Diet and Nutrition

Top 10 Iron-Rich Vegetarian Foods for a Balanced Diet

Did you know every year around 57,000 people are admitted to hospitals in the UK due to iron deficiency anaemia? Yes, you heard that right! Unfortunately, our bodies don’t produce iron, making it quintessential for you to reap it from the foods you eat. With widely known animal-based iron sources such as red meat, turkey and shellfish, vegetarians may sometimes worry about the risk of iron deficiency. If you’re someone looking to top up your iron levels without compromising your commitment to a plant-based diet, then we’ve got your back!

In this article, we’ll explore the top 10 veggie sources of iron that you can choose from to enrich your daily diet with iron goodness. But before that let’s dig in to understand why it is so important to harness this mighty mineral in your regular meals.


Why Do I Need Iron in My Diet?

Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, incorporating iron in your diet is a must for your body to perform optimally. When your body doesn’t get enough iron, it gets reflected through various symptoms such as extreme lethargy, headaches, breathlessness, poor memory, proneness to infections and cold hands and feet.

Introducing non-vegetarian or vegetarian iron sources into your daily meals helps with replenishing your energy levels and optimising cognitive performance including your memory, focus and concentration. Iron contributes to the normal formation of red blood cells, haemoglobin and normal oxygen transport in the body, which are crucial for your body's vitality. That’s not all! Iron also plays a key role in the process of cell division and fortifies your immune system, making you feel strong from the inside out. In short, iron can be your steadfast companion in fostering your wellness journey.

How Much Iron Do I Need?

When you’re planning to add veggie sources of iron to your diet, you also need to be mindful of the amount of iron you intake as too much iron is as harmful as too little of it. Here’s a list showing the approximate amount of iron intake required to fulfil your daily iron needs.

Age Male Female Pregnancy
1–3 years 7 mg 7 mg
4–8 years 10 mg 10 mg
9–13 years 8 mg 8 mg
14–18 years 11 mg 15 mg
19–50 years 8 mg 18 mg 27 mg

10 Iron-Rich Food Sources of Iron for Vegetarians

Now that you know how much of this essential mineral is right for you, let’s find out what vegetarian sources of iron are available to effortlessly elevate your health-conscious lifestyle.

1. Lentils

Although lentils are not a common part of daily diet in the UK, it’s one of the richest vegetarian iron sources. A cup of cooked lentils offers approximately 6.6 mg of iron, fulfilling a major portion of your daily iron requirement. What’s best, you can enjoy these legumes in the form of various delicious lentil recipes to spice up your iron intake. Some common types of lentils that you can consider adding to your daily meals are:

  • Red lentils
  • Yellow lentils
  • Green lentils
  • Brown lentils
  • Black lentils


2. Beans

Known to be rich in protein, vitamins and antioxidants, beans stand second in our list of vegetarian foods rich in iron. As per a recent study, beans can have a positive impact on the physical ability to work, as well as on cognitive abilities, especially in women. While all beans contain iron, white beans lead the pack in iron content, offering around 7.9 mg of iron per cup. Other types of beans that can also be a great source of iron in your diet plan include:

  • Cannellini Beans or White Kidney Beans - 5.2 mg of iron per cup cooked
  • Chickpeas - 4.7 mg per cup cooked
  • Black-Eyed Peas - 4.3 mg per cup cooked
  • Navy Beans - 4.3 mg per cup cooked


3. Soya

Soya is another type of bean. So why did we list it separately? Soya bean deserves a special mention on our high-iron vegetarian foods list because of its remarkable iron content. Each 100 g of soya bean provides a daily dose of around 15.70 mg of iron, nearly fulfilling the daily iron needs of adult women. From salads to soups and curries, there’s a myriad of tasty soya bean recipes waiting for you to explore. Elevate your meals with this iron-rich gem and make it a delicious addition to your everyday dining experience.


