The mineral iron is essential for your health, and you can get your daily recommended amount if you follow a nutrient-rich, healthy diet. And, while meat is one of the main sources of iron, it is also possible to get all the iron you need if you are a vegetarian or vegan. Here’s how to manage your iron intake on a plant-based diet.
Why your body needs iron
For your body to function properly it needs a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals, with iron just one of the essential nutrients it needs to absorb every day.
This hardworking mineral is needed for a range of reasons, including helping to make haemoglobin in your blood that then transports oxygen from the lungs to all the tissues in your body. Iron is also important for your body as it converts food into energy and for supporting a healthy immune system (EFSA, 2010).
Managing iron intake when on a plant-based diet
As your body cannot make its own iron, it relies on what you eat to be able to absorb the daily amount it needs. And while a large proportion of iron-rich foods are animal-based products, it is possible to get all the iron you need if you are following a plant-based diet. Many vegetarians also opt to take iron tablets to help support their daily nutritional intake.
To help you get the essential information you need on how to get iron from your diet, here are some of the best iron-rich plant-based foods:
Leafy greens – if you were always told to eat your greens as a child, then it was good advice! Dark, leafy greens are full of essential vitamins and minerals, including iron. The best greens for boosting your iron intake are kale or spinach, which are low in calories but high in iron, as well as fibre, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Nuts and seeds – for a nutritious snack on the go, or as a topping for your cereal, nuts and seeds are an excellent source of iron as well as fibre. And pumpkin seeds top the list, as they are also packed with zinc, vitamin K, manganese, and magnesium.
Dried apricots – delicious on your porridge or as a tasty snack, dried apricots are a great way to get an extra iron hit.
Lentils – a great staple to many vegan and vegetarian meals, lentils are an excellent dinner time go to for extra iron.
Broccoli – while not containing the highest amount of iron, broccoli is an excellent source as it also contains plenty of vitamin C which helps your body to absorb the iron more effectively.
Tofu – made from soybean milk, tofu is a popular bean curd that is an excellent protein as well as iron source. Used as a meat substitute, there are so many delicious meals, including desserts, you can make with tofu, while helping you to reach your daily iron intake.