What Every Vegetarian Needs to Know About Iron

This is a guest post by Matt Ruscigno, who writes the blog True Love Health.
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True or False: The iron that our bodies require is the same element found in a cast-iron skillet.

This is a real true or false question on my college exam, and it fools a surprising number of my students. Iron is greatly misunderstood as a nutrient, especially when it comes to vegetarian and vegan diets.

The mineral is found all over the earth and is essential to red blood cells transporting oxygen and nutrients to every cell in our body, connecting us directly to the land we live on. Pretty amazing, right?

But iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in North America, with symptoms including fatigue, pale skin, weakness and inability to maintain body temperature. And as vegetarians and vegans, it’s worth paying special attention to make sure we’re getting enough.

So how much iron do we actually need?

Recently in the U.S., the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) gave new recommendations for iron, specifically for vegetarians, that are 1.8 times higher than the general population. As my colleague Jack Norris points out, this increase is not based on actual research on vegetarians, but simply because the iron in plant foods is not as easily absorbed as the iron in animal products (more on this in just a minute).

As a result, many experts in vegetarian nutrition believe that these recommendations are much higher than needed.

My take on it: if you eat a varied, healthy plant-based diet that includes a balance of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and fruits and vegetables — and follow the recommendations below — I don’t believe it is necessary to keep close track of iron intake.

Iron from plants vs. iron from animals

To better understand what we need to do to ensure our bodies are getting enough iron, we first have to accept two facts about iron — painful as they are for vegetarians and vegans to hear:

  1. There are two types of iron — heme, which is found in animal foods, and non-heme, which is from plants. It is true that heme iron (the kind from animals) is better absorbed than non-heme iron.
  2. Vegetarians and vegans may have lower iron stores than omnivores.

But don’t fret your vegetarian brain over these issues. We’ll see that in fact it’s not all that difficult to get the iron you need on a plant-based diet.

As for #2, it’s important to note that while vegetarians have lower stores of iron than omnivores, they do not have higher rates of anemia. In the research, many vegetarians’ stores are “low-normal,” but this does not mean less than ideal! Actually, there’s some evidence that says low-normal iron stores are beneficial: improved insulin function and lower rates of heart disease and cancer.

How to get enough iron on a plant-based diet

You can start by making sure that you’re eating foods that contain substantial amounts of iron. Some of the best plant sources of iron include:

  • Legumes: lentils, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, lima beans
  • Grains: quinoa, fortified cereals, brown rice, oatmeal
  • Nuts and seeds: pumpkin, squash, pine, pistacio, sunflower, cashews, unhulled sesame
  • Vegetables: tomato sauce, swiss chard, collard greens,
  • Other: blackstrap molasses, prune juice

But here’s the key: It’s not how much iron you consume, but how well you absorb it.

So paying attention to make sure you’re absorbing your iron is just as important as making sure you’re taking in enough. And fortunately there is a lot you can do to increase the absorption of non-heme iron!

5 ways vegetarians and vegans can absorb more iron

1. The less you eat, the better it is absorbed.

Seriously! I know people who take one 15 milligram pill a day and think they are covered, but it doesn’t work that way. When consuming higher amounts of iron at one time, the percentage that our bodies absorb is actually lower than when your meal contains only a few milligrams. Plant-based foods may contain less iron than animal foods, but eating smaller amounts throughout the day is a great way to increase absorption.

2. Eat non-heme iron foods with vitamin C foods, and absorption can increase as much as five times.

Five times! Culturally these combinations are already happening: think beans and rice with salsa, falafel with tomatoes and hummus with lemon juice. The iron in beans, grains and seeds is better absorbed when combined with the vitamin-C found in fruits and vegetables. Bonus: some iron sources, like leafy greens, broccoli, and tomato sauce already contain vitamin-C.

3. Avoid coffee and tea when eating high-iron meals.

Coffee (even decaf!) and tea contain tannins that inhibit iron absorption. I recommend avoiding them an hour before or two hours after your meal.

