Why Plant Based Iron Is Superior

Heme vs. Non-Heme Iron

One of the concerns that some people have when transitioning to a plant-based or a vegan diet is obtaining adequate amounts of iron.

Interestingly enough, only 1/3 of iron in a typical or Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) comes from meat sources.

Plant foods are rich in non-heme iron while heme iron is sourced from meat such as beef, liver, chicken and some fish.

The term heme originates from the word hemoglobin, the blood protein which is found in animals and also humans.

Herbivorous animals get their nutrients such as iron from plant foods and humans can also.

This is an important topic for those of us who desire optimal health for a better quality of life.


Although heme iron absorbs much quicker than non-heme iron, getting too much can be just as harmful as getting too little.

Too much iron is linked to cardiovascular diseases, the number one killer in America, cancer, digestive issues and can also lead to increased oxidative stress which increases the aging process.

Another point to mention is that in order to have healthy blood cells, iron is much better absorbed with it’s co-factor nutrients which include B-vitamins and vitamin C.

Vegans and vegetarians tend to get more vitamins such as vitamin C and minerals such as iron because they receive majority of their calories from fruits and vegetables.

Non-Heme Iron Food Sources

Vegetarians do not have a higher incidence of iron deficiency than do meat eaters.  Here is a list of non-heme iron rich foods from Vrg.org

Dried Fruit such as dates




Greens such as kale

Beans such as chickpeas



Hemp Seeds

Iron Toxicity

The slow absorption of plant-based iron rich foods allow you to eat more without worrying about iron toxicity.

Signs of toxicity include listed from Livestrong.org:

Abdominal pain




And in worse cases, it may cause damage to the lining of the stomach and high blood pressure.

Bio-availability is the main concern when choosing between meat sourced and plant based iron.

When you eat plant based iron sources you have a lower risk of toxicity,  you obtain iron’s co-factors and you also get all of the other amazing health benefits from eating more plant based foods.

Other Benefits of Plant Based Food

Plant based foods such as the iron rich ones listed above contain phytonutrients and antioxidants which reduce oxidative stress.

Overall your heart will thank you.

For more information, watch this video: The Safety of Heme vs. Non-Heme Iron

To purchase plant based iron supplements mentioned in this blog, check out your local health food or independently owned vitamin store.  Most likely they will carry a variety of products to choose from for your specific health needs.

Be well always!

Cynthia Moon

  • Zane says:

    Thank you for the information. I used to think that my iron deficiency was because I was vegan, but turns out I needed a better balance of iron-rich foods. Great article.

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