Ways to boost blood iron levels while eating a vegan or vegetarian diet (2024)

Author Holly MacCormickPublished on

Updated April 18, 2022

If you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, or if you're just aiming to keep your iron levels up, you probably know some of the many vegetables, fruits and grains that are good sources of iron. But did you know that not all iron is the same, and that some foods actually make it harder for your body to absorb iron?

If this is news to you, the folks at Stanford Blood Center have a how-to checklist that will help your body get the most iron out of your diet so you can stay healthy and have enough iron in reserve to donate blood to someone in need.

As the Stanford Blood Center blog explains, there are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found in animal products and is generally easier for the body to absorb. Non-heme iron in found in vegan foods and is not as easily absorbed.

Iron deficiency anemia occurs when your body doesn't have enough iron to make hemoglobin -- the part of red blood cells that bind and carry oxygen in your blood. As the blog explains, "avegetarian or vegan diet can make it difficult to keep your iron levels high - but contrary to popular belief, this is because of the type of iron consumed, not simply the amount."

So, what should you eat? Here are some examples of non-meat foods with the highest amount of non-heme iron per serving:

  • Whole wheat breads, cereals, pastas, quinoa and oatmeal
  • Avocado
  • Cooked spinach, asparagus and green beans
  • Baked potato
  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Beans, legumes, soybeans, tofu and lentils
  • Dried apricots, raisins an dates.

Pairing high-iron foods with ingredients that are high in vitamin C will enhance your body's ability to absorb iron. Some examples of nosh that's high in vitamin C are:

  • Citrus fruits and citrus juice
  • Chard
  • Broccoli
  • Red or green bell pepper
  • Kiwi, strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe and papaya

Conversely, some foods can actually hinder your body's ability to absorb iron as well, including:

  • Coffee, tea (even decaffeinated) and soda
  • Dairy products and calcium supplements
  • Foods high in dietary fiber
  • Wine and beer

If you still need a bit more iron, you can try iron supplements and even cast iron cookware, which transmits iron to food while it's heating. Fun fact: In 2008, Christopher Charles, PhD, and his colleagues investigatedways to treat iron deficiency anemia in Cambodia by making iron ingots shaped like a fish -- a symbol of luck,health, and happiness in local folklore -- that could be placed in cooking pots as an inexpensive, reusable iron supplement.

Previously:Eating for good blood: Tips for boosting iron levels and hemoglobin
Photo by vaaseenaa

Ways to boost blood iron levels while eating a vegan or vegetarian diet (2024)


Ways to boost blood iron levels while eating a vegan or vegetarian diet? ›

Diversify iron-rich plant sources

Other options include tofu, which is not only a good source of iron but also an excellent protein option for vegans and vegetarians. Quinoa is also high in iron and protein. Among nuts, cashews stand out as a good source of iron.

How can vegans and vegetarians achieve enough iron? ›

Diversify iron-rich plant sources

Other options include tofu, which is not only a good source of iron but also an excellent protein option for vegans and vegetarians. Quinoa is also high in iron and protein. Among nuts, cashews stand out as a good source of iron.

How to increase iron levels quickly as a vegetarian? ›

Nuts: Almond, pine nuts, and cashews are rich in iron and help fight anemia. Seeds: Pumpkin, sesame, hemp, chickpeas, and flaxseeds are also powerhouses of iron. Leafy green vegetables: Kale, spinach, collard, beet greens, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are also loaded with iron.

What are the best vegan sources of iron? ›

The best plant sources of iron include wholegrains (quinoa, wholemeal spaghetti and wholemeal bread), fortified breakfast cereals, pulses (lentils, tempeh – fermented soya beans, tofu, baked beans, kidney beans, peas), seeds (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and tahini – sesame seed paste), dried fruit (apricots and figs), ...

Which food must a vegetarian eat to help their bodies absorb iron from plants? ›

Maximising iron absorption

Fabulous food pairs that pack an iron/vitamin C one-two punch include citrus and spinach (think salad with a zingy lemon dressing), berries and whole grains (strawberries on your morning Weet-Bix™) and tomatoes and beans (baked beans on toast with a side of roasted tomatoes).