4. Cast-iron skillets increase iron absorption.

The answer to the true or false question is true! Cooking with an old school cast-iron skillet increases the iron in your meal — especially when you cook a vitamin-C containing food in it.

Even better, a cast-iron skillet purchase puts you in the realm of official serious cook. I bought mine almost 10 years ago for $8 and it is one of my most valued possessions. (Yes, I’m that much of a food nerd that a skillet is one of my most valued possessions!)

5. It pains me to say this, but you may want to avoid spinach as an iron source.

Spinach contains oxalates that block absorption. Sucks, right? There is some disagreement in the research about this, but with all of those other iron-containing plant foods, why not try some new ones?

And for the record, even if you take an iron supplement, you should still follow the advice above. I recommend that if my clients take one, they break it in half and take half in the morning and half at night, always with meals or juice.

Iron doesn’t have to be a problem in a plant-based diet

Follow these principles, eating good sources of iron throughout the day and keeping up with the absorption principles above, and you’ll find that it’s not hard to get enough iron in your diet, even as a vegetarian or vegan.

All of that said, iron is one of the few nutrients where a deficiency both immediately affects your health and is detectable, so if you have any iron-deficiency symptoms I recommend getting blood work with your doctor. It is affordable, reliable and easy to interpret. And iron levels bounce back quickly when using the methods above or supplementation.

I’ll leave you with a fun fact about iron in plant-based diets (well, fun to a food nerd at least):

Some research shows that vegans have higher iron levels than vegetarians.

How?

The difference between vegetarians and vegans is eggs and dairy products, and the latter contain almost no iron. When someone goes from vegetarian to vegan they are replacing dairy products with plant-based ones, all of which contain some iron, therefore increasing the total iron in the diet.

With this information and a little effort you can get all of the iron you need from plants to be a healthy and strong vegetarian!

Matthew Ruscigno, MPH, RD is a vegan of 15 years, Chair of the Vegetarian Nutrition Group of the American Dietetic Association and is an athlete that has completed iron-distance triathlons, solo 24-hr mountain bike races and ultra-runs. He writes at True Love Health and recently launched his Day in the Life of Vegan Athletes video series.

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Comments

  1. Interesting! Thanks for this info!

  2. So this is probably an anomaly – but I am a vegan with HIGH iron. Higher than the normal range. I have seen a doctor about this and was told that it is not due to genetics, etc, but from diet. I am supposed to watch my iron intake for the next month and come back for a re-test. My doc was super vague about how to cut back and basically told me to Google it. If you guys have any suggestions on foods to eliminate/watch out for, a goal I should be shooting for each day, portion sizes of high iron foods or any thing else that you think would help – I would love to hear it!

    • Giving blood is the easiest way of reducing your iron and helping out someone else, making you feel good too! Seriously!

  3. Wow this was a great article. My daughter is a vegetarian and always has low iron. I will make sure she sees this. My dad swears by cast iron pans and I am going to get myself one real soon. Thx for the info.

  4. Great post! Training for an ultra marathon I have been able to maintain my iron levels with diet. Thank goodness! Iron supplements really screw up my system. B12…now that is another issue. Luckily though, those vitamins don’t cause as much havoc on my body.

    • Do you use nutritional yeast? That’s high in B12.

      • Yeasts are really bad you don’t want them in your diets. They contribute to Candita , fungus and other things., Yeast and molds are the underlying cause of cancer. You don’t want yeasts in your diet. read the book sick and tired by Robert o young.

        • Happily, that’s not actually true. :)

          • Hi Mia, that was a gentle rebuke :) I don’t place any credence in the whole”yeastie beasties taking over the world” thing, but I can’t honestly say I don’t have any facts on my side: how did you come to your conclusion? Have you read any particular articles, books, or sites that proved this to be quackery? Or did I just misunderstand you and you just meant that nutritional yeast does not contribute to systemic yeast issues?

