Many vegetarians and vegans worry about getting enough iron in their diet. Since meat is traditionally thought of as the main source of iron, vegetarians need to find different sources to help them reach their recommended amount of iron each day. Fortunately, there are several delicious and easy-to-prepare options that are both rich in iron and vegetarian-friendly.
You may have resisted Brussels sprouts as a kid, but they’re hard to resist once you learn just how healthy these tasty veggies are. Brussels sprouts are a viable source of antioxidants, vitamins, folate, and fiber. Plus, they’re an excellent source of iron, and an obvious choice in helping to prevent fatigue and other symptoms of iron deficiency.
Serving Size (1/2 cup), 0.9 milligrams of iron (5% DV), 28 calories
Like other dried fruits, raisins are nutrient-dense treats that contain large amounts of iron. It’s easy to add a handful of these subtly sweet treats to your cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, or salads as part of a balanced diet. To get the most out of your next handful of raisins, combine them with other healthy foods containing vitamin C. This will make it easier for your body to absorb the iron found in raisins.
Serving Size (1/2 cup, packed), 1.6 milligrams of iron (9% DV), 247 calories
Many vegetarians worry about not getting enough iron or protein in their diets. Lentils can solve both problems, and then some! These colorful legumes are packed with vitamins and nutrients including iron, protein, and essential amino acids. Plus, they’re easy to cook and make a great companion to many meals. Lentils are traditionally used in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, but they can spice up your soups, stews, pastas, and more.
Serving Size (1 cup, boiled), 6.6 milligrams of iron (37% DV), 230 calories
If you’re trying to get more iron in your diet, opt for dried fruit as opposed to fresh. Dried fruits pack more nutrients, including iron, per serving. Dried peaches make a great breakfast companion, a delicious addition to salads, and an easy snack throughout your busy day. A serving of dried peaches contains about 9% of your daily recommended iron, without weighing you down with lots of sugar and calories.
Serving Size (1/4 cup), 1.6 milligrams of iron (9% DV), 96 calories
If you stopped eating pumpkin seeds when you stopped carving pumpkins as a kid, now is the time to start back up again. A handful of pumpkin seeds, or an ounce, contains about one milligram of iron. That’s about 5% of the recommended daily value. Pumpkin seeds provide the most benefit when eaten raw, but they still pack an iron punch when roasted for no more than 15-20 minutes.
Serving Size (1 ounce, about a handful), 0.9 milligrams of iron (5% DV), 126 calories.
Soybeans are another super food that packs protein, unsaturated fat (the “good fat”), fiber, and minerals such as iron. A single cup of mature, boiled soybeans contains nearly half the recommended amount of iron your body needs daily. Another great thing about soybeans is their versatility. Season these nutritional powerhouses to your liking, or add them to soups or chili for a healthy and delicious meal.
Serving Size (1 cup, boiled), 8.8 milligrams of iron (49% DV), 298 calories
Pinto beans contain a splash of color and a spattering of essential vitamins and minerals. Among them is iron, and it comes in no small quantity; just a cup of boiled pinto beans yields about 21% of the recommended daily value. Pair these colorful legumes with whole wheat rice for a virtually fat-free meal that’s as easy on your wallet as it is on your waistline. Or, enjoy them with your favorite veggies to introduce even more iron into your diet.
Serving Size (1 cup, boiled), 3.6 milligrams of iron (21% DV), 245 calories
Dark greens such as arugula have countless health benefits with a tiny calorie count. Vegetarians should consume plenty arugula, particularly for its rich iron content. Adding several servings to your diet each week can greatly improve the health of your red blood cells. The easiest way to enjoy arugula is in a green leafy salad, but you can also enjoy it in soups, as a pizza topping, and sautéed with pasta and other dishes.
Serving Size (1/2 cup), 0.146 milligrams of iron (1.8% DV), 3 calories
Whole Wheat Pasta
Vegetarians should enjoy whole wheat pasta as part of a healthy balanced diet. Eating pasta is a great way to curb your cravings for carbs while getting essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron. While white pasta contains these minerals as well, it can also weigh you down with extra carbs and calories, so choose the much healthier whole wheat pasta options.
Serving Size (1/4 cup dry), 0.4 milligrams of iron (2% DV), 44 calories
With staggering amounts of calcium, high levels of vitamin A, and several cancer-fighting elements, what’s not to love about collard greens? Vegetarians have another reason to love these dark green veggies, because they’re also high in both iron and vitamin C. To get the most out of these essential nutrients, use raw collard greens in a salad that’s filled with other iron-rich vegetables. The vitamin C in collard greens makes it easy for your body to absorb iron from other sources.
Serving Size (1 cup), 2.2 milligrams of iron (12% DV), 11 calories
Sesame Butter (Tahini)
Sesame butter, also known as tahini and often associated with hummus, can provide the body with a tremendous amount of iron. If you’re already eating plenty of iron-rich fruits and vegetables, tahini can be an excellent addition that will help you reach your daily iron needs. Many people eat tahini as is, but you can also use it to add some flavor to your favorite vegetables or to dress up a salad.
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