Vegan foods high in iron- What I focus on to enhance my health

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Iron is one of the most overlooked vitamins by most vegans. This is due to the fact that other emphasis is put mainly on other vitamins such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, calcium and Protein.

Although these vitamins are vital they would mean nothing if you do not balance it with other vitamins like iron. In order to increase this vitamin it is best to focus on vegan foods high in iron as opposed to just supplements.

Why vegans need iron the most

I am sure the reason that you are here is that you are looking for iron to increase your nutritional balance or maybe to increase energy levels. That is exactly the problem of many vegans especially those who are starting out.

So Let’s get into reason as to why you need vegan foods high in iron in your diet as a vegan or plant based eater.

The following are the reasons that a vegan needs iron in their body:

  • Anameia
  • Lack of energy
  • Headaches
  • Lose of breathe

The iron is available in heme and non-heme form. The iron from plants is the non-heme form and this form tends to be less absorb able by the body compared to the animal form of iron heme.

This is the reason vegans need to eat 2 times the amount that meat eaters consume…hectic hey.

And according to Healthline the Recommended Daily Intake is 18 grams per day of iron.

As with all my posts I only write those foods that have a really high amount of the vitamin we are talking about.

So in this case I will list only the foods that are generally higher in iron than all the other plant foods so you can derive the iron content you need.


Tofu appears again as a vegan food to increase many nutrition in the body. If you have been following my post you will know that I did talk about tofu intensively where I answered whether it is healthy or not.

Related: Is tofu healthy?

You will also note that tofu keeps appearing in all the foods that increase lacking vitamins in the body like protein and calcium.

Just like I said on the tofu post that look for fermented tofu to increase your health and to give yourself the best benefits of tofu.


vegan foods high in iron

Nuts are the most convenient and nutrition filled food you can put in your diet. This is that nuts have some of the highest amount of iron you can ever require.

Beyond having high iron nuts are not to reduce heart disease, help with weight lose and reducing some cancers.

Although all nuts have iron, I will just list some of the nuts to focus on for increasing your iron level drastically.

The nuts are in ascending order:Vegan foods high in iron

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Macadamias

To make the iron get easily absorbed in the body from these nuts you need to eat them raw and maybe also do a little bit of soaking overnight.

This is a tip I have been told recently by my doctor who emphasized on this fact.

To be honest I am not sure if it works but I believe what he told me and reading article online also do talk about this.


If you are looking for a very powerful way to increase your iron content than this section might be the most important section of them all.

Since foods from a vegan or plant based iron rich foods have heme-iron which is not easily absorbed it is great to eat it with food that have high vitamin C (more I about this later).

These vegetables I will put below do not only have high iron content but they also have high vitamin C levels.

This makes the very powerful as your iron filling process.vegan foods high in iron

  • Tomato
  • Potato
  • Leafy greens
  • Mushrooms


Grains are well-known for the protein and fiber content but did you know that some grains have the most iron and can serve as your best source?

Yes this is true,but it is only the whole grains which have the high iron content.vegan foods high in iron

This is that other grains like, refined or processed grains lack iron content due to the process they undergo of being stripped of the grains for food production.

On the other hand whole grains are left with the whole iron content since their structure is not disturbed.

Below are my favorite whole grains I generally eat to get my iron content:

  • Oats
  • Quinoa


vegan foods high in iron

Legumes includes many foods like beans, and lentils which can be easily added to your diet if you are not already consuming them.

These for me have been the easiest to add as a vegan because they are what make up most of my diet ever since I started a vegan diet in 2010.

Legumes are a great source of iron because not only are they high in iron but they are also high in protein and fiber.

This makes them power foods for you meals right?

And guess how much iron content they usually have?

They have about 40% of your Recommended Diatry Allowance (RDA) which is on the high side if you compare it with many other iron-rich foods for the vegan diet.

New let’s look at the highest iron-rich legumes out there shall we?

  • Lentils (37% of your RDA)
  • Red kidney beans, Navy beans and white beans (30% of your RDA)
  • Chickpeas and black eyed beans (27% of your RDA)

Another high legume is natto which is a fermented tofu which has nearly the same amount of Iron than lentils. I did not include it here since I have already talked about tofu above.


Iron-fortified foods

The topic of iron =fortified foods is one of my favorite because this is the easiest way to increase your iron.