4. Nuts

Are you looking for ready-to-eat vegetarian foods high in iron? Then nuts are your go-to solution. Not only are they a fantastic source of iron, but they also pack in fibre, essential vitamins, minerals and healthy fats for your overall well-being. Since cooking nuts can take away some of their nutrient value, eating them raw is better, making it a convenient addition to your daily diet. Wondering which nut to add to your favourite salad or recipe? Here are some for you to check out:

  • Cashews - 6.05 mg of iron per 100 g
  • Almonds - 3.7 mg of iron per 100 g
  • Macadamia nuts - 3.7 mg of iron per 100 g
  • Pine nuts - 5.5 mg of iron per 100 g

5. Seeds

The often overlooked seeds can bring the much-needed iron boost to your daily diet. Pumpkin, flax, linseeds, chia, sesame, hemp, you name it, all these seeds are top contenders for vegetarian sources of iron. The best part is that they're deliciously versatile! Enjoy these tiny wonders raw or effortlessly sprinkle them into your favourite dishes for added health benefits and flavour. Here’s an interesting fact! Not only the seeds but also their derivatives like tahini, hemp oil and linseed oil are rich in iron, giving you a diverse range of options to boost your iron levels.


6. Green Leafy Vegetables

Did you know that many green vegetables are richer in iron content than red meat? Well, as shocking as that might sound, it’s true. For instance, 100 g of lean beef meat contains around 1.8 mg of iron whereas 100 g of spinach provides approximately 3.09 mg of iron. So, avoid the negatives of red meat and choose its healthier iron-rich alternatives, green veggies. Wait! That’s not all! Joining spinach, here are some incredible green iron-rich foods vegetarians can enjoy replenishing their iron levels:

  • Beet greens - approx 1.9 mg of iron per 100 g
  • Kale - approx 1.6 mg of iron per 100 g
  • Brussels sprouts - approx 1.2 mg of iron per 100 g
  • Broccoli - approx 1 mg of iron per 100 g


7. Dark Chocolate

Are you a dark chocolate lover? Then you’ll be happy to know that your favourite chocolate is one of the richest vegetarian iron-rich foods, offering approximately 10.9 mg of iron per 100 g. So, besides being your go-to mood booster, dark chocolate can now be the ally to level up your iron game.


8. Dried Fruits

Dried fruits, a favourite topping in many desserts, offer more than just a delightful fruity punch. Popular dried fruits like dried peaches, raisins, figs, prunes, apricots, etc. provide decent amounts of iron, offering a fruity way to reap the iron benefits. For eg: each 100 g of dark raisins contains approximately 1.79 mg of iron. So, the next time you wanna add an iron kick to your dessert, just turn to these fruity vegetarian foods with iron!


9. Whole Grains

While most grains are a good source of iron, whole grains contain a higher amount of iron than refined grains as grain refining affects its nutritional value. Have a bowl of oats or amaranth for breakfast, or add a quinoa salad to your lunch meal to get a handsome daily dose of iron for body vitality. Take a look below to find out which whole grains are amazing iron-enriched foods for vegetarians:

  • Spelt wheat - approx 3.7 mg of iron per 100 g
  • Amaranth - 2.1 mg of iron per 100 g
  • Quinoa - approx 1.5 mg of iron per 100 g
  • Oats - approx 1 mg of iron per 100 g


10. Coconut Milk

Widely used in Thai cuisine for its creamy texture and flavour, coconut milk earns its spot on our list of iron-rich foods for vegetarians. Just one cup of unsweetened, raw coconut milk provides a generous 3.94 mg of iron. Though coconut milk has become a recent addition to the UK supermarket shelves, it's time to embrace this creamy delight. Add it to your favourite dishes for extra smoothness and a dose of health benefits!


As we come to the end of our flavoursome roadmap of high-iron foods for vegetarians, it’s evident that iron goodness is not limited to non-vegetarians only. From vibrant greens like spinach and broccoli to creamy coconut milk, these plant-based iron wonders not only nourish your body but also tantalise your taste buds with flavours and textures. Apart from these vegetarian foods high in iron, you can also opt for vegan iron supplements to replenish your optimal iron levels with minimal intrusion into your daily routine. Embark on an iron-packed journey towards a healthier, happier you!

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