Kris Carr

Kris Carr

Wellness

16 Plant-Based Foods High in Iron

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In this post:

Iron Definition | Iron-Deficiency Anemia | Do I Need to Eat Meat? | Foods that Increase Iron Absorption | Foods that Decrease Iron Absorption | 16 Plant-Based Iron Sources + Recipes | Sample Day of Eating

Hi Sweet Friends,

I’m often asked if I get enough iron through my plant-based diet. The short answer is heck yeah! But the longer answer breaks down why iron is important, where to get it, and what to do if you’re deficient and that’s a bit more complex.

That’s why I teamed up with Crazy Sexy RD, Jen Reilly for this blog post. We’ve broken things down so that plant-powered readers can feel confident about meeting their iron needs.

Key Takeaways ✔

  • You don’t need to eat meat. You CAN get enough iron from a plant-based diet as long as you’re strategic.
  • Vitamin C rich foods eaten in conjunction with iron-rich foods can increase iron absorption.
  • Tannins and phytates can decrease iron absorption when eaten with foods high in iron.
  • Plant-based iron sources include soybeans, sesame seeds, lentils, spinach, chickpeas, lima beans, kidney beans, nacy beans, swiss chard, quinoa, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, prune juice, dark chocolate, blackstrap molasses, and sweet potatoes.
  • First, Let’s Cover the Basics: What Is Iron?

    So glad you asked! Iron is an essential mineral whose main job is to produce hemoglobin to carry oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body. Iron is also key in the creation of myoglobin in muscle cells (which also transports good ole’ O2 to cells). Iron is even important for energy metabolism. It’s also part of the enzymes that are essential for tip-top digestion and overall body health.

    The health benefits of iron make it an important ingredient in healthy eating. Without enough iron, red blood cells are fewer and smaller, which means they’re not transporting sufficient oxygen where it needs to go. When this happens, your organs and tissues can’t work as well as they should (keep reading for more on that!).

    Iron Deficiency Anemia: What Happens When You Have an Iron Deficiency

    Iron deficiency anemia—sometimes spelled as iron deficiency anaemia—is actually the most common nutritional deficiency in the US.

    Iron deficiency anemia develops when you don’t have enough iron in your body (source), sometimes from a lack of iron-rich foods in one’s diet.

    An iron deficiency can lead to delayed motor and mental functioning in infants, small or pre-term babies for pregnant women, fatigue, lightheadedness, headaches, grumpiness, inability to concentrate, and impaired mental clarity in adults and teens (source).

    If you suspect that you may be iron deficient, make an appointment with your doc. He or she will probably look for signs of anemia such as pale skin, irregular heartbeat, and rapid breathing, and do an exam to check for internal bleeding. But, most commonly, iron deficiency is found by doing a blood test that tests for hemoglobin and hematocrit levels.

    What if you’re eating iron-rich foods and you’re still anemic?

    Should You Take an Iron Supplement?

    It’s possible to eat lots of iron-rich foods (plant-based or not) and still be anemic. This may be because of a weakened digestive system due to celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or other conditions that cause insufficient stomach acid.

    In these cases, iron supplements may be warranted. A daily dose of 25-50 mg of iron may be helpful (swig that supplement down with some vitamin C-rich green juice!) until iron levels hit the recommended range. But always, always check with your doc for specific recommendations.

    It’s about finding a delicate balance. Excess iron can damage your liver, heart, and pancreas. So you do want to make sure you’re not taking too much iron.

    Need help finding balance? Let me give you a kickstart!

     

    Do You Need to Eat Meat to Increase Your Iron Intake?

    Nope! There are plenty of iron-rich vegetarian foods. But I like to give you guys the full scoop, so let’s clarify a few things. There are two kinds of iron:

    • Heme Iron: Heme is found in red meat, fish, and poultry. This type of iron is in foods that contain hemoglobin. The body absorbs 7-35 % of heme iron (more readily absorbed than non-heme iron).
    • Non-heme Iron: Non-heme iron is found in numerous plants. The body absorbs 2-20% of non-heme iron. The percentage is lower because this type of iron is more sensitive to other dietary factors that may limit its absorption (more on how to avoid that in the next section).

    It’s worth mentioning that while meat protein nearly doubles the absorption of non-heme iron, vitamin C is also effective to help your body absorb iron and doesn’t have the associated risk of increased heart disease like the iron only found in meat.

    The good news is that iron needs can be met completely with iron from plant sources. It’s just important to pay attention to the factors that may affect absorption—especially if someone is iron deficient. And, it means you’ll have to eat more vitamin c rich foods.

    Plant Foods that Increase Iron Absorption

    Drumroll please…You can enhance iron absorption by eating foods—you got it—rich in vitamin C.