      • Only some types of nutritional yeast are fortified with B12, so be sure to check the labels. Also, many almond milk brands as well as cereals are fortified with it. You usually will need to eat fortified foods OR take supplements, as B12 is not generally found in plant foods.

    • I had that issue, too. But I increased my sea-vegetable intake and it’s been…delicious! Seaweed paper for veggie sushi, kelp granules to season stir-fries, and miso soup with the seaweed strips. My taste buds had to get used to it at first, but now I love it dearly!

      • Spinach is a great source of iron. nothing wrong with it when you eat it raw. when cooked the oxalates are absorbed

  5. …and I thought spinach was a good iron source :( Great information and another incentive for me to go vegan! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Great article! Thanks!

  7. I have been vegetarian for several years and went vegan about 9 months ago. I had struggled with iron deficiency anemia for a few years, and tried pretty much all of the tips Matt offers. I’d tried taking iron supplements but couldn’t tolerate them. Finally, I stopped taking the proton pump inhibitor medication I had been on for GERD for several years (not long after going veg). Within a few months my anemia resolved and I have since been able to donate blood. It really is about the absorption. This is a known side effect of PPI’s but my doctor hadn’t believed that could be the problem. My advice is to keep that in mind if you’re having continuous problems and ruled out low intake. If your symptoms are mild enough or can be controlled another way, it might be worth discussing going off the PPI with your doctor. (Just give it a good few months trial as my blood tests still showed anemia after just 1 month off the drug. )

    • Women in my family are also prone to anemia. Very important that iron supplements are taken on a full stomach, and never take more than 25-30 mgs. a day. The real problem is that many brands sell these supplement pills in such high doses that taking a whole pill is actually unhealthy. My first go round with the supplements I had the same problem, I would get incredibly sick to my stomach after taking them, but after making adjustments I haven’t had any difficulty tolerating them. I also take a general B vitamin supplement (low dose, of course) and add amino acids to foods when I’m cooking (brewer’s or nutritional yeast). Been keeping up this regime 3 years now and my blood levels are right where they should be. I think being vegan has caused me to be much more aware of what I take and improved my health in general. When I ate meat, I never monitored my daily intake of anything.

    • PPI’s = proton pump inhibitors reduce the production of H+ ions in the stomach necessary for changing the oxidation state of iron and facilitating the of absorbing of iron further along the GI tract. I also have been a vegetarian for 24 years with no evidence after the first few months of either B12 or iron deficiency. Also taking 500mg of vitamin C twice daily helps the absorbing of iron along with your green diet. Fresh/cooked kale is another high source of iron. Quinoa is another good source, but purchasing this item causes the cost for Andean Indians quinoa to go up making it economically too expensive for them despite this is the region where it is primarily raised. Andean Indians have the highest level of Iron deficiency in this hemisphere, and the highest incidence of iron deficiency in Latin Americas; too bad because it is not difficult to grow quinoa there.

  8. As a new vegetarian (since January) it is always helpful to me to have reliable sources of info and articles like this. One of the reasons I went vegetarian was for my health, and I want to make sure I am doing it the right way. Thank you for this and keep these articles coming!

  9. What dosage of an Iron supplement is recommended? Thanks!

  10. Great article! I’ve read some about the subject before, but great to hear an overview. Also, that’s a great point about being vegan instead of vegetarian and increasing iron levels!

  11. Thank you for this article. I’ve recently discovered that half of the girls on the high school x-c team are on iron supplements. My daughter is mostly vegan and seems to be fine, she places in the top ten usually, but I’m wondering if I should get her iron checked anyway? Is it true that dairy and soy block iron absorption? I will definitely be buying a cast iron skillet too!

  12. This is a great article with valuable information. It always seems to come down to having a varied diet. Variety is key!

  13. I’m not a vegetarian but still took some great points from this. I was iron deficient when I was a vegetarian but part of the problem was my gluten intolerance and me not absorbing all the nutrients from foods. When I nixed the gluten and rounded out my diet more me levels came back to normal.

