Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)
The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that to achieve iron balance, adult men need to absorb about 8 mg/day and adult menstruating women about 18 mg/day.
How you consume these sources is also important, for the mineral to be properly absorbed by the body it needs to be eaten alongside or in conjunction with a source of vitamin C like for example oranges, broccoli, cabbage, strawberries or brussels sprouts.
Coffee and tea should be avoided around mealtime as these contain tannins that have been found to inhibit your iron absorption.
Top Iron-Rich Vegan Foods
Here’s a list of the top ten iron sources for vegans.
If you’re looking to ramp up your iron intake go nuts on almonds, peanuts, cashews, pine nuts and macadamias they contain between 1.89-1.57mg per 100g. Nut butters are also a great source of iron just make sure you choose an all-natural variety that is made from just nuts. Add these to your daily diet by sprinkling a couple on top of your cereal and salads or simply snacking on a small handful throughout the day.
When it comes to seeds, with around 1.2-4.2 mg per two tablespoons or 7-23% of RDI hemp, sesame, pumpkin and flaxseeds contain the most iron. Don’t limit yourself and get creative with seeds, think wholesome bread, seedy crackers and also other “seed products” like tahini are all great sources of iron.
Vegan burger recipes often call for mushrooms to replace the meat patty and it now makes sense why. One cup of mushrooms contains 15% of the RDI or 2.7mg. When it comes to choosing which variety, oyster mushrooms are your best option.
Sweet potato might be trendy and all the range but white potatoes are a great source of iron. Most of the iron is actually found in their skins so make sure you don’t peel all of the iron goodness off. One 300g unpeeled potato provides 3.2 mg of iron, which is 18% of the RDI.
Technically, the only fruit on this list, olives contain around 3.3mg of iron per 100g or 18% of the RDI. They are also a great source of fibre, fat and taste delicious.
5. Tomato paste
A surprising addition to our top vegan iron sources is tomato paste. Whilst raw tomatoes contain very little iron (at 0.5mg per cup) dried and concentrated iron boasts a far greater amount. For example, half a cup (118 ml) of tomato paste offers 3.9 mg of iron, or 22% of the RDI, whereas 1 cup (237 ml) of tomato sauce offers 1.9 mg, or 11% of the RDI. Plus tomatoes are also a great source of vitamin C, which helps increase iron absorption. When choosing a tomato paste from the supermarket double check the nutritional label to see how much sugar it contains.
Lentils are an iron powerhouse offering 37% of the RD. Not only are they packed with iron they are also a great source of protein, folate and manganese. They are readily available from supermarkets and have a long shelf-life so it’s always handy to have some on hand.
2. Darky leafy greens
The dark horse of iron-packed foods, 100 grams of spinach contains 1.1 times more iron than the same amount of red meat and 2.2 times more than 100 grams of salmon. Other dark and leafy powerhouses include kale, swiss chard and beet greens with between 2.5-6.4mg of iron per cup or 14-36% of the RDI.
One soy latte, please. Soybeans are not only an amazing source of iron with 8.8 mg of it per cup, or 49% of the RDI, they are also packed with 10–19 grams of protein and are also a good source of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. Grab a glass of soy milk and load up on edamame beans.
Looking for recipe inspiration? Browse our collection of vegan recipes.