    Vitamin C Rich Foods

    No need for iron supplementation! You can improve iron absorption by eating foods high in vitamin C. Combine iron-rich foods in the same meal with these vitamin C-rich foods to improve your body’s ability to absorb iron more efficiently:

    • Papaya
    • Bell peppers
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Kiwi
    • Pineapple
    • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, strawberries)
    • Cauliflower

    Vitamin C is an acid (ascorbic to be exact), and acids increase the bioavailability of iron. Bottom line: Increase iron absorption and add these foods to your plate with foods high in iron every day!

    Foods that Inhibit Iron Absorption

    Absorption of plant-based iron can be decreased when certain foods are part of the meal. But, keep in mind that unless you’re genuinely iron deficient and need to maximize iron absorption at every turn, these foods and supplements in your diet shouldn’t make a big impact on your iron status.

    Tannins

    Tannins found in herbal teas, peppermint tea, red grapes, chocolate, and coffee reduce iron absorption (study here). So you should avoid drinking coffee, red wine, tea etc. while eating foods high in iron. However, consuming these foods an hour before or an hour after the iron-rich meal does not affect iron absorption.

    Phytates

    Phytates are important antioxidants and anti-inflammatory plant compounds found in the highest quantities in whole grains, wheat bran, soybeans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and peanuts. Oddly enough, some of the foods that are high in iron also contain high amounts of phytates.

    Phytates bind to plant-based iron and lower its absorption. But soaking, fermenting, sprouting, and cooking all reduce phytate content by 50-75%. So, the chance of phytates truly affecting iron absorption is pretty slim, especially since most plant foods contain some iron and only a few raw plant-based foods contain notable levels of phytates.

    Here are some foods that impact iron absorption:

    • Egg Protein (both the yolk and the white)
    • Calcium Supplements and Dairy Foods compete with iron for uptake in your intestinal tract
    • Zinc and Manganese supplements
    • Peppermint and Chamomile
    • Antacids decrease iron absorption because they reduce stomach acid

    16 Plant-Based Iron Sources

    Many plant-based foods are iron rich and can provide an adequate iron intake. There are the top 16 plant-based foods you can use to give your diet the iron boost that it needs (and we threw in some delicious iron-rich recipes, too).

    1. Organic Soybeans

    Soybeans pack a powerful punch and should be a staple in any vegetarian or vegan diet. Soybeans contain 4.5 mg of iron per serving (1/2 cup or 86 grams).

    2. Sesame Seeds

    Roasted and toasted sesame seeds contain 4.2 mg of iron in a 1 oz. (28 g) serving. You can eat your sesame seeds in yummy bars like this one, sprinkle some on top of this Broccoli Curry Udon, or make Turmeric Herb Falafel or Raw Carrot Falafel.

    3. Lentils

    Eating a half cup (99 g) of cooked lentils will get you a serving of 3.3 mg of iron. On busy days, I love making simple soups like this 1-Pot Lentil, Potato and Spinach Soup or this Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup.

    4. Spinach

    These dark green leafy vegetables contain 3.2 mg of iron per 1/2 a cup serving (90g). Beet greens pack a similar nutrient punch. You can’t go wrong with ripping and dipping your favorite pita bread in a bowl of vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip!

    5. Chickpeas

    Cooked chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) contain 3.3mg of iron per a 1/2 cup (82g) serving. My favorite way to eat chickpeas is in a yummy hummus! Here’s a few scrumptious hummus recipes: 

    6. Lima Beans

    These lil’ lima beans contain 2.3 mg of iron 1/2 a cup (94 g) when cooked. 

    7. Kidney Beans

    I’m not kidding when I tell you that a 1/2 cup serving of cooked kidney beans contains 2.2 mg of iron per serving. They’re great in soups, chili, and bean salads! Another fantastic recipe you should try if you want to eat more kidney beans is this one for Chili Quinoa Bean Bites With Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

    8. Navy Beans

    These great beans are next, and also contain 2.2 mg of iron per 1/2 cup serving (91 g).

    9. Swiss Chards

    Cooked swiss chard contains 2 mg of iron per cup 1/2 cup serving. This Butternut Squash and Chard Vegan Lasagna is a great one to feed the whole family!

    10. Quinoa

    Quinoa is an ancient grain that contains 1.4 mg of iron per 1/2 cup serving. Try one of these iron rich meals:

    11. Dried Apricots

    Finally, a fruit! Dried fruits like apricots can be good sources of iron. Dried apricots contain 1 mg of iron per 1/3 cup serving (or 40 g).

    12. Prune Juice

    This one might surprise you, but prune juice contains 2.9 mg of iron per cup! Prune juice is also well-known for helping you poop!