  14. A little tip: if you like cooking with a cast iron skillet, try to find an old (pre 1970s) Griswold Skillet, from when they were still made in Erie. I bought one on ebay to replace the modern one I had been using for several years, and it is in another league. Lighter, smoother, holds its seasoning better. They are a bit pricey on ebay, but way worth it. You also might luck into one for almost nothing at a garage sale, since a lot of people no longer use them.

    • Jody, That is very interesting info about the Griswold Skillet. You said that they hold their seasoning better. Do they hold their seasoning even when used to cook veggies? I found with my cast iron skillet, which is not a Griswold, that if I only use it to fry with and never put foods with a high moisture content, then it keeps it’s seasoning better. However, this article about iron says to cook foods with vitamin C in cast iron. That would probably be tomatoes and other veggies. Any thoughts?

      • Seems like the 2 biggest things to avoid are tomatoes and boiling water. I stir-fry veggies in my skillet all the time with no problems. The Griswold is really much better than the newer one I used to cook with.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for the information. I have severe iron-deficiency anemia and have to get IV treatments. Regarding the vegan/vegetarian iron differences, calcium can also prevent absorption as can fiber and diet drinks containing artificial sweetners. Processed soy is iffy (it is not good to have processed soy for people with breast cancer or thyroid issues). Any suggestions for how to stomach Blackstrap molasses?

    • I like a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in oatmeal. Especially topped with a banana. Or you can just down a tablespoon straight. That’s about all I can handle that way, though. :)

  16. It’s only raw spinach that isn’t good for iron needs – once it’s cooked, the oxalates are destroyed. :)

    • Unfortunately this is not true.

      • Christy Caudill says:

        I wish that were true. My arthritis reacts badly to oxalates, and even cooked, spinach is a terror for me.

        • Your system and pH is over acidic for some other reason( incompatible food,combinations not hydrated not enough sleep too much exercise unhealthy environment not enough alkaline food

    • You got it backwards What happens with cook spinach is the oxalates change form. this is a negative eat it raw the way nature intended. the minerals change when the food is cooked( inorganic minerals body doesn’t recognize it electrical chargelost life force gone

  17. As a vegetarian (nearly-vegan) who struggles to get even 25% of the daily recommended intake of iron, I was shocked to get blood work back recently that showed my iron levels were OFF THE CHARTS (150% of the recommended level with a 300% level of saturation). I believe it’s because my iron sources are plant-based and proves that it’s quality over quantity!

  18. Great post and info will passing this to all GO VEG! As a vegan this is helps a lot knowing I don’t need to supplement

  19. Thank you for all the positive responses here. I’m glad I bought stock in cast-iron skillets before I wrote this!

  20. I have been vegan the past 5 months and recently finished a marathon– I did not do as well as hoped. Legs felt weak and tired. Long story but…. I have also felt lightheaded the past two days. Wondering if its low iron???

    • Doesn’t hurt to get your blood counts checked, but are you sure you took in enough carbs? I’ve noticed an enormous difference on my long training runs when I get close to the recommended amount vs when I don’t. I’ve been told 30-60 grams/hour of exercise for long runs, shoot for 50 on average, from whatever source. If I stick to that I feel a ton better and recover so much more quickly. If you’re an old hand at distance running and all that is covered, and your training was up to snuff, then I would think it is definitely worth examining the rest of your diet and making sure there are no underlying issues. Good luck!

    • Oh, also worth noting, I have read that distance running (or probably any intensive athletic endeavor) burns through red cells so you should make sure you get lots of iron afterward. I usually try to make sure I’m getting lots of dark leafy greens and such all the time, but especially after challenging runs.

  21. Kristabel says:

    I have never given my iron intake any thought. Thanks for the article, it really opened my eyes to the importance of iron in my diet.

  22. Really informative article!

  23. I read a while back about distance running causing an iron deficiency…something about the pounding on the feet. Am I remember that wrong? Can you address that? Thanks in advance!