What drink increases red blood cells? ›

Drinks high in iron include:
  • Apple juice.
  • Apricot nectar.
  • Beef broth.
  • Beet juice.
  • Cocoa using natural cocoa powder.
  • “Green” smoothies. Usually containing ingredients such as kale, spinach, celery, Swiss chard, wheatgrass, cucumber, parsley, and mint.
  • Orange juice.
  • Pea protein smoothies.
Oct 4, 2022

What foods raise iron quickly? ›

Foods rich in iron include:
  1. Red meat, pork and poultry.
  2. Seafood.
  3. Beans.
  4. Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach.
  5. Dried fruit, such as raisins and apricots.
  6. Iron-fortified cereals, breads and pastas.
  7. Peas.

How can I increase my iron levels overnight? ›

If you have iron-deficiency anemia, taking iron orally or getting iron administered intravenously along with vitamin C is often the fastest way to raise your iron levels.

Does avocado have iron? ›

The avocado boasts the highest iron content (1.02 mg/100 g) of any fresh fruit. Why is iron important? Iron is a building block of a molecule known as heme. Heme, in turn, is a building block of a crucial substance in the human body known as hemoglobin.

What fruit is high in iron? ›

  • Strawberries.
  • Watermelon.
  • Raisins.
  • Dates.
  • Figs.
  • Prunes.
  • Prune juice.
  • Dried apricots.

What foods block iron absorption? ›

Tea, coffee and wine contain tannins that reduce iron absorption by binding to the iron and carrying it out of the body. Phytates and fibres found in wholegrains such as bran can reduce the absorption of iron and other minerals.

Which nuts are high in iron? ›

2. Which nuts and seeds contain the most iron?
FoodIron value
almonds5.3 mg per cup whole (66% of RDA)
pine nuts7.5 mg per cup dried (93% of RDA)
cashews7.8 mg per cup whole (97% of RDA)
flaxseeds9.6 mg per cup whole (120% of RDA)
3 more rows

Are bananas high in iron? ›

Bananas may be high in fiber but are low in iron (about 0.4 mg/100 g of fresh weight). Bananas are a popular fruit around the world, and a staple food in many countries, especially those in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Bananas are botanically considered a berry and nutritious food, but they are not high in iron.

How to fix anemia with vegetarian diet? ›

Some sources to consider are beans, such as lentils; dark leafy vegetables, including spinach; iron-fortified breads and cereals; and tofu. If you are concerned about your intake, speak with your doctor. She can let you know if you are getting enough and may recommend a supplement if you're not.

How to increase ferritin quickly as a vegetarian? ›

Iron-rich foods for vegetarians and vegans
  1. Lentils. Share on Pinterest. ...
  2. Cannellini beans. Cannellini beans, or white kidney beans, provide 5.2 mg of iron per cup. ...
  3. Tofu. Tofu is a bean curd that manufacturers make by coagulating the milk from soybeans. ...
  4. Amaranth. ...
  5. Fortified cereals. ...
  6. Dark chocolate. ...
  7. Baked potatoes. ...
  8. Spinach.
Dec 6, 2018

Is oatmeal high in iron? ›

Oats are already rich in iron, containing about 10% in just a half-cup serving, but that is often doubled if you're reaching for a fortified product. Other popular cereals like Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Grape-Nuts and Shredded Wheat can pack up to 90% of your daily needs in a serving.

What three types of foods do vegetarians need to eat to get enough iron as they do not consume red meat? ›

Vegetarians can get enough iron by eating plenty of green vegetables, wholegrains, and some beans, peas and nuts. Vitamin C helps the body to take up (absorb) the iron more easily.

Can being a vegetarian cause iron deficiency? ›

Despite the above-mentioned advantages, vegetarians also are at a high risk of a deficiency of some nutrients, such as vitamin B12 and iron.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Gov. Deandrea McKenzie

Last Updated:

Views: 5841

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (66 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Gov. Deandrea McKenzie

Birthday: 2001-01-17

Address: Suite 769 2454 Marsha Coves, Debbieton, MS 95002

Phone: +813077629322

Job: Real-Estate Executive

Hobby: Archery, Metal detecting, Kitesurfing, Genealogy, Kitesurfing, Calligraphy, Roller skating

Introduction: My name is Gov. Deandrea McKenzie, I am a spotless, clean, glamorous, sparkling, adventurous, nice, brainy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.