    13. Pumpkin Seeds

    Pumpkin seeds are another great source to help you get more iron in your diet, containing 1 mg of iron per 1 oz. serving. These are a yummy snack on their own when baked with a little oil and salt or great addition to a salad for some added crunch. You can even use them in vegan mac & cheese. Hemp seeds and sunflower seeds are other great seeds to eat.

    14. Dark Chocolate

    Dark chocolate is a special treat that contains 7 mg of iron in a 3 oz serving. Win-win!

    15. Blackstrap Molasses

    You didn’t expect this one, did you? Blackstrap molasses contains around 1.9 mg of iron per two tablespoons (you’ll just want to limit how often you incorporate it into your diet because of the high sugar content).

    16. Baked Sweet Potatoes (and Regular Potatoes)

    Sweet potatoes contain around 2.2 mg of iron in a single serving (a potato). Baked Potatoes with the skin have around 2 mg of iron. This versatile veggie can be served as a falafel, hummus, soup, added to a quinoa bowl, cut into french fries, turned into a burger, stuffed with other yummy goodness, and so much more! 

    Honorable mentions include things like fortified breakfast cereal, coconut milk, amaranth, and cannellini beans.

    As you can see, many plant foods are rich in iron content and there’s an endless amount of delectable ways to eat them. To help you get started, here’s a sample of what you can eat in a day to increase your iron intake!

    Sample Day of Iron for a 40-Year-Old Woman

    How much iron does a women of reproductive age need to eat? Most adults need at least 8mg of dietary iron intake per day. Women should shoot for more, specifically 15-18 mg per day. Here’s what it could look like!

    • Breakfast: ⅓ cup rolled oats (1.2 mg) cooked with 1.5 oz raisins (1 small box, 0.8 mg iron) = 2 mg iron
    • Snack: 8 ounces of green juice (pack in those leafy greens)
    • Lunch: Lentil Spinach Soup (1 cup lentils [6.6 mg ] + ½ cup cooked spinach [3.2 mg]) with bell pepper salad = 9.8 mg iron
    • Snack: Veggies and rice crackers with tahini dip (made with 1 oz sesame seeds) = 4.2 mg iron
    • Dinner: 1 cup sautéed Swiss Chard (2 mg) over 1 cup cooked quinoa (2.8 mg) with lemon = 4.8 mg iron

    TOTAL: 20.8 mg of iron

    I hope we’ve demonstrated that iron is one of the proteins essential to a vegetarian diet and that there are plenty of plant-based food groups that can provide the iron you need without turning to animal products.

    Iron comes up a lot when you’re talking about a plant-based diet, but I know there are a lot of other questions flying around out there. What curiosities pop up in your conversations about eating a plant-empowered diet (even if you’re not 100% vegan)?

    Peace & Popeye,

     
     
    Add a comment
    1. dania says:

      Iron is a mineral that serves several important functions, its main being to carry oxygen throughout your body and making red blood cells

    2. janu says:

      is very good,

    3. Akhila says:

      Wow! It’s really a good one. To improve your red blood cells this blog gives us the exact information about how to improve iron in a human body. Thanks for sharing such an informative article.

    4. Louise says:

      Thank you for all the helpful info. I have always been interested in health but, have slipped into some bad dietary habits, consuming too much sugar, etc. I feel inspired to go with the greens.

    5. Joyce says:

      Thank you for the excellent article and infographic! We just found out my husband is anemic and we’re eating a plant- based diet.

    6. This blog post is a fantastic resource for vegans and vegetarians with regards to iron! Thank you so much for sharing. I learned some things reading this and am going to actively be aware of what foods I am pairing together to help me absorb the most iron possible.

    7. Monika says:

      Who made this incredible photo ?

    8. Ellen says:

      Hi Kris,

      A little over 3 months ago I learned my ferritin levels were very low- an 8 to be exact. I’ve been vegan for nearly two years now, and I eat a whole food plant based diet, including lots of greens, nuts, and legumes. I am also extremely active (fitness and yoga instructor by profession). I couldn’t believe how low my iron stores were, and although I’m resistant to taking an iron supplement, I figured it was necessary in this case. However, after 3 months of taking the supplement, my next blood test showed my ferritin went DOWN! I’m shocked. I can’t understand how this happened, so I’m seeking other opinions outside of my regular doctor. Any advice or suggestions you have?? I definitely don’t want to go back to eating meat, as many are telling me to do. I appreciate any insight!

      Thanks!

      • Jay says:

        Do you take anything that inhibits iron absorption within an hour or two before or after taking your iron or eating an iron-rich meal? Ibuprofen, turmeric, coffee, tea, zinc, and more can all inhibit iron absorption.

