Iron from food comes in 2 forms: Heme and Non-Heme.
‘Iron from food comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme is found only in animal flesh like meat, poultry, and seafood. Non-heme iron is found in plant foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens.
Non-heme iron is also found in animal flesh (as animals consume plant foods with non-heme iron) and fortified foods.’
Since you’re here for plant-based resources, let’s look at non-heme iron and how to make the best out of it.
What are good sources of non-heme iron? According to Verena Tan, RD, Ph.D., good sources include the following:
- Fortified cereals, rice, wheat and oats
- Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale
- Dried fruits like raisins and apricots
- Beans like lentils and soybeans
Adding to the list from Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health:
- Dark chocolate (At least 45%)
- Potato with skin
- Nuts and seeds
And more from Plant-Based Juniors:
- Sprouted Grain Toast
- Chickpea Pasta
Now, non-heme iron has the reputation of having a lower absorption rate than heme iron.
‘Food contains more non-heme iron and, thus, it makes the larger contribution to the body’s iron pool despite its lower absorption rate of 2% to 20%.’ – ER Monsen, University of Washington
So I have consulted with Plant-Based Juniors to get their advice as far as iron absorption is concerned. The trick would be to combine iron-rich food with vitamin C-rich food at the moment of eating. Some combos include:
(In order, Iron Source + Vitamin C Source)
- Tofu + Bell peppers
- Oatmeal + Raspberries
- Beans + Broccoli
- Lentils + Tomatoes
- Spinach + Lemon
- Quinoa + Sweet Potatoes
- Pumpkin Seeds + Oranges
- Prunes + Camu camu berries
And you can find more combo ideas here.
Watch out for iron inhibitors. According to Medical News Today, tea, coffee, peanuts, parsley, chocolate, and calcium-rich food can interfere with iron absorption.
I hope this helps clarify your view on iron as a plant-based eater! Let me know in the comments!