  24. I had been a vegetarian for a long time when I went through a volunteer firefighter academy. I struggled with the physical aspects despite being a very active and strong woman. I got my iron levels tested. LOW.
    I tried the spinach route, didn’t do too much. I went back to consuming a little meat now and then.

    Now, I use blackstrap molasses from time to time and, I also use spinach. If you cook your spinach, even lightly, the oxalic acid is not as much of a problem. I believe it becomes something to worry about if you eat huge quantities and eat it raw.

    What have you heard? Thanks for the tips on the cast iron. I think I have one from a passed relative…I need to find it!

  25. There is a condition called Hemochromatosis that results in too much iron being absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.

    There are two forms of hemochromatosis: primary and secondary.

    Primary hemochromatosis is usually caused by a specific genetic problem that causes too much iron to be absorbed. When people with this condition have too much iron in their diet, the extra iron is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and builds up in the body tissues, particularly the liver. The result is liver swelling. Primary hemochromatosis is the most common genetic disorder in the United States, affecting an estimated 1 of every 200 to 300 Americans.

    Symptoms are often very simular to iron defiency, so getting tested before taking iron supplements is a good idea.Blood tests may help make the diagnosis. Tests may include:
    Serum ferritin (high)
    Serum iron (high)
    Percentage of transferrin saturation (high)

    If you are diagnosed with hemochromatosis, you should follow a special diet to reduce how much iron is absorbed from your diet. You Should avoid iron pills or vitamins containing iron, vitamin supplements, iron cookware, or fortified processed foods such as 100% iron breakfast cereals.

    Google it for more infomation.

  26. Love my cast iron cookware! I was anemic growing up and once I went vegetarian (in my early teens), but haven’t had any issues with iron as a vegan (even through three vegan pregnancies). We use blackstrap molasses as our main sweetener and love the legumes and leafy greens. Great post.

  27. Thank you for including the part about spinach. It irks me when it is considered a source high in iron, since it isn’t truly absorbed well. Best to eat other greens for iron, not to dis spinach! It’s great in smoothies too!

  28. Christy Caudill says:

    Actually, the type of calcium and phosphate found in milk bind to iron and prevent its absorption… there’s been some amount of research on this topic, and it seems the most likely cause of vegans having less iron deficiencies than vegetarians.

  29. Supplements have worked fine for me. I used to be vehemently opposed to them, but after starting to use them during my pregnancy, I’ve found they do help, and it’s easy. I never have any problem donating blood now, and I used to all the time, even when I ate meat. I think some of the constipation issues aren’t so much a concern if you have a plant based diet.

  30. I had a pre-op physical for joint surgery a couple of months ago; my doctor was alarmed because I have a resting heart rate of 48 and I was at the very low end of normal for hematocrit (I’m a 55 year old female). She wouldn’t listen to my explanation that I’m a vegetarian and in very good shape; she wanted an echo prior to anesthesia (gee, normal!) and insists that I need a colonoscopy to assess for blood loss. It’s kind of sad that being somewhat athletic is seen as abnormal…..

  31. I was researching iron recently as a reader of my blog was interested. One interesting thing that I found, which you alude to above, is that omnivores are actually at risk of iron overload. In fact iron-overload is on the rise in the US and may even be more prevalent than anemia.

    The good news that a plant based diet doesn’t expose you to the risk of iron overload as non-heme iron uptake is better regulated. You only absorb what you need.

  32. That was really great information. I didn’t even know most of these things.

  33. Interesting! Thanks for the info. I don’t need an excuse to eat more oatmeal and nut butter. ;)

  34. GREAT article ! I wonder about liquid Iron supplements ? I had Gastric Bypass a year ago and one of the issues is how I now absorb the nutrients I need from foods. I take a Liquid Iron supplement ( not as regularly as I should. ) This post just reminded me that I need to be more consistent and get my blood work done. Thank you for the great info!

