Common Questions Series, Nutrition

Can you avoid iron deficiency on a vegan diet?

Can you avoid iron deficiency on a vegan diet?

Can you avoid iron deficiency on a vegan diet?

Can you avoid iron deficiency on a vegan diet?

The question of iron deficiency is one that is brought up frequently in the question of whether or not a vegan diet is healthy and optimal for all people at all stages of life. Let us first say that we are not doctors and suggest that all individuals whether vegan, meat-eater, or anything in between should seek medical advice before making any dietary changes and also get regular blood tests. In saying that, we thought we would explore the issue using references and others much more knowledgeable than us, to take a look at whether or not you can get adequate and optimal levels of iron on a vegan diet.

Iron: is an essential component of hemoglobin, an erythrocyte (red blood cell) protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues

According to the Vegan Society:

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.

There are certain foods and drinks that will limit iron absorption such as:

Substances (such as polyphenols, phytates, or calcium) that are part of some foods or drinks such as tea, coffee, whole grains, legumes, and milk or dairy products can decrease the amount of non-heme iron absorbed at a meal. Calcium can also decrease the amount of heme-iron absorbed at a meal.


Vegans and vegetarians definitely need to be more mindful of iron, as non-heme iron (not extracted through meat, but instead through plants) is harder to absorb and therefore means slightly more planning for a vegan or vegetarian.

This certainly does not mean that they can’t get it, but that they must try to absorb the iron using the aforementioned combinations or iron-containing foods with high vitamin c containing foods or liquids.

Here is a quick video with some additional information regarding iron absorption:

Here is another quick video with some great, iron-rich meal ideas:

So what are some ways to increase the absorption of these iron-rich foods in the body on a vegan diet?

  • Consume vitamin C-rich foods: Eat vitamin C-rich foods during meals to increase the absorption of non-heme iron. For example, some lemon juice drizzled over leafy greens will increase the amount you absorb.

  • Avoid coffee, tea or milk near meals: Avoid these during meals that contain iron-rich foods. Have your coffee or tea between meals instead.


So can you avoid iron deficiency on a vegan diet? Absolutely!

As we mentioned the best thing that you can do is consult a professional who can tailor a diet or nutritional program to suit your individual needs. A professional will be able to ensure you are getting not just enough iron, but all of your individual requirements in a healthy manner.

If you have any questions or comments about the above information, please get in touch at any time or leave a note in the comments below.

To read more about other nutritional aspects of the vegan lifestyle, check out our nutrition section here.


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