calcium.

They also contain a minor amount of vitamin C and vitamin B.

Cashew nuts are also available in the form of cashew milk, cashew-based cheese, sour cream, and cashew-based sauces.

3. Walnuts

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Photo by Sahand Babali on Unsplash

Walnuts can be described as the nutritional powerhouse of a vegetarian diet. This nutty superfood consists of almost 15% of proteins and 65 percent of fats. Every 100 grams of walnuts contains 2.9 mg of iron and 7 grams of fiber.

Walnuts are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.

Regular consumption of Walnuts promotes a healthy gut and body weight. It also helps in controlling type-2 diabetes, and blood pressure, and maintaining proper brain health.

It also helps by supporting the male reproductive system.

Besides the nuts mentioned above, peanuts, chestnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, and macadamia are also rich in iron.

10. Seeds

Seeds and whole grains are very densely nutritious and have very significant reserves of iron.

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Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash

Anyone who wants to improve their iron intake should consider including seeds in their daily diet.

Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds are excellent sources of iron.

These iron-dense seeds contain around 1.2 to 4.2 mg of iron per two tablespoons.

These seeds are also rich in reserves of fiber, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium and antioxidants. Pumpkin seeds also have a good amount of vitamin K in them.

These tiny seeds also contain significant amounts of omega1-three fatty acids and omega-six fatty acids.

Hemp seeds particularly have a very dense amount of these two fatty acids.

11. Fruits

Pineapples, blackberries, mulberries, apples, citrus fruits, pomegranates, figs, watermelons, strawberries, and Prunes have very significant reserves of iron in them.

Fruits are healthy choices for everyone, be they vegetarians or non-vegetarians. One should include one fruit regularly in their diet plan.

Other foods rich in iron

Olives, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kidney beans, cooked Swiss chard, whole wheat bread, fortified breakfast cereal, soya beans, asparagus2, cabbage, dark leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, blackstrap molasses, prune juice, cauliflower, beans, peas, dark chocolate, broccoli, dried fruits, cooked Lentils, whole grains, make up good iron-rich meals, increasing iron absorption.

Ways to Increase Iron Absorption Through a Plant-based Diet

Though many plant foods are rich in iron, the absorption of non-heme iron is not as efficient as that of haem iron.

Hence, iron absorption in non-vegetarians is excellent and high compared to vegetarians as the body doesn’t absorb non-haem iron efficiently.

Due to this, the iron intake of vegetarians should be twice that of non-vegetarians. The daily intake of actively mensurating women should be 36 gm, post-menstrual women 32 mg, and men should take 14mg per day.

Here are some proven ways to increase iron absorption

Vitamin C intake

  • Eating non-heme iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods increases the amount of iron absorption.

Limiting caffeine intake

  • Drinking coffee and tea with meals inhibits iron absorption by 50-90% approximately, even when there is a high intake of iron-rich foods.
  • Cocoa powder is also known to decrease the absorption of iron.

Lysine intake

  • Combine iron-rich foods with lysine to increase iron absorption.

Limiting intake of cow’s milk in toddlers

  • Excessive intake of this milk in toddlers is proven to block iron absorption leading to anemia.

Iron Deficiency: Anemia

It is necessary to take enough iron. Lack of iron intake in the daily diet doesn’t have apparent symptoms as our body usually compensates for iron deficiency.

Our body uses the iron reserves stored in the muscles, bone marrow, liver, and spleen 3and compensates for the lack of iron in the diet.

But gradually, the problem occurs as the body’s reserves of iron fall short. This leads to iron deficiency syndrome and anemia.

Symptoms of iron deficiency include the following:

  • Weakness, lack of energy to carry forward daily activities, loss of concentration, and memory impairment.
  • People with iron deficiency or anemia4 have weak immune systems. Their ability to fight diseases and disease-causing microorganisms is inferior.
  • Hence it is necessary to check the iron status in the body and make changes in the diet according to it.

Health Hazards of Iron

Excessive intake of iron can be harmful and health-hazardous. If a healthy person takes a high dosage of iron supplements, it can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, upset stomach, constipation, and nausea5.

Zinc absorption is significantly reduced due to a high intake of iron.

Extremely high dosages of iron can cause serious health problems leading to organ failure, coma, and even death. It is advisable not to take an excess of not only iron but also other nutrients. Excessive intake of nutrients can even lead to death. One should practice mindful eating and eat according to the requirements of their body.

Anything in excess is never good for the body. Therefore, we suggest you consult a professional before fixing your diet plan. Only take what is needed by your body.

Also check out, What Essential Oils Kill Toenail Fungus

Key Takeaways

In this article, we have studied a list of iron-rich foods vegetarians can consume. Apart from this, we also learned about the intake of iron and what benefits it causes to the body. We also have studied the health hazards that might occur with excess intake of iron. Thus, it is better to stay adequate with our iron intake.


 1. How can I raise my iron fast?

Ans. One can raise the iron content in their body by taking these:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Avocado
  • Spinach
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Dried Apricots

2. Which fruits have the highest iron?

Ans. Olives and mulberries have the highest iron in fruits.

3. Does papaya have a high iron content in it?

Ans. Yes, Papaya contains Vitamin C and Iron content in it.

  1. Djuricic, Ivana, and Philip C. Calder. “Beneficial outcomes of omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on human health: An update for 2021.” Nutrients 13.7 (2021): 2421. ↩︎
  2. Yu, Qun, and Liuping Fan. “Improving the bioactive ingredients and functions of asparagus from efficient to emerging processing technologies: A review.” Food Chemistry 358 (2021): 129903. ↩︎
  3. Cenariu, Diana, et al. “Extramedullary hematopoiesis of the liver and spleen.” Journal of clinical medicine 10.24 (2021): 5831. ↩︎
  4. Damian, Marc-Tudor, et al. “Anemia in sports: a narrative review.” Life 11.9 (2021): 987. ↩︎
  5. Gan, Tong J., et al. “Fourth consensus guidelines for the management of postoperative nausea and vomiting.” Anesthesia & Analgesia 131.2 (2020): 411-448. ↩︎

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