Vegetarian Diet Plan For Anemia


Vegetarian diet plan for anemia is a common health problem. There are many causes of anemia such as poor nutrition, digestive conditions, major infections, disorders of the blood forming organs and certain drugs and toxins. A veggie diet can be a very healthy way to eat and provides many health benefits. This vegetarian diet plan for anemia will also make you feel better because it’s full of great foods that are easy to digest, as well as tasty.

Vegetarian Food With Iron

There is a misconception that a vegan diet is missing iron, however vegans are no more likely to develop iron deficiency anemia than the general population. Vegans typically consume an adequate amount of iron because their diet is high in vitamin C, which improves absorption of nonheme iron.

These 6 foods are great sources of vegan-friendly iron: 

1. Blackstrap molasses

Blackstrap molasses is the best source of nonheme iron. Only 2 tablespoon contains 7.2 milligrams of iron. Molasses contains higher amounts of sugar, so intake should be limited. 

2. Lentils

Lentils come in three varieties: brown, green, and red. Lentils are not only full of iron, but also high in potassium, fiber, and folate, a B vitamin. One cup contains 6.6 milligrams of iron.

3. Tofu/Tempeh

Tofu and tempeh soy-based products are an integral part of a vegan diet. Tofu has a higher iron content of 6.6 milligrams per half-cup. One cup of tempeh has 4.5 milligrams of iron. 

4. Spinach

One cup of cooked spinach contains 6.4 milligrams of iron. Adding spinach to meals, whether it’s sauteed in a dish, added to smoothies, or eaten raw, is an easy way of including more iron in your diet. 

5. Beans

Beans are a great source of iron. Kidney beans (5.2 milligram / cup), soybeans (4.5 milligrams / cup), and lima beans (4.5 milligrams / cup) have the highest iron content.  

6. Swiss chard

Swiss chard is a green leafy vegetable rich in vitamins and minerals. This multi-beneficial vegetable can be steamed, sauteed, or eaten raw. But it’s less bitter when cooked. One cup of cooked swiss chard contains 4 milligrams of iron. 

Why You Need Iron

Your body needs iron to function properly. Too little will lead to an iron deficiency. Too much can cause iron poisoning. The average amount of iron a vegan needs is 32 milligrams per day for women and 14 milligrams per day for men. Vegans need up to 1.8 times more iron than people who eat meat. 

Iron plays an important part in proper bodily functions, including: 

Blood Production Health

Iron is found in red blood cells called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your blood from your lungs to your tissues. This improves your heart health, respiratory functions, and immune function. 

Physical Health

Your skin, hair, and nails appear stronger and healthier due to the synthesis of collagen, a protein needed for joint and skin health. Collagen is made by iron, a component of the enzymes essential for proper production. Iron is found in muscle cells. Called myoglobin, it helps muscles accept, store, and transport oxygen. 

Mental Health

Iron makes up certain proteins essential for energy metabolism. The right amount of iron improves general energy and increases focus. Low levels of iron can lead to an iron deficiency called anemia. The symptoms of anemia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale or yellowish skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Headaches

Ways to boost blood iron levels while eating a vegan or vegetarian diet

If you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, or if you’re just aiming to keep your iron levels up, you probably know some of the many vegetables, fruits and grains that are good sources of iron. But did you know that not all iron is the same, and that some foods actually make it harder for your body to absorb iron?

If this is news to you, the folks at Stanford Blood Center have a how-to checklist that will help your body get the most iron out of your diet so you can stay healthy and have enough iron in reserve to donate blood to someone in need.

As the Stanford Blood Center blog explains, there are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found in animal products and is generally easier for the body to absorb. Non-heme iron in found in vegan foods and is not as easily absorbed.

Iron deficiency anemia occurs when your body doesn’t have enough iron to make hemoglobin — the part of red blood cells that bind and carry oxygen in your blood. As the blog explains, “a vegetarian or vegan diet can make it difficult to keep your iron levels high – but contrary to popular belief, this is because of the type of iron consumed, not simply the amount.”

So, what should you eat? Here are some examples of non-meat foods with the highest amount of non-heme iron per serving:

  • Whole wheat breads, cereals, pastas, quinoa and oatmeal
  • Avocado
  • Cooked spinach, asparagus and green beans
  • Baked potato
  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Beans, legumes, soybeans, tofu and lentils
  • Dried apricots, raisins an dates.

Pairing high-iron foods with ingredients that are high in vitamin C will enhance your body’s ability to absorb iron. Some examples of nosh that’s high in vitamin C are:

  • Citrus fruits and citrus juice
  • Chard
  • Broccoli
  • Red or green bell pepper
  • Kiwi, strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe and papaya

Conversely, some foods can actually hinder your body’s ability to absorb iron as well, including:

  • Coffee, tea (even decaffeinated) and soda
  • Dairy products and calcium supplements
  • Foods high in dietary fiber
  • Wine and beer

If you still need a bit more iron, you can try iron supplements and even cast iron cookware, which transmits iron to food while it’s heating. Fun fact: In 2008, Christopher Charles, PhD, and his colleagues investigated ways to treat iron deficiency anemia in Cambodia by making iron ingots shaped like a fish — a symbol of luck, health, and happiness in local folklore — that could be placed in cooking pots as an inexpensive, reusable iron supplement.

