Iron without meat – A mother’s concern

When I was 11 years old, I despised eating meat. I generally didn’t like eating much at all, but I particularly avoided meat at all costs. My mother would always say the same thing

You need meat for Iron in your diet

The next time she took me to the doctor, I asked him whether meat was necessary for proper development. He said that indeed, no, red meat in particularly had no health benefits. My mother therefore begrudgingly allowed me to be vegetarian for a couple of years after that.

My vegetarianism abruptly ended at age 14 when I was invited to a Barbecue, and somehow ate all of the meat.

But I digress,

Where do you get your Iron? ” 

Is a question asked frequently. While common knowledge that many vegetables have great concentrations of iron is increasing, I have heard doctor’s express concerns that eating just vegetables does not suffice for what they call a ‘balanced diet’.

Generally, the recommended amount of iron is 10mg  per day for men and non menstruating women. With iron requirements rising to 30mg for women, if they are pregnant.

I have provided a few examples below of the comparison between animal and plant based foods, the amount of iron in mg per 100g.

  • Beef – 2.6mg
  • Chicken – 1.3mg
  • Eggs – 1.2mg
  • Spinach – 2.7mg
  • Lentils – 3.3mg
  • Broccoli – 0.7mg

The results speak for themselves, with the argument that red meat being the best source of iron a meat industry slogan.

Below, are 13 other plant based foods which are high in iron. These foods are not only delicious, but easy to incorporate into many meals.


A key point to remember is not all the iron from food is readily available for the body to use. Your body absorbs iron at different rates depending on a myriad of reasons. For example, there are certain substances in food that enhance iron absorption in your body, while others block it.

Meat is a common iron absorption enhancer, which is why so many people are convinced that it is the best source of iron.

There are many other non-meat iron absorption enhancers, most notably foods high in vitamin C.

These foods include :

Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Citrus fruits, Green and red capsicum, Kiwi, Papaya, Potatoes and strawberries.

Other foods such as tannic acid in tea, phylates in whole grain and calcium in dairy are all iron blockers.

Having a better understanding of how our body absorbs iron and the amounts found in our foods now allows me to happily tell my mother to not worry about my iron levels.