This is because iron-fortified foods are easy to make and readily available .

The list includes your everyday foods of which you may already be eating a lot of, meaning you will just need to carry on eating them and also supplementing them with all the foods I have just mentioned above.

Coconut milk

vegan foods high in iron

Have you ever had coconut milk?

Well if the answer is no then you are really missing out on food that can drastically increase your protein content on a daily basis.

This is that coconut milk has the versatility of being used in many forms of food preparation; You can use coconut milk for your cooking, baking, cereal in the morning.

What a great idea to have coconut with your cereal in the morning. That is the most easiest way to increase your iron levels daily.

below is a video talking about taking vegan iron rich foods

Tips for increasing iron absorption

As I have mentioned above that the iron absorption is the most important if you are to increase your iron levels.

It would be off no use if you consumed iron but did not efficiently put them in your body.

I will gives you tips that you can use to help with the iron absorption in your foods because remember we are dealing with a non-heme iron that the body can’t absorb well.

  • Use a cost-iron pan for cooking

vegan food high in protein

Cooking your food in a cast-iron pan is said to help with increasing the iron absoption

  • Soak your legumes and lentils well

Soaking lentils and legumes is also beneficial with the absorption of iron to the body.

If you could apply these tips they can really go a long way for what you are trying to accomplish.

  • Eliminate coffee,tea and alcohol from your foods.
  • Eat iron-rich foods with Vitamin C foods

According to mydr website having all these iron rich foods together with fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C will greatly enhance the absorption of the iron from these vegan foods.

The great fruits and vegetables to focus on are the following:vegan foods high in iron

  1. Broccoli
  2. Strawberry
  3. Tomato
  4. Cabage
  5. Kiwifruit

Final thoughts

Having food high in iron is a need for all vegans because of the lack of iron that our bodies get due to this diet.

The challenge comes when the body can not absorb the iron from our foods since we, as vegans eat food which have non-heme Iron, which is known to not be easily absorbed by our body.

This is the reason that foods high in iron like nuts, tofu,legumes and iron-fortified foods should not be taken with coffee, tea and alcohol as these reduce the absorption of iron in the body.

It is best to eat the vegan or plant based foods that are rich in iron together with foods that are high in vitamin C to increase the absorption of the plant based iron.

I hope you enjoyed my article which talks about vegan foods high in iron and I hope my take was what you needed as a vegan or vegan-wannbe ha-ha,

If you have any question to ask me or if you just want to add your thoughts below, I will be more then happy to respond.

Reader Comments

  1. Missy

    What a comprehensive list of vegan foods high in iron! I had no idea that by cooking your foods in a cast iron pan that it would increase your absorption or iron. How does that work? Is iron somehow transferred from the pan? Now that I typed it, that sounds silly but I am genuinely curious.

  2. SkyPath

    I never know use a cost-iron pan for cooking can help with increasing the iron absoption, I will keep follow your article, really good, always give me a new information! Learn so much! Thank you!

  3. Ivan Brozincevic

    Thanks for sharing these foods with us. I do eat a lot of nuts but looks like I’ll have to add some more stuff to my diet as I go along. I had coconut milk and even coconut water with mango or something like that. I mean, what’s not to like! Great taste, good for health.

    One question though. Why do you recommend to eliminate coffee and tea?

    • Thabo Khoza

      Hey Ivan

      welcome back. It is great to know you love eating nuts because they are my favorite.
      polyphenols found in coffee and tea are thought to be major inhibitors of iron absorption according to studies

  4. Deb

    Great post with a very comprehensive list of iron rich foods. Great to mention the importance of vitamin C too. So many people are eating a Vegan diet now it’s great to give them this information so that they can maintain good nutrition and health.

  5. Shaun

    Hi Thabo,
    I cannot agree more that iron vitamin is quite important for our personal health.
    I was personally suffering some degree of Anameia because of lacking iron vitamin in my body, i was feeling bad, i was dizzy and lacked of energy. I was getting back after the doctor get me some irom supplementary medicine and eat some food rich in iron.
    Thanks for sharing such a great list of iron-rich foods. I will keep it and follow your tips on better absorption.

  6. Dawn Wills

    This is a nice comprehensive article for new vegans. I have a friend who’s just starting out and I will be sure to point her in the direction of your site for more information.


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