14 Vegetarian Foods That Have More Iron than Meat

Whether you’re a lifelong vegetarian or are actively transitioning to a non-meat diet, a common concern is making sure you still consume plenty of iron. According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) of iron for adults is 8-27 mg per day, with adult men tending toward the lower end, while older women and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding needing more.

While meat is often at the top of the list of recommended sources of iron, there are plenty of non-meat options that contain the same amount of iron, or more, than meat. So no need to give up on your vegetarian diet and reach for a burger (or a multivitamin)—these 14 foods will easily boost your iron intake.


Dark leafy greens, especially spinach, provide a powerhouse of iron. Three cups of spinach contain about 18 mg of iron—that’s more than an 8-ounce steak! You can meet your daily RDA of iron with just one hearty spinach salad. (Give this spinach-avocado caesar salad a try!)


Not only is broccoli jam-packed with iron and other key nutrients like vitamin K and magnesium, it’s also high in vitamin C, which helps encourage iron absorption in the body. (And you may be surprised to learn that it’s quite good in smoothies.)


Just one cup of lentils has more iron than an 8-ounce steak. Lentils are also a solid source of dietary fiber, potassium, and protein. You can add lentils to your salad, or try soup—make it in bulk, then freeze the leftovers for later.


Three cups of kale contain 3.6 mg of iron. Try this kale salad or this kale and lemon pizza.

Bok Choy

Whether you steam or sauté this tasty Chinese cabbage, you’ll be getting a healthy dose of vitamin A, in addition to 1.8 mg of iron per cup.

Baked Potato

One large baked potato contains nearly three times the amount of iron as a 3-ounce serving of chicken. Top it with Greek yogurt (a high-protein substitute for sour cream), steamed broccoli, and a bit of melted cheese for a tasty weeknight dinner.

Sesame Seeds

Just one tablespoon of sesame seeds contains 1.3 mg of iron. And it’s super simple to incorporate them into your diet, too. Sprinkle sesame seeds over a salad for added flavor and crunch or mix them into a dressing, sauce, or salsa before pouring over a dish.


Nuts of all kinds are well-known protein sources for vegetarians, but cashews have the added benefit of being very rich in iron. One ¼-cup serving contains about 2 grams of iron. Not a fan of their nutty texture? Hide them in a smoothie to get the health benefits without the grit.


A single cup of cooked soybeans contains between 8 and 9 mg of iron. These legumes are a great source of protein, too (they’re one of the 20 highest protein vegetarian foods). Just be sure to seek out organic soy products rather than conventional, which may be genetically modified.


One cup of chickpeas contains 4.7 mg of iron, more than half the daily RDA for an adult male. Roast them in a bit of olive oil for a crunchy snack, or mix them with tomatoes, feta, and cucumber to create a savory side dish.

Dark Chocolate

The benefits of dark chocolate seem endless. In addition to promoting healthier skin and teeth and reducing anxiety, dark chocolate also offers a sweet way to up your iron intake. One ounce of dark chocolate contains 2 to 3 mg of iron, more iron than in the same amount of beef.

Swiss Chard


A vegetarian staple for years, firm tofu boasts 3 mg of iron per half cup. There are countless recipes for using tofu, from a simple stir-fry to a sweet, homemade peach sorbet.

Kidney Beans

Kidney beans contain 3-4 mg of iron per cup. Be sure to cook kidney beans to get the best flavor and texture. Kidney beans are the superstars of vegetarian chili, often acting as a hearty base ingredient in favor of meat options. Consider purchasing dried beans in bulk for a budget-friendly option.

Some of the foods that vegetarians can eat to increase iron in their diet are:

  • Fortified breakfast cereals, both hot and cold
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Dried beans, such as black and kidney beans, and lentils
  • Whole grains
  • Enriched rice or pasta
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Prune juice
  • Dried fruit, especially raisins

It is a good idea to combine these iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C because C helps your body use iron. For example, you might want to top your spinach salad with grapefruit sections or drink a glass of orange juice as you dig into your fortified cereal in the morning.

Multivitamins often contain iron, especially those labeled for women under age 50. You should discuss the need for taking a multivitamin with iron with your doctor, and get a recommendation for which type of supplement to purchase.

The Facts on Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia

Also called pernicious anemia, this type of anemia is due to a lack of vitamin B12 in your diet. This B vitamin plays an important role in making red blood cells. In nature, this vitamin is only available in meat or animal products, which is why vegans must be careful to find other ways to include it in their diets. Vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs usually get enough B12 through these sources.

When you read the nutrition labels on packaged foods, , look for foods fortified with vitamin B12. Here are some examples of processed foods that contain vitamin B12:

  • Fortified rice or soy milk
  • Fortified cereal or grain products
  • Some meat substitutes (check the labels for vitamin B12)
  • Dietary supplements, such as those labeled as containing B-complex
  • Nutritional yeast

If you do decide to take a dietary supplement, do some homework. For example, know that even a healthy body does not readily absorb all of the B-12 vitamin in a supplement. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist for the amount of supplemental B12 that’s right for you.

Whatever your reasons for choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet, learn how to create a healthy balance that includes enough iron and vitamin B12 to stave off anemia and leave you with plenty of energy.

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