  35. I have been a vegetarian for over 8 years, I never used to take iron supplements, then I ended up in the cardiac ICU with a heart rate of 25! I was so anemic that a simple cold virus had taken me down to almost dying. I was in there for 5 days. Please eat greens and try to get iron from food, but at least take a multi vitamin , like prenatal ones for example,with extra iron, you might be saving your life.!

  36. bozeyspool says:

    My iron tested low when I first went vegan. I bought some organic, unsulphured blackstrap molasses from my local co-op and began taking two to three tablespoons daily. The next time I tested, my levels were fine.

    Elizabeth, I dissolve mine in heated rice milk for a creamy, almost chocolaty drink. Goes down easy that way.

  37. I am 18 and have been vegetarian for almost 11 years now. In the last few weeks I have been having terrible faint turns and after a blood test have discovered that my iron levels are very low. I am now taking the iron supplement “Ferrous fumarate”.

    I was hoping someone might be able to give me some idea as to why after 11 years of a healthy vegetarian diet it is only now that my iron levels have gone so low.

    • Sarah, I’m guessing it’s an absorption issue…definitely don’t know. But what I do know is that you can get iron transfusions (once a week for 4-8 weeks) and should be covered by your insurance. They made me feel so much better vERY quickly. Also, I’ve never had luck with iron pills, but liquid Floradix Iron + Herbs has been quite helpful in the past. Good luck.
      p.s.
      I have never been once to munch on ice, but a few years back, I suddenly couldn’t get enough. I was either crushing it in my blender or hitting up every drive-thru for their small-cubed ice. It turns out that this is a symptom common with anemia. (and yes, my numbers turned out to be very low then.)

      • Oh my gosh – the ice craving thing has been a curious occurrence for me lately, too. I constantly crave it and love that I can get it anytime (read ‘all-the-time’) from our fridge door. Just had blood drawn last week and got the results today – low iron. I’m a vegetarian. I think I’ll try the blackstrap molasses route for awhile and see how that works; like the idea of warming it up in some nut/soy milk for a pleasant drink.

  38. I have been vegetarian for 8 years and mostly vegan for 1 year. My diet is very healthy and includes a variety of fruit, veggies, and grains. However, I was having terrible symptoms this year and was diagnosed with extremely low ferritin levels after a blood test. Despite my healthy diet, I was suffering big time from low iron and now have to supplement. I think everyone should pay close attention to their own body and get regular check ups, and not necessarily think that eating a varied, healthy diet will keep them safe from everything.

  39. I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years and there are things in this article I never even knew! Thanks so much for taking the time to write about this. It gave me some good ideas (especially the part about taking half an iron tablet), and it’s good advice for anyone worrying about anemia. So glad I found this!

  40. Christina says:

    Good info. About a year ago I went (mostly) vegan (I am not always 100% loyal) from previously having a regular omnivorous diet… and comparing my blood labs from a year ago to last week I noticed a big drop in my iron and a small one in my calcium- I eat lots of beans, grains and veggies, so it must be an absorption issue? I do suffer from constant fatigue- but that has always been true so I don’t think its from that change…On the plus side- my Cholesterol also dropped a ton!

  41. Dr. Barnard had a new book Power Foods for the Brain. He says that iron from cookware is not good for our bodies. It can oxidize in the body, just like your cast iron skillet gets rusty when it gets wet. He thinks we should cook in stainless steel. I haven’t read the book but I watched him talk about it on tv.
    http://www.nealbarnard.org/

  42. Cast Iron Cookware – The Myth

    The truth is that iron comes in a ferrous and a ferric form. Our bodies can not assimilate the iron (ferric) from cast iron cookware. This means that iron from cast iron cookware is not bioavailable and it has no value to our bodies at the cellular level. In fact, it can be very harmful to people who are allergic to heavy metals and it can lead to auto immune problems.
    Bioavailability – The degree and rate at which a substance (as a drug) is absorbed into a living system or is made available at the site of physiological activity.

