Iron is a crucial nutrient for the growth and development of the body, and overall well-being too. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Iron is an essential element with important functions such as oxygen transport, DNA synthesis and muscle metabolism.” The presence of Iron in our body is critical, especially during the times when bodies are growing or transforming – for example, in young children and pregnant women.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. The good news is that you can get all the iron you need from a vegan diet because there are lots of plant foods containing good amounts of this mineral.
Your daily iron intake
In the UK, it is recommended that most adults have a dietary iron intake of 8.7mg (milligrams) per day. However, menstruating women should aim for a higher intake of 14.8mg per day.
Sources of iron
Good plant sources of iron include lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots and figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal.
There are lots of factors that affect the amount of iron your body can absorb from your diet. The most important factor is your body’s need for iron: more is absorbed when your body is short of iron, and less is absorbed when your stores are full.
Tea, coffee and some substances in plant foods may make it difficult for your body to absorb iron. On the other hand, vitamin C increases iron absorption. Good sources of vitamin C include pepper, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwifruit, oranges, strawberries, pineapple, grapefruit and orange juice.
Need some inspiration?
Try the following meal suggestions to help combine iron-rich foods with vitamin C:
- Top porridge with ground linseed and raisins, and serve with orange juice
- Eat a kiwifruit after a lentil curry
- Add broccoli to a tofu stir-fry
- Add pepper to a bean chili
- Good sources of iron include lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots, dried figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal
- Ensure that your daily diet contains plenty of iron-rich foods
- If you are eating food rich in iron, add a good source of vitamin C to help your body absorb the iron, such as pepper, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruit, oranges, strawberries, pineapple, grapefruit or orange juice
- Avoid drinking tea or coffee with meals