What Is Iron?
Why Do I Need Iron?
Can I Get Iron From Plants?
- Heme iron: Iron that is derived from animal-based sources such as meat, poultry or fish is called heme iron. It has a high bioavailability or absorption rate.
- Non-heme iron: Plant-based iron sources are referred to as non-heme iron. Non-heme iron has a lower bioavailability compared to heme iron.
How Much Iron Do I Need?
Recommendations for Iron Intake
|birth to 4 - 6 months||0.27 mg||0.5 mg||0.27 mg||0.5 mg|
|4 - 6 months to 12 months||11 mg||8 mg||11 mg||8 mg|
|14 to 18 years||11 mg||12 mg||15 mg||15 mg|
|19 to 50 years||8 (15) mg||10 (18) mg||18 (33) mg||15 (27) mg|
|51+ years||8 (15) mg||10 (18) mg||8 (15) mg||10 (18) mg|
|pregnancy||-||-||27 mg||30 mg|
|lactation||-||-||9 mg||20 mg|
What If I Don't Get Enough Iron?
What Are the Best Plant-Based Iron Sources?
- tofu, firm (100g): 2.6 mg
- tempeh (100g): 2.7 mg
- soy drink, fortified (100g): 1.9 mg
- lentils, raw (100g): 6.5 mg
- lentils, cooked (100g): 3.3 mg
- kidney beans, raw (100g): 6.7 mg
- kidney beans, cooked (100g): 2.9 mg
- split peas, raw (100g): 4.7 mg
- split peas, cooked (100g): 1.3 mg
- chickpeas, raw (100g): 4.3 mg
- chickpeas, cooked (100g): 2.9 mg
- black beans, raw (100g): 5 mg
- black beans, cooked (100g): 2.1 mg
- white beans, raw (100g): 10.4 mg
- white beans, cooked (100g): 3.7 mg
- hummus (100g): 2 mg
- almonds, almond butter (25g): 0.9 mg
- cashews (25g): 1.7 mg
- piostachios (25g): 1 mg
- pumpkin seeds (25g): 2.2 mg
- sunflower seeds (25g): 1.3 mg
- sesame seeds (25g): 3.6 mg
- tahini (25g): 2.2 mg
- oats (100g): 4.3 mg
- quinoa, cooked (100g): 1.5 mg
- brown rice, cooked (100g): 0.6 mg
- white rice, cooked (100g): 1.5 mg
- barley, cooked (100g): 1.3 mg
- spinach, cooked (100g): 3.6 mg
- asparagus, cooked (100g): 0.9 mg
- swiss chard, cooked (100g): 2.3 mg
- sun-dried tomatoes (100g): 9.1 mg
- brussels sprouts, cooked (100g): 1.2 mg
- broccoli, cooked (100g): 0.7 mg
- tomato puree (100g): 1.8 mg
- blackstrap molasses (20g): 0.9 mg
How Can I Increase My Iron Intake?
- Drink a glass of orange juice or add fruits/vegetables high in vitamin C to your meals.
- Soak and/or sprout nuts, seeds and legumes.
- Avoid drinking black tea, herbal teas and coffee directly with meals.
What Else Should I Keep in Mind?
- Women with heavy menstrual bleeding: 10% of women are believed to have heavy menstrual bleeding. Heavy menstrual bleeding might be responsible for iron deficiency anemia in women in the reproductive age due to the high blood and iron losses during menstruation. It can be up to 50 mg per period.
- Pregnant women: During pregnancy, more red blood cells are produced due to the rapid growth of the placenta and fetus. Therefore, pregnant women have a higher iron need. An iron deficiency during pregnancy might lead to premature birth, low birth weight and increased infant mortality.
- Infants/young children: Due to their rapid growth, infants and young children have higher iron requirements. Normally, infants are born with sufficient iron stores if they are not born preterm or with low birth-weight and the mother is not iron deficient. These iron stores plus the breast milk provide enough iron for the first couple of months.
At 6 to 9 months old, infants need to obtain adequate amounts of iron from solid food sources as breast milk is no longer sufficient.
- Athletes: Increased oxygen demands from higher activity leads to higher iron needs.
- Frequent blood donors: Because frequent blood donors loose a lot of iron with the blood, iron supplements might be needed to help replenish the iron stores.