Iron-rich vegetables: questions and answers

Eisenhaltiges Gemüse: Fragen und Antworten

Those who suffer from iron deficiency can show symptoms such as tiredness, headaches, difficulty concentrating or hair loss. To avoid iron deficiency, iron-rich vegetables should be combined with animal foods in particular. For this reason, you should cover your daily iron requirements with a balanced diet.

In this post we will explain why iron-rich vegetables are so important for your body and help you to meet your daily iron needs. Finally, we will give you valuable tips and tricks on how to eat and what alternative methods you can use to meet your daily iron requirements.

the essentials in brief

  • Iron is an important trace element that our body needs primarily for survival. With the help of iron-rich vegetables, you can cover part of your daily iron requirement.
  • Not every type of vegetable that contains iron can be used well by our body. Some types of vegetables contain high levels of inhibitors such as oxalic acid and phytic acid, which can severely inhibit iron absorption. For this reason, our body can better utilize animal foods than plant foods.
  • The best way to prevent iron deficiency is to eat a consistently balanced diet. This can be achieved, for example, by combining plant and animal foods.

Iron-rich vegetables: what you should know about them

In principle, the iron requirement in your body can be easily covered with a balanced diet. Iron-rich vegetables help to cover the daily iron requirement.

In general, iron is very important for our body. For example, it plays an important role in blood formation. The blood is responsible for supplying our body with sufficient oxygen and nutrients. For this reason, our body is dependent on iron and is therefore completely unable to function without it. In addition to fruit and meat, vegetables can also be a good source of iron. Depending on the type of vegetable, the iron content varies greatly - some are very rich in iron, others less so.

box of vegetables

A balanced diet is the be-all and end-all to stay healthy and fit. Iron-rich vegetables are good for our body and should therefore be included in your meals. (Image Source: Jill Wellington / pixabay)

To give you a better idea of ​​the iron content of certain types of vegetables, we have summarized the values ​​in a table:

vegetable variety Iron content (mg) in 100 grams
spinach 4
fennel 2.5
Lamb's lettuce 2
arugula 1.5
carrots 1.4
paprika 0.7

As you can see, iron can also be absorbed through vegetables. If you don't eat meat, then you should eat more iron-rich vegetables, fruit or legumes, for example. Cereal products are also a possible option. The right combination of the foods mentioned will help you as a vegetarian or vegan to cover your iron requirements. Below you will find out which vegetables contain the most iron.

Which vegetables are high in iron?

As you can already see from the table, some types of vegetables have a higher iron content than others. Vegetarians and vegans in particular have to get along without meat, which is a good source of iron for our body. Animal iron is better absorbed or utilized in the body than plant iron.

Below we have summarized and briefly explained some of the most iron-rich vegetables in a table:

vegetable variety Description
fennel Fennel is a spice, medicinal and vegetable plant. Fennel is one of the most iron-rich vegetables, but it's not very high in this category. Fennel has an iron content of around 0.7 milligrams per 100 grams.
broccoli Broccoli is not only delicious, but also rich in iron. If you look at the information per 100 grams, broccoli has an iron content of around 0.8 milligrams. However, there are vegetables that have even more iron.
Kale Kale is a very important source of iron, especially for vegetarians or vegans. Kale has an iron content of around 2 milligrams per 100 grams. In addition to the high iron content, kale also contains a lot of vitamin C, which, among other things, improves and facilitates iron absorption.
spinach Spinach is mainly used as a leafy vegetable. It has a lot of iron per 100 grams - about 3.5 milligrams to be more precise. You can either eat spinach raw in a salad or cook it in a saucepan.

Vitamin C promotes iron absorption, which is why you should consume a lot of it. There are vegetables that have a high iron content and also have a lot of vitamin C. Kale in this case is not only high in iron and vitamin C, but is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and potassium. Of course, it also contains other substances that are important for good health. All of the vegetables listed in the table can be easily prepared and combined with other iron-rich foods. You can find out more about which recipes and possible combinations we recommend in the sections below.

Why should you eat iron-rich vegetables?

As we have already mentioned, our bodies cannot function without proper iron intake. The proteins ferritin and transferrin are so-called helpers that promote the absorption, storage and distribution of iron in our body (1). In view of this, it is important to mention that our body cannot produce iron itself and therefore depends on the intake of iron-rich foods.

The question why you should eat iron-rich vegetables is therefore easy to answer. Iron-rich vegetables usually have other positive effects. For example, peppers or broccoli are good vitamin C suppliers at the same time. Our body needs vitamins, trace elements and minerals. Iron-rich vegetables not only provide the trace element iron, but can also be very rich in vitamins and minerals. Therefore, you should definitely introduce iron-rich vegetables into your diet and consume them in certain amounts.

What is the recommended intake of iron for iron-rich vegetables?

The values ​​for the optimal iron intake per day are not the same for everyone. Factors such as gender, age or pregnancy determine the optimal value for a person's daily iron intake. There is no precise information on how much iron-rich vegetables should be consumed per day. However, you should keep in mind that the intake of iron-rich vegetables alone cannot cover the daily iron requirement. The combination with meat is the most suitable here.

