10 Plant-Based Foods Loaded With Iron

March 10, 2024
Amelia [Writer]

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Check out our go-to guide on 10 Plant-Based Foods Loaded With Iron! Iron is crucial for your body, but it can't produce it on its own. Learn how to fuel up on iron from plant-based sources + elevate your nutrition game!

10 Plant-Based Foods Loaded With Iron

Whether you're following a vegan/plant-based lifestyle or simply looking to boost your iron intake naturally, I've got you covered with this list of the 10 Plant-Based Foods Loaded With Iron. From leafy greens to chocolate + beyond, we'll explore the best plant-based food rich in iron that will help keep your iron levels in check! All the while still enjoying delicious meals that keep your taste buds happy!

Hands holding jars on dry ingredients.

Getting enough iron can sometimes be tough, vegan or not! And since transitioning to a more plant-forward lifestyle, I've taken the time to learn all about different iron sources that I can easily get into my and my family's diet --- The good news is, finding iron sources is surprisingly simple + easy! There are countless high-iron vegan food options to keep you feeling satisfied while meeting all your nutritional needs!

If you're on the lookout for vegan + vegetarian food inspiration, I highly recommend checking out more of Orchids + Sweet Tea. There are plenty of iron-rich + protein-packed dishes to explore, like the Spicy Vegan Chili, Vegan BBQ Meatballs and Creamy Polenta, Healthy Pesto Buddha Bowl, and plenty more for you to dive into! Plus I would highly recommend taking a look at my article on the 10 Best Vegan Protein Sources next!

Jump to:

Why Do We Need Iron?

Iron is like the MVP of our bodies, doing all sorts of important jobs to keep us feeling our best. It helps carry oxygen around, gives us energy, and even helps our immune system stay strong. Plus, it's involved in making our DNA and keeping our brains sharp. So basically, iron is our body's superhero, making sure everything runs smoothly and keeping us healthy and happy! Hence why it's important we are getting enough y'all.

Broccoli and brussels sprouts in a wooden bowl.

Can You Get Iron Without Meat?

The answer is YES! While we often associate iron with meat + seafood but there's a whole bunch of plant-based options packing this essential mineral too. So yes, you can absolutely meet your body's iron needs without relying on animal products. From lentils and spinach to tofu and fortified cereals, there are plenty of tasty plant-based choices to keep you iron-rich and thriving!

How Much Iron Do We Need?

How much iron we need depends on things like age, sex, and overall health. Generally, adult males need about 8 milligrams (mg) per day, while girls aged 19-50 need around 18 mg daily due to periods --- Remember, these are just guidelines, and your actual needs might vary. If you're unsure, chatting with a healthcare pro or a nutritionist can help figure out what's right for you!

You might have heard that vegans + vegetarians miss out on iron but eating plant-based isn't any more likely to get iron deficiency anemia than anyone else. Most vegans get plenty of iron because their diet is packed with vitamin C, which helps the body absorb nonheme iron! But it's still important to know the best sources of iron and how to get it into your diet! Ready to give your gut some love? A healthy gut does wonders for your digestion, skin, and mood. Check out 11 Best Foods to Improve Gut Health next!

Bowls of dry grains.

Best Vegan Iron Sources

1. Lentils

Lentils come in three varieties: brown, green + red, and they're not just loaded with iron. They're also packed with potassium, fiber, and folate, a B vitamin. You can toss them into buddha bowls, soups or even make a Vegan BBQ Beef Wellington and more for a tasty + nutritious addition to your meals.

  • Lentils. 6.6 milligrams per cup.

2. Soy

Soy is super versatile and can be used in so many ways, from soy milk to tofu. It's packed with iron and can adapt to all sorts of recipes!

  • Tofu. 3.35 mg per 1 cup.
  • Soy milk. 2.7 mg per 1 cup.
  • Tempeh. 4.5 mg per 1 cup.
  • Shelled edamame: 3.52 mg per 1 cup.
Close up shot of spinach with a lemon.

3. Broccoli, Cabbage + Brussels Sprouts

Throwing some cruciferous veggies onto your plate not only gives you a little iron boost but also loads you up with dietary fiber and a mix of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These veggies are like a nutrient-packed powerhouse that adds flavor and crunch to your meals. Definitely give my Air-fryer Brussels Sprouts and Creamy Lemon Pesto Gnocchi with Broccoli a try if you want food rich in iron!