        Also, if you’re deficient in B12, which is only found in animal products, that could play a role, so you should supplement with both. I’ve learned this the hard way after experiencing iron deficiency myself.

    9. Maria says:

      Great infographic! When volunteering for donating blood, they told me during the screening that millet is a good source of iron as well! I looked it up and 100 grams cooked contains abut 1.5 mg of iron <3 I love it as it is a more affordable option than quinoa, so I alternate between the two. Love! M

    10. Eileen says:

      I eat a lot of these foods and I’m still low on iron. Kris, you often mention some of your favorite supplements to take while eating a plant based diet. I’d like to add supplements and I’ve been advised to by my endocrinologist- but she didn’t have any suggestions!!! I trust you recommendations. Are there any brands that you trust for iron supplements?

    11. Cindy caporale says:

      Thanks Kris. I don’t know if u remember me, Cindy Caporale. UCSPCA. I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last September. Underwent surgery and now tough chemo at Sloan. I have all your books. My daughter forwarded me your post.

    12. Kara says:

      As an anemic vegan, I can tell you firsthand that the Lucky Iron Fish has gone a looooooong way toward making my life sane and healthy. And they are a company helping many on the planet to have access to iron needed. LuckyIronFish.com and over on their FB page https://www.facebook.com/LuckyIronFish they tell the best #FishPunFriday jokes 🙂

    13. Nicola Corcoran says:

      What advice would you give about supplementing with iron if you’ve had cancer?

    14. Bec says:

      Great article Kris. I’m a little low on iron levels since becoming vegetarian. Can you clarify the bit about calcium supplements being a blocker, but not calcium itself? I’ve read in several places that calcium in general is an iron blocker, so I’m wondering how something that contains both calcium and iron (eg. Spinach) goes when it comes to absorption…

    15. Sally Molloy says:

      Hey,

      Do you think we can get all the nutrition we need from a vegan diet? Or shoul we be taking some supplements?

    16. mike says:

      Just wondering – why none of the sites (suggesting iron rich foods) mention anything about parsley?? Apparently 100g of it has 6.2mg of iron!!!! That’s more than I’ve seen on any single item these sites suggest

    17. Victoria Alexander says:

      Great article! I like to use and recommend Floradix iron by Flora for people who need supplementation. It’s a whole food fermented plant based iron with no preservatives that comes from Germany and that is non constipating. I thought you might want to check it out. : ) Thanks again for the breakdown on what foods to eat for iron intake. Very helpful!

    18. Charlotte says:

      Hi Kris, this is perfect timing… I’m vegan, gluten- and sugar-free and eat super healthily, but the past 3 blood tests I’ve had (over about 1 year and a half) show that I’m anaemic. HOWEVER, this is ONLY based on my ferritin levels, which is what the GP (here in the UK) says is the measure of anaemia.
      You write: “iron deficiency is found by doing a blood test that tests for hemoglobin and hematocrit levels.” Like you, I’ve read that those are better measures of iron, and that measuring ferritin only is not an accurate measure of how efficiently the body carries oxygen to the cells, and that actually low ferritin levels may be beneficial! But my father-in-law (a doctor in Spain) also confirmed the same as my GP, that ferritin is the standard measure of anaemia.
      I’m so confused!! Can anyone comment please? I’m doing all the right combinations (eating iron with vitamin C) so if I am deficient then I must have more complex absorption issues, plus I didn’t feel any better when I was taking iron supplements…

    19. Kathleen says:

      Thanks for the info. Where do post-menopausal women fall on the infographic?

    20. Stephanie says:

      I follow a plant based diet and I eat a LOT of those foods suggested and I’m STILL anemic 🙁 As far as I know I don’t have any other diseases (like celiac or other) and I feel great, health wise, with good energy and no iron deficiency symptoms of any kind. Is it possible some people just have lower natural iron level than others?

    21. Christine says:

      Kris, thank you so much for the article!

      I have been anemic for the majority of my life, but have also tried to stay away from unnatural health supplements as much as possible – which means plant-based iron is super important for me!

      I was wondering, how do you feel about liquid nutrition supplements?

      I ask because I found this “Iron Liquid” supplement (http://purevites.com/iron-liquid) that is supposed to absorb very easily into the body. Of course, I know nothing is better than real food sources, but something like this would certainly cut down my meal planning time!

    22. Emily says:

      love this info! thanks for your help! after trawling the internet i have found that these two sites have really good iron rich recipe collections that seem to be updated seasonally, which is awesome!

      http://myfoodbook.com.au/collections/iron-rich-recipes and http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/recipe_slideshows/iron_rich_recipes

      being a vego, it’s a bit harder to get the iron in, but these recipes have really helped!

