Before I started researching the vegan diet, I assumed that iron was mostly found in meat. I think this is a common misconception and one that should be thrown right out the window! There are plenty of plant based sources of iron that any vegan can take advantage of.
The difference is that heme iron, which comes from animal based foods, is easier for the body to absorb than the non-heme iron found in plants. Because of this, vegans need to make certain that they are eating well.
Suffer from a deficiency in iron? Look no further than beets! Often referred to as one of the world's healthiest foods, beets are rich in other great stuff like phytonutrients, and also boast antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory awesomeness.
Most people enjoy seeds as a snack, but did you know that they’re packed with iron? Squash and pumpkin seeds, for example, have 34 mg of iron (188% DV) in every cup. They’re great raw or roasted and can be flavored.
Don’t stop with squash seeds. Every ounce of sesame seeds contains 23% of your DV of iron. Sunflower seeds offer 11% and flax is good for 9% per ounce.
You can easily add flax and sesame seeds to cereals or breads and crackers. Try mixing seeds into soups or salads, as well, for a nice boost in iron.
Most nuts have some iron, but if you really want to increase your levels, opt for cashews. They are the highest in iron with 1.7 mg of iron per ounce (9% DV). Other nuts that can be used include pine nuts (9% DV). Pistachios, almonds and peanuts all offer 7% of your daily iron intake per ounce.
Add nuts to trail mix, salads or make your own nut butters to eat on crackers. They’re easy to use and work well as a filling snack, too.
While beans and other legumes can be a great source of iron, there are a few that really stand out. Lentils and white beans both have 6.6 mg of iron per cup, or 37% DV. Kidney beans offer 29% DV, while chickpeas provide 26% per cooked cup.
Other Great Sources of Iron
Half a cup of cooked spinach will give you 3.2 mg of iron, while one teaspoon of spirulina gives you 5 mg. These can both be added to smoothies or soups to easily increase the amount of iron you are eating.
You might also want to try using blackstrap molasses on your oatmeal, since just one tablespoon gives you a full 4 mg of iron. Prune juice is not just for loosening things up, a glass will give you 3 mg of iron and can be the perfect way to round out your daily consumption.
To ensure that your body absorbs the iron that you eat, try eating iron rich foods with vitamin C. This will increase absorption.