Best Sources of Iron for Vegans & Vegetarians
So you’ve decided to yeet the meat and go veggie. Good for you! As a vegan or vegetarian, you have to do a little extra work to make sure you’re getting all that your body needs. Sure, we always think about the potential protein we’re missing, but what about iron?
Why Is Iron Important?
There are two types of iron: heme, found only in animal products, and non-heme, which is plant-derived and vegan approved! Without sufficient amounts of iron, our bodies can’t be at the top of their game. Lack of iron can cause anemia, low energy, dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath, and much more. We ain’t got time for that, and we know you don’t either!
Here are a few of our favorite ways to get all of that iron your body so desperately needs.
Soybeans and Soybean Products
Soybeans are like a powerhouse when it comes to iron. On average, it is recommended that the American adult get 18mg of iron per day. That amount can, of course, vary from person to person, so always consult your doctor or nutritionist to chat about your personal needs.
Soybeans can contain almost 9mg of iron per cup. Per cup! That’s a little shy of half the recommended iron per day.
Some of the yummiest ways to fit soybeans in your diet are by eating tofu, tempeh, or natto. These soybean products also give you a mad dose of protein, another nutrient vegans and vegetarians may lack.
Try sauteing or pan-frying your tofu in a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce. We love to mix that with a bag of steamed veggies for a quick and healthy meal. Don’t forget to hit it with a pinch of sesame seeds and squeeze of lime for an extra kick!
Nuts and Nut Butters
Nuts like almonds, cashews, and macadamias are a go-to snack for our veggie friends. They’re so dang versatile. You can snack on them plain, crush them up to top salads and stir-fries, or make (and buy) them as nut butter.
The amount of iron will vary between different types of nuts, but you can count on anywhere between one to 1.6mg of iron per ounce. That’s between six and nine percent of your recommended daily intake (RDI.)
Bust out your spice grinder or food processor and turn your leftover raw almonds into almond flour. Mix your fresh almond flour with our Pig Out Pigless Bacon Seasoning, and coat it on slices of fresh avocado and pop them in your air fryer. Pair your baconless avocado fries with your favorite salad dressing to use as a dip!
You’ll find lentils in everything from your go-to veggie burger to your favorite fall soup. They’re hella hearty and come in a variety of colors and flavors. They’re a great source of iron, coming in at a whopping 6.6mg per half of a cup, and are also a great way to get fiber, potassium, and folate B vitamins.
Tabouli is a vegetarian go-to, but did you know you could make it with lentils? Traditionally made with bulgur wheat, try mixing your al dente cooked lentils with tomatoes, red onion, parsley, and mint for a hearty side salad instead.
Add in a bit of cinnamon, allspice, and salt and pepper to taste. Don’t forget the acid with a big squeeze of lemon or lime!
Seeds are great for adding a crunch to your meal, but did you know many are actually a great source of iron? Seeds like flaxseed, hemp, and pumpkin run you anywhere between seven and 23% of the recommended daily intake, per two tablespoons.
That means the next time you make a salad, don’t forget to throw on a couple scoops of your favorite seeds on top. Your body will thank you later.
When you’re carving a pumpkin next Halloween, clean all of that goo off of those beautiful seeds and toast them. Sprinkle a little sea salt on top, and you’ve got an iron-packed snack that takes hardly any effort. Don’t be afraid of spice and hit them with a little cayenne pepper or more of our Pig Out Pigless Bacon Seasoning. We recommend our KC BBQ or White Chedda!
Ok, so we love hummus. Like, really, really love hummus. And it’s a good thing because chickpeas contain some of the highest amounts of non-heme iron there is. With a good 4.6 to 5.2mg of iron per cup cooked, you’ll be well on your way to your daily goal.
Dump a can of chickpeas in a colander and give them a good rinse. Mix them in a big bowl with cucumber, tomato, red onion or shallots, black olives, and capers. Toss them with EVOO and your favorite Mediterranean spices or store-bought pesto for a hearty and healthy lunch. You can eat it by itself or add a couple of scoops to a bed of leafy greens!
If you want to get more of your iron from leafy greens, reach for things like spinach, swiss chard, kale, and collards. You can eat them raw or cooked, though cooked down is probably an easier way to eat a larger volume of veggies.
You can get anywhere between 14 and 36% of the recommended daily intake per serving. That’s a lot!
We should note that greens like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are also decent sources of iron. While they don’t provide as much as their leafy friends, they still slap with six to 10% of your RDI.
We could go on and on with recipe ideas for greens. Let’s keep it simple by suggesting that you always, and we mean always, throw in a giant handful of kale or spinach with each smoothie you make.
You honestly won’t even taste it, and it is way better than trying to eat a few cups a day. Remember to add a scoop of almond butter for even more iron and flavor!
Wait, what? We know, we know. This sounds like a weird one. While tomatoes, in general, are not high in iron, concentrated versions like tomato paste are. Half a cup of tomato paste offers over 20% of your recommended daily intake of iron.
Even tomato sauce contains 11% of your RDI. So next time you want to up your lycopene or vitamin C, reach for tomato paste to get that extra bump of iron too.
Do you miss those sloppy joes from childhood? Yeah, us too. Next time you’re ordering food on your grocery delivery app, add a packet of sloppy joe seasoning, tomato paste, and meatless crumbles.
Prepare according to the package and pile it high on your favorite hamburger bun. Don’t forget to pair your sammie with our Pig Out Pigless Pork Rinds for an extra crunch!
We love having snacks that are easy to take on the road, like dried fruit. Many dried fruits contain an awesome amount of iron, with apricots coming in at numero uno!
Just one cup of dried apricots will give you 42% of your RDI. Dried peaches can contain 36% of your recommended daily intake, while your basic prunes and raisins will give you about 25%.
Every pantry may have a box of clumpy raisins in the back of it, but don’t be afraid to bust them out and get creative! More than just a snack or salad topper, that dried fruit is more versatile than you give it credit for.
Try mixing raisins and diced up dried apricots or dried apples in with your rice. Add a few spices like turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon, and a handful of sliced up almonds to balance it out. Those almonds will also add more iron! Score!
You’ve Got This
Deciding to go vegan or vegetarian may not always seem easy. Trying to read labels to avoid eating something you shouldn’t, let alone making sure you’re eating a balanced diet, can be exhausting. Please don’t get discouraged. The more research you do and the more you’re willing to learn, the easier it will get.
It’s likely you’re going to include a lot of the foods on our iron-packed list in your diet anyway, but by giving a few different ones a try or switching up how you prepare your meals, will make it easier to reach that RDI. Plus, we think your meals will just be yummier.
Remember to do a quick search for new recipe ideas, and don’t be afraid to try pre-packaged snacks like our Pig Out Pigless Pork Rinds. They have 10% of your recommended daily intake per bag!