    23. I love your posting and would add that the more colorful plants the better.

    24. Thalia says:

      I’ve had a pretty severe flair up of IBS and ulcers, was using antacids every day. I didn’t know how awful that was for nutrition, and my digestive system. I stopped using all antacids, and only use baking soda once a month or so instead. I began consuming an ounce of olive oil per day (incorporate into diet, or eat after drinking the olive oil). It took about a month being off antacids (and avoiding acidic and fried food) before something interesting happened. My stomach seems to have FIXED itself. My bowel problems are a little better, but still there. But my stomach is almost NEVER acidic anymore. I stopped the antacids and just eat vegetables, pita bread, olive oil, lean meat (an ounce a day), and almost no processed food. Feeling better, but still looking into the IBS. It’s SUCH a relief to be rid of all the acid problems.

    25. Damayanthi says:

      Hi Kris,
      I recently became a vegetarian & everyone in the household is worried about my iron levels.
      I actually got a blood test last week – that was fine.
      Anyway your PDF will help a lot.
      Thanks for sharing.
      Damayanthi

    26. Marie says:

      I know this is an older article, but wanted to share. Your hemoglobin isn’t always an indicator of low iron. My hemoglobin is normal, but my ferritin level is very low. If you don’t feel great, have both checked…..

    27. Katariina says:

      Very good information, thanks for this!!

      There seems to be an error in the picture. The females need 15-18 mg, but lactating women (in parenthesis under the pregnant women), only 9-10 mg. Why is that or should it be additional 9-10 mg??

      🙂

      • Kris Carr says:

        Hi Katariina,

        Since lactating women are typically not menstruating, their iron needs are less. But, as soon as a nursing mom’s monthly cycle returns, she needs about 15 mg iron daily. Very little iron is contained in breast milk which is also why breastfed babies need supplemental iron at 6-9 months old. Up until then, they have enough iron from being in the womb. Here’s the NIH link on recommended intakes: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/#h2

    28. Ann says:

      What about for those of us who have hemochromatosis? I discovered that I have iron overload!

    29. Hi Kris,
      Thank you for the informative article. As a diairy and gluten free vegetarian I get a lot of questions about the vitamins D and B12.
      I just had my blood work done and while my iron was fine (yes!), I’m seriously vitamin D and too low on vitamin B12. Sp i guess people ask the right questions! I’ve started to take good supplements, but I would love to know what I could add in my diet. I get as much sunlight as I can here in the Netherlands for the vit D, but is apparently not enough.
      I would love to see a post on this! Thank you!

    30. Thank you so much. I am newly vegan and I have been diagnosed with anemia for as long as I can remember. It is good to know this so that I can make the adjustments and get my iron levels up! Thanks so much it came right on time!!!

    31. Sadna says:

      Great article!

    32. Jessica says:

      Hemp hearts/hemp protein powder are also a very rich source 🙂

    33. RG Midgett says:

      Too much IRON is what your body cannot process if you have hemochromatosis. I did not find out I had it until I was in my fifties. Estimated one-in-ten Americans are carriers of the defective genes that cause this hereditary condition. My only symptom was strange tiny red circles on the inside of my wrists. If taking iron causes pain, get your iron levels checked. The condition can damage your organs and cause premature death.

    34. Catherine Denham says:

      Thanks Kris for this great summary on plant-based iron sources – at the moment I’m losing a lot of my hair and have been doing research as to what could be causing that with my vegan diet. Iron is naturally one of the components that comes up and this summary has been perfect!! Love your blog.

    35. Debbie McCray says:

      Hi sweet Kris, I thank God for you. I think our spirits are entwined. You have been a blessing for me. I am 57 years young and doing my darnest to stay fit and healthy. Getting older has its good and bad points. Things begin to chance and you are caught up in a whirlwind trying to figure out what is going on. The current issue i am addressing is menopause. You know I do not think the doctors know what they are talking about when it comes to female hormones. Kis I am currently having a bleeding issue. I was the women as well as many other dealing with post menopausal bleeding. I am taking about clotc. I have had a D&C and am still having problems. Thank you for your article on Iron and building your blood. I hemoglobin level is 10> I am miserable. I am tired and have difficulty excercising and have gained weight. I am normally a n active person, but not now. Please help me restore my health. Your friend in Christ, sweet debbie

    36. Osha Key says:

      Thanks for the info. I always surprise the doctors with the perfect iron levels! They’re expecting me to be anemic every time I tell I’m a vegan haha 🙂 Eating lots of greens and legumes ensures adequate intake.