    What’s the safest cookware? Not Non-stick Cookware

    Nonstick cookware’s advantages don’t include the toxic gases and chemicals that it can release.
    By Vanessa Vadim
    Fri, May 08 2009 at 8:36 PM EST

    1. “Metals carry a heavy burden of resource extraction, processing and manufacturing. Mining is a dirty and destructive process, and the manufacturing of complex, multiple-metal cookware is energy-intensive. In 2004, the metal mining industry was ranked as the nation’s worst toxic polluter by the EPA. Most metals can be recycled, but the mixing of elements (stainless coated copper, for example) can negate that quality. Coatings and nonstick linings break down with use and time, so these pans are short-lived”.

    COPYRIGHT © 2009 MNN HOLDINGS, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

    http://WWW.MNN.COM/LIFESTYLE/ASK-VANESSA/STORIES/CANARIES-IN-THE-KITCHEN

  43. twylahellickson says:

    lot of good information THANKS

  44. Hi Matt, Ive recently had my iron and B12 levels tested as a previous lacto ovo (been vegan for 2day at that stage) and i had 21/30 (very good) iron levels and 637 for my B12 score. Ive run for months and never taken B12 supplement or injection or lozenger. Im hoping with just some Marmite (B12 fortified) and nutritional yeast in the daily/most days diet- that itll be fine without having to supplement additionally :) Cheers,
    ZAC

  45. Great information (though I’m a little dismayed about spinach), thanks for sharing!

  46. I am a midwife and a vegetarian. I have found that the form of iron supplement makes a big difference in how well it is absorbed and tolerated. Lots of iron pills are ferrous sulfate and they can cause nausea and constipation. Ferrous fumerate or ferrous gluconate are more easily absorbed. Shaklee has a good one that has vitamin C with it. Another good one is Floradix with is more expensive but works really well and quickly. It has herbs with it as well and come in a liquid form which also improves absorption and comes in a pill form if you like that better. The pills are cheaper. I hope this helps someone!

  47. Matt I love your Vegan article but you are wrong about cooking in cast iron. Throw the cookware out. Cast Iron Cookware – The Myth The truth is that iron comes in a ferrous and a ferric form. Our bodies can not assimilate the iron (ferric) from cast iron cookware. This means that iron from cast iron cookware is not bioavailable and it has no value to our bodies at the cellular level. In fact, it can be very harmful to people who are allergic to heavy metals and it can lead to auto immune problems. Bioavailability – The degree and rate at which a substance (as a drug) is absorbed into a living system or is made available at the site of physiological activity.

    • You’re absolutely right The body cannot absorb inorganic minerals They have to be processed through the plant kingdom to become bioavailable All you are taking it is heavy metals which will be stored in your joints causing arthritis and pain

  48. I believe in a healthy cooking, healthy eating, a healthy body and a healthy environment. The manufacturing of metal cookware is not healthy for the worker or the environment? Have you ever been to a steel mill or a foundry? I worked for Corning Glass Works for 23 years and I now own my own ceramic company. Food is better for you and tastes better when cooked in ceramics. Plus the manufacturing of ceramic causes no pollution. 100% Ceramic Cookware is changing how America eats – one home at a time.

  49. I am so grateful for this article. I can now begin my road to recovery!!!! I suffered for many years with being overly tired. I had blood work done but I was told everything was normal. I don’t blame the doctor’s though, they did their part to assist. But now I can place a name to enigma. Thank you so much!!!

  50. This shouldn’t be used as an excuse for people suspecting iron deficiency anemia to see a doctor and have a blood test, though!

    I have had iron deficiency since long before I became vegan. After a year of veganism and supplementation of iron, my deficiency was gone. This was 3 years ago, however, and nowadays I feel okay but am not sure whether my iron levels are high enough.

    A plant-based diet is great, but if a person feels like they may be lacking something, he or she should seek testing. It isn’t always based on diet, as some people just absorb more iron than others.