4. Dark Leafy Greens

Adding spinach + dark leafy greens to your meals is an easy way to get more iron into your diet. Plus, they are is high in protein too! Whether you toss them into stir-fries, blend it into smoothies, or enjoy it fresh in salads, spinach adds a nutritious boost to any meal.

  • Cooked spinach. 6.43 mg per 1 cup.
  • Cooked Swiss chard. 4 mg per 1 cup.
  • Kale. 1.2 mg per 1 cup.
Bowl and jars of dry beans and legumes.

5. Chickpeas

The humble chickpea is incredibly versatile—I use them in curries, for whipping up hummus, soups, sandwichespizzas—you name it! I always make sure to keep them on hand at all times.

  • Chickpeas. 4.7 mg per 1 cup


6. Beans

Navy beans, white beans, kidney beans, and black-eyed peas aren't just tasty, they're also a awesome food rich in iron! Plus, these complex carbs are packed with heart-healthy dietary fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals like folate. Folate, a B vitamin, is even used to treat anemia. So, adding these beans to your diet isn't just good for your taste buds, it's great for your health too!

  • Navy beans. 2.4 per 1 cooked cup.
  • White beans. 2.4 per 1 cooked cup.
  • Kidney beans. 3.9 mg per 1 cooked cup.
  • Black-eyed peas. 4.3 per 1 cooked cup.
  • Pinto beans. 3.5 per 1 cooked cup.

7. Tomato Paste

Fresh tomatoes are bursting with flavor--- but they don't pack much iron. However, tomato paste can add a little iron kick to your meals. I love using it in red sauces like in my Vegan Bolognese Pasta or Grandma’s Weeknight Spaghetti, or soups like Hearty Vegan Taco Soup and Creamy Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup whenever we're low on fresh tomatoes in the pantry.

Unslated tomato paste. 0.5 mg per tablespoon.

Chocolate bar broken up on a white parchment paper.

8. Chocolate

YES YOU HEARD RIGHT! Here's your sign to grab that chocolate bar! Haha. But seriously, dark chocolate is a sneaky source of iron, plus it's loaded with fiber, manganese, and magnesium. We're all about satisfying those chocolate cravings with a square or two, and why not throw it into your baking? Maple Chocolate Chip Cookies or The Best Vegan Chocolate Cake, anyone? Aim for at least 50% cacao-- my favorite high-quality dark chocolate is by Hu Kitchen.

  • Dark chocolate (70%). 11mg per 3 ounces.

9. Blackstrap Molasses

It might sound a bit weird at first, but hear me out---it's just a sweetener + sugar alternative. Two tablespoons of blackstrap molasses give you 10% of your daily iron needs. Plus, it's got selenium, potassium, vitamin B6, manganese, and magnesium. Talk about a powerhouse!

  • Blackstrap molasses. 2.3 mg per tablespoon.

10. Whole Grains

Iron content tends to be higher in whole grains compared to processed grains, but as you'll see below, certain grain-based foods also pack a punch when it comes to iron. From oats and rice to bread and pasta, there are plenty of foods rich in iron to explore!

  • Quinoa. 2.8 mg of iron per cup.
  • Oats (rolled). 3.4 mg of iron per cup.
  • Brown rice. 1.5 mg of iron per cup.
  • Basmati rice. 1.4 mg of iron per cup.
  • Barley. 2.1 mg of iron per cup.
  • Buckwheat. 1.3 mg of iron per cup.
  • Millet. 1.7 mg of iron per cup.
  • Farro. 2.5 mg of iron per cup.
  • Whole wheat pasta. 1.3 mg of iron per cup.
  • Whole wheat bread. 1.5 mg of iron per slice.

There you have it—  I hope these 10 Plant-Based Foods Loaded With Iron help you to choose the best food rich in iron. If you are looking for any meal inspiration check out my "What To Eat This Week" series for some seriously delicious + healthy eats.

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If you've given any of these 10 Plant-Based Foods Loaded With Iron a try or giv any recipes on my website a go, I'd truly appreciate it if you could share your experience by leaving a ⭐ star rating and dropping your thoughts in the 📝  comments below. Your feedback means a lot, and I love hearing from you on your wellness journey!

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