    37. Jeffrey Chua says:

      Thank you for the info regarding Iron. Anyway Kris I do have a question regarding juicing for a 3 years old. What will be the best ingredients to boost the immune system of a toddler. My daughters are twins. When they were about 1 yr and a half they both became sickly, I mean at the young age of 3, they just turned 3 last may 12. they were already hospitalized 12x. Now I have been doing green juice everyday and it seems to be very effective on their health. I used celery, parsley, broccoli leaves, spinach, cucumber, moringa herb, green apple, pineapple and avocado. I normally have this and I alternately using each one of them. Anymore advice to boost their immune system? Thank you- Jeffrey

    38. Mieke says:

      Hi Kris,
      Thank you for the informative article. As a diairy and gluten free vegetarian I get a lot of questions about the vitamins D and B12.
      I just had my blood work done and while my iron was fine (yes!), I’m seriously vitamin D and too low on vitamin B12. Sp i guess people ask the right questions! I’ve started to take good supplements, but I would love to know what I could add in my diet. I get as much sunlight as I can here in the Netherlands for the vit D, but is apparently not enough.
      I would love to see a post on this! Thank you!

    39. flower says:

      My adult children have to much iron. I read that if you give blood it takes the extra iron out. What else can they do to bring down to much iron…it’s not good to have to much…Flower

    40. Maiya Amar says:

      Thanks, Kris! I’m learning so much from your emails and website as a newly initiated Vegan (6 weeks now, and feeling pretty great!) I can see now by reading your article that I’m getting enough Iron (though I should probably wait a little longer to drink my afternoon black tea after lunch), but one thing I keep reading about is the importance of Vitamin B12 for Vegans. How much B12 do I need as a 54 year old woman?

    41. Jayda Yuce says:

      I have a question about the info in this article. You list soybeans, cooked, as a source of iron but then further down its listed as a phytate, which prevents the absorption of iron, only reducing this effect by half when cooked. This is confusing. Which is it? Thx:)

      • Kris Carr says:

        Hi Jayda,

        Non-heme iron in plant foods is absorbed at a rate of 2-20% which factors in things like phytates and other iron blockers. By soaking and cooking soybeans, phytate content decreases significantly. And then if you add a vitamin C-rich food to the meal, you boost that soybean iron absorption even more. Daily iron needs take into account that you’re not absorbing iron at 100%, so soybeans are still a great source. xo, kc

    42. ellen whyte says:

      I am wondering what is best when your iron numbers are ok but your ferritin is low….what do you think of supplementing with FLOREDEX with iron?

    43. Sarah says:

      Thank you for this! My husband and I became vegetarians starting this month, and focused so much on how to get enough protein…until I started feeling fatigued the first week and a co-worker mentioned lack of iron could be the culprit. I am printing this out for reading material for us tonight. I love your blog! Thanks for being an inspiration to women and men alike.

    44. Sharon says:

      Enjoying your article/recipes about including enough iron in diet. Thx!

      Your website is nicely designed and chock full of useful info which we ALL need today because of polluted/toxic atmosphere we live in. We must always remember, God is in charge. He will and IS providing ways for us to overcome and thrive in this world…… such as through your beautiful website. Thank you and God bless you.

    45. Claudia says:

      Dear Kris, After being a vegetarian for over ten years and at the same time an avid long-distance runner I suffered from severe muscle weakness due to anemia and low protein in my diet. I could not run half a mile without severe burning pain in my left calf and no doctro could give me a concrete diagnosis except for overuse. Only after visiting a sports nutritionist and getting blood work from my doctor did we see that I was severely anemic (my ferritin levels were at 6, when the normal range is 36 and on).
      Rather than eating processed and synthetic protein foods, like the sports nutritionist suggested, I decided to go back to eating organic meat, first only chicken and wild-caught fish (esp. salmon), but after continuing to feel very tired I decided to introduce organiz bison meat to my diet.
      I eventually had to stop running altogether (last February) because it was still very painful and I didn’t see the point in suffering through what used to make me very happy at one point.
      But I did notice that the only time when I do not feel as tired is when I eat red meat (a bison patty) after a strenuous workout, like spinning, which I do at least three times per week now.
      I read so much about nutrition and vegetarianism and veganism, and I still have a lot of issues (psychologically and humanely) with eating meat, but I find that it is the only solution to all the phyisical and nutritional issues I developed while consuming so few calories and protein for the amount of running I was doing over the course of months or even years, all unbeknownst to me.
      After a few months of my initial blood test showing the low levels of iron and protein, I was tested again and also tested for thyroid issues, but everything came out normal.
      Someone told me I just over did it all, too much running and too strict of a vegetarian diet, even though I was very aware of eating a wholesome and clean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, quinoa and sources of iron that I thought were enough for me.
      I guess I don’t have a real question for you, this was more of a comment about my experience. My question is directed more at the universe I guess: why did this happen? Will I ever be able to run pain-free again? Do I really HAVE to consume animal meat for my protein or why is it that it’s the only thing that makes me feel less tired?