  51. Just posted this on our facebook page! Thank you so much for researching this!! My little 1 year old has low hemoglobin and I am trying to find great foods with Iron in them. This really helped me :)

  52. I read about an advantage for plant-based iron:
    Another difference between getting iron from plant foods compared to animal foods, is that the body will only absorb iron from plants if it has a need for iron. However, iron from animal foods is always absorbed, so that the body absorbs iron even when it has enough (or too much) iron already. I have read that too much iron can be dangerous too. If so, it is safer to get your iron from plan foods than from animal foods. People who ear large quantities of meat, liver etc might get iron overload.

    Have you heard about this? If true, it could be worth mentioning :)

  53. *bump*

    Great information! I’m vegetarian (not vegan – yet), and get asked about protein all the time, when what I’m really worried about is iron and B12. I had never had a problem with these two nutrients until I became pregnant, and then became deficient in both. Any recommendations for a pregnant vegan on increasing the intake of these nutrients so I don’t end up deficient again? (currently prego again). Again not yet vegan, just vegetarian, but trying to limit animal products at this stage.

  54. Before I was even a vegetarian I had low iron levels and I only knew that from giving blood. Well, I was not always allowed to give blood because my iron levels were too low to give blood. Now I have not given blood in about two years because I would keep trying to give and when they tested it for iron levels they said it was too low to give so I stopped. But now that I eat a great number of the foods that were listed of the foods that are high in iron, I feel as though I should give giving blood another chance because after all it is saving someones life.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] you were curious about getting enough iron as a vegetarian or [...]

  2. [...] the first time in my life! Lastly, if you want to know more about iron for vegetarians, check out this post I wrote for No Meat Athlete.  Thanks for watching and let me know how these cookies turn [...]

  3. [...] a vegetarian, you need to consume more iron in your diet than a non-vegetarian would because iron from plant sources is not as readily absorbed by your body. Fortunately, most vegetarians shouldn’t have a problem [...]

  4. [...] C-vitamin which can increase the absorption up to five times. To better understand this, read more here and keep on eating leafy greens, quinoa, beans [...]

  5. [...] in whole grains, and many grain products are fortified with iron.  Matt Ruscigno’s article, “What every vegetarian needs to know about iron” explains this very [...]

  6. [...] nutritional yeast or a few other good sources like that, you will have no worries. More reading on iron, calcium and B12 for [...]

  7. [...] actually eating brown rice and a can of tomatoes, recommended to me by Dona Shine, who also sent me this article on how to get iron into your diet naturally (without having to eat meat).  I don’t have an iron [...]

  8. [...] For more on this subject, read the article on iron for vegetarians at the great website No Meat Athlete. [...]

  9. [...] been diagnosed with low iron was before I even became a vegetarian, back in high school. Women and vegetarians are definitely more prone to low iron levels, so my new doctor’s news did not come as a [...]

  10. [...] 40mg of iron in one serving, that’s 220% of the standard recommended daily intake. (If you don’t believe vegans need extra iron, of course). Eat an orange and pass on coffee/tea to help absorb it all. [...]

  11. [...] are high in Vitamin C, which helps with the absorption of iron in the body.  Read more here and here.  For a list of iron rich vegetarian foods click [...]

  12. […] is pretty good!” No longer. Now our smoothies start with a base of pumpkin seeds (lots of iron), chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp/rice/pea protein powder, and that’s before the greens get […]

  13. […] iron deficiency in the past. I wanted to share this link with you, some excellent information about iron and a vegetarian diet from my favorite resource on athletics and nutrition, Matt Frazier at No Meat […]

  14. […] Anemia seems to be on the worry list for many potential vegetarian/vegans so check out this post http://www.nomeatathlete.com/iron-for-vegetarians/ if you’re one of […]

  15. […] Reading:Iron (Vegan Society)What Every Vegetarian Needs to Know About Iron (No Meat Athlete)Iron in the Vegan Diet (Vegetarian Resource Group)Iron and Iron Deficiency […]

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