      Thanks for always being so positive, honest and informative.
      xoxo
      Claudia

    46. Leslie says:

      Will you please comment on the availability (absorption ability) and the amount of the iron in foods such as spirulna, wheat grass, activated barley, barley juice, and cracked cell chlorella? These are easy additions to smoothies. Thank you

      • Kris Carr says:

        Hi Leslie,

        The iron in sea vegetables is typically in a highly absorbable form. However, since these supplements aren’t regulated, it’s too hard to say exact iron amounts as they range from 1/2 mg to 35 mg per tablespoon. The USDA nutrient database has dried spirulina at 2 mg iron per tablespoon, but doesn’t contain values for the other foods. Keep in mind that all the sea veggies and other greens are still fantastic immune-boosters and detoxifiers, and adding them to smoothies may also help boost iron levels. xo, kc

    47. L says:

      Peace and Popeye… Haha you’re so funny AND smart Kris!

    48. Linda dc says:

      Fantastic info, would be good to get more breakdown of more iron foods like sprouts and other raw foods. For those thinking about taking iron supplements beware they can make you constipated. Keep chewing pumpkin seeds with some juice or you can use camu camu powder for high Vit. C.
      I would like to see similar article about protein, always the first thing people keep telling me to have more of even the naturopaths.

    49. Thank you for putting together a fantastic, fun to read and most importantly, easy to understand guide. I try to steer clear of vitamin supplements in favour of real foods to get what I need. I did not realise that quinoa was a good source of iron or even my tahini.

    50. Kelsey says:

      So thorough!! Thank you so much!

    51. Theresa Becht says:

      This couldn’t have come at a better time. I have metastatic stage 4 breast cancer. My hemoglobin is low right now. I am trying to increase it without any more meds other than a multi vitamin.

    52. This is a great article, loaded with lots of important information that makes me better equipped to respond to naysayers about my plant based diet. It also reinforces that my vegan diet keeps me strong and healthy. The info graphics are very helpful. I feel smarter on this subject. Thank you!

    53. Jenna says:

      I love this information! After a serious workplace injury 4 years ago at only 24, I have been searching for anything out there to ease my chronic pain that wasn’t simply narcotic drugs. Going vegan has been absolutely essential to my overall decrease in pain. Information like this, in bite size portions; is the perfect way to gain new information without becoming overwhelmed. Thanks!

    54. Anon says:

      Hi Kris,
      I just wanted to add that sometimes people can be anaemic despite good iron levels if they are hypothyroid as the lower body temperature associated with hypothyroidism interferes with red blood cell production. Great post, so useful, thanks. I’m shy online so excuse the lack of name.

    55. Connie says:

      Can chlorophyll supplement help thanks

      • Kris Carr says:

        Hi Connie,

        Because chlorophyll is a natural blood builder and is very similar to hemoglobin, it may help boosts iron levels eventhough it contains no iron. While I’ve seen no research to prove this, chlorophyll certainly won’t hurt iron levels and may even help.

        xo, kc

    56. Joel Chudnow says:

      Please guest on my radio show when you come to Tampa, Fl. The Hawk Health Hour Wednesdays Noon-1pm http://www.hawkradio.com Listen to June 11th archived show.

      Thank you for your good ( God) Work!

    57. Matt Jager says:

      Informative and empowering, thanks for putting together this important information in such a digestible format. A great tool for the conversations I have with people interested in going plant-based and have questions.

    58. Genevieve Luna says:

      What about raw spinach? If I eat raw spinach will that provide me with iron. Same question for Swiss chard. I noticed in your chart it says cooked for. Oth so I was just curious is there’s a difference in the amount to iron the body gets, cooked versus raw?

      Thanks
      Genevieve

      • Kris Carr says:

        Hi Genevieve,

        Raw spinach and raw Swiss chard are also good iron sources. Here’s the info for raw spinach: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3214, and here’s the info for raw Swiss chard: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2965. While they are less concentrated sources, if you were to juice a whole bunch of raw spinach, for example, you’d get 9.2 mg of iron.

        Cooked foods are more concentrated sources of some nutrients because cooking shrinks the foods. So, it may be easier to eat 1 cup of cooked spinach (3.2 mg iron) than it would be to eat 4 cups of raw spinach to get the same amount of iron. Up to you though!

        xo, Kris

    59. Angela says:

      Thank you so much. I am newly vegan and I have been diagnosed with anemia for as long as I can remember. It is good to know this so that I can make the adjustments and get my iron levels up! Thanks so much it came right on time!!!

      • Lisa says:

        I was anemic for many years and blamed it on being a vegetarian. Turns out it was because I had Celiac! Once my guts healed I was fine. Anemia is a very common first symptom of Celiac.

    60. Katherine Henry says:

      I love your blog, but wanted to post about this issue. Some of us, mostly of northern European descent and often “women of a certain age”, can be getting too MUCH iron. Many things are iron fortified, generally things we shouldn’t be eating anyway for the most part. Some of this is a hereditary predisposition, but also food choices, supplements, menopause and environmental issues can also be in play. It is good to know if you are storing iron as too much in the system can be a factor in heart disease, diabetes and liver conditions. It is an easy fix if there is too much iron in the system, most MDs will prescribe phlebotomy – but I am not so good with needles and discovered a gentle chelation with IP6.
      Having enough iron is one issue, too much another.
      Keep smiling Kris, you are amazing and inspiring…even for those of us that eat a little meat now and again!

      • Kris Carr says:

        Hi Katherine,

        Avoiding meat and its highly absorbable heme iron is one of the best ways to prevent getting too much iron. Fortified foods have non-heme iron added. Eating lots of raw foods will help you keep your iron intake down. But, you could always have a blood test done to see where you are.

        xo,
        Kris

    61. Sandy says:

      Will raw spinach offer the same Iron amount…or does it have to be cooked? I’d rather eat it raw in my salads and green drinks.

    62. Zoe says:

      Hey Kris! The question I always get asked as a vegan is “How do you get enough protein?”. It drives me crazy that people are SO worried about protein, yet they don’t worry about the fact that they might not be getting enough nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from their diets that lack a lot of plant foods!

    63. Paula Pierce says:

      Thanks Kris! I often donate blood and platelets and am frequently just squeaking by the iron test. Last time I failed — so this is great info to help me get my iron back up without overloading on red meat!

    64. Veronica says:

      It comes up quite often that people think they have to make a choice between eating meat and being “plant-empowered”. Most (if not all) traditional cultures that consumed meat were also plant-empowered. Not all people do well without animal products in their diet, and if they eat responsible meats (grass-fed and pastured), the research is clear that there is no increase risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. It’s important that we don’t continue to perpetuate the myth that all meat has the same effect on the body or that you can’t prevent cancer and even put it into remission with a diet that includes some brilliantly health-supporting animal foods. Some people can get by as vegetarians. Many cannot. Alexandra Jamieson (a well-known and respected ex-vegan) is a great spokesperson for this – respect your unique body, do what’s best for your body and be open to what it might need. It’s different for everyone.

    65. Emily says:

      I’m a nursing mother and my son’s pediatrician was concerned how I was getting enough healthy fats without eating dairy. She suggested I feed him cow’s milk and cottage cheese to introduce him to food. ???

      • Jonathan Cohen says:

        I sure as Heck wouldn’tot give him cowcows milk that’s for sure!odnt give him cows milk

    66. Alisa says:

      I have been eating a fully raw fruits & vegetables only diet for several weeks and feel better than I have in 20 years – chronic stomach pain is GONE! Can you recommend raw fruits & veggies that are high in iron?

      Thanks so much! Love you and your work – you’re a true inspiration! 🙂

      • Kris Carr says:

        Hi Alisa,

        So glad you’re feeling better! To meet your iron needs, dark leafy greens, especially raw spinach are going to be your best bet. A 10-ounce package of spinach has 7.7 mg iron, which will make a big dent in your 18-mg goal. If you’re juicing, add iron-rich parsley to your concoctions. You may also consider adding raw sesame seeds and raw pumpkin seeds to your diet. Not only are they high in iron, but they also have essential protein (more protein info here: https://kriscarr.com/blog-video/my-crazy-sexy-guide-to-plant-based-protein/) and calcium (https://kriscarr.com/blog-video/dairy-free-diet-recipes/). If you have trouble adding these foods, consider supplements for iron and calcium.

        xo, kc

        • Hari says:

          I’ve heard that adding lemon to foods like spinach will help release more of the iron into you. Adding lemon to everything makes it taste better I think so I always do, but just wanted to double check.

        • rachel goodkind says:

          Hi, thanks for the information. Spinach and swiss chard may be nutritious and have iron, but they
          both contain Oxalic acid which block mineral absorption. Balance enough with too much.
          I love beets, beans (soak first), and some humans like blackstrap molasses. Peace, rachel the vegan

    67. Becky says:

      Thanks for this, Kris. I’m anemic and this info is really helpful!

    68. Suzanne Lyons says:

      SO appreciate your info graphics…to help us be intelligent plant based people and to be able to share our knowledge with those curious meat eaters..that want to be more plant based. The questions they ask, oh my. Thank you Kris Carr.

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