For a better overview, we have summarized the recommended intake of iron for the different groups of people in a table:

group of people Recommended iron intake
Men The recommended iron intake for men aged 19 and over is 10 milligrams per day, while for boys and men between the ages of 10 and 19 it is 12 milligrams.
Women Women aged 19 and over should consume up to 15 milligrams of iron per day. For girls and women between the ages of 10 and 19, the daily iron value is also 15 milligrams.
pregnant women Pregnant women need to absorb significantly more iron than usual. The recommended iron intake here is 30 milligrams per day.
Children Children up to the age of 7 should consume 8 milligrams of iron daily.

The reason why women in particular suffer from iron deficiency is very simple: Factors such as menstruation or the high need for iron during pregnancy have a strong influence on women's iron requirements (2). to avoid the associated negative effects on our organism.

bowl of spinach

Spinach is an iron-rich vegetable that can be ideally combined with animal or plant-based foods. (Image source: Konstantin Kolosov / pixabay)

What do studies & science say about iron or iron-rich vegetables?

In principle, the following applies: Women and vegetarians have to struggle with iron deficiency much more than meat eaters.

Before we explain the science behind iron-rich vegetables to you, you should know the essential background information about iron. Basically, iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia is a global health problem that can severely impair the quality of life of the affected person (3).

Iron deficiency can cause the disease iron deficiency anemia, which is common in women during pregnancy. The worldwide prevalence of iron deficiency is between 20% and 80%. Women in particular are affected by this disease or deficiency. The deficiency disease can have serious consequences during pregnancy in women. One of these consequences could be premature birth (4).

Basically, vegetarians and vegans have a high prevalence of iron deficiency stores. This means that iron deficiency can occur significantly more frequently in vegetarians compared to meat eaters (5). In addition, humans lose about 1 mg of iron per day through excretion (6).

The following study provides an estimate of the bioavailability of iron in green vegetables. As a rule, the bioavailability of vegetables is lower than that of meat. Good bioavailability can be observed in the following vegetables: spinach, broccoli, kale, savoy cabbage and green pepper. The results of the study showed that of the vegetables studied, kale improves iron absorption best. Therefore, kale is the best source of bioavailable iron (7). Always combine iron-rich vegetables with animal foods. If you don't eat meat, you can of course find other iron-free recipes online and try them out.

There are numerous studies that have already shown that vegetables are very important for our body. Anyone who eats vegetables every day is much less susceptible to chronic diseases. It has also been proven that, in addition to minerals and other important substances, vegetables contain disease-preventing mechanisms (8).

Iron is therefore crucial for our body and can be increased both through food and with the help of dietary supplements. Since iron is an important component of hemoglobin, it plays a crucial role in oxygen transport (9).

Which iron-rich vegetables are recommended during pregnancy?

Pregnant women in particular are affected by iron deficiency because the woman not only has to take care of herself, but also the child. The blood in the woman's body is needed for the growing uterus, which is why iron deficiency is not uncommon here. Furthermore, the woman shows a lack of folic acid during her pregnancy, which can be replenished with the help of vegetables. Below we will therefore give you some iron-rich vegetables that can be consumed during pregnancy.

Now, we will list you some iron-rich vegetables below:

  • spinach
  • Peas
  • broccoli
  • Bean
  • carrots
  • fennel

The vegetables mentioned in the lists are not only healthy, but also very rich in iron. A glass of orange juice or some lemon juice is best for improving your iron absorption. It always depends on the personal preferences of the person. If you don't like spinach, for example, you still have the option of consuming other iron-rich vegetables. In addition to orange juice, iron absorption can also be improved with green smoothies. Everyone's taste buds are different during pregnancy, so it's up to you to decide which type of vegetable is right for you.

How can I properly combine iron-rich vegetables with other dishes?

The combination of iron-rich vegetables and meat is most ideal for meeting daily iron needs.

Fish and meat have a greater bioavailability, which is why the body can absorb them better than plant-based foods. Therefore, it is recommended that meat or fish in combination with vegetables or grain products is most ideal. Below we will list three delicious recipes that contain meat or fish:

  • Tuna salad with corn, chickpeas and egg
  • Spaghetti with whole wheat pasta, tomato sauce, peppers, corn and chicken or ground beef
  • Saithe with potatoes, tomato salad and broccoli

Vegetables containing iron can also be combined differently for vegetarians and vegans. We have briefly listed some recipes for you below:

  • Millet salad with grilled zucchini
  • Kale salad with cranberries
  • Pasta casserole with cheese and broccoli

Just search the internet if you are looking for more delicious and iron-rich recipes. You will quickly notice that there are many possible combinations with iron-rich vegetables. Depending on taste, everyone here has their own preferences.

Different kinds of vegetables and fruits

With the right combination of iron-rich vegetables with other healthy foods, your daily iron content can be well covered. (Image source: silviarita / pixabay)

Which iron-rich foods are there besides vegetables?

In addition to iron-rich vegetables, there are numerous alternatives that contain iron and, in certain amounts, have a healthy effect on our body. We have listed some alternatives for you below. You can now find out which iron suppliers these are:

  • legumes
  • Meat
  • grain products

Below we will give you some examples of the iron suppliers mentioned above so that you can get a better understanding of their effects. We have also researched the advantages and disadvantages of the iron suppliers and briefly summarized them in a table.


Legumes include, for example, lentils, beans, peas or soybeans. They provide our body with proteins, nutrients, fiber and minerals. Legumes also have a high potassium content. This is able to lower high blood pressure and is also good for our cholesterol levels and our intestinal health. Vegetarians in particular use legumes and combine them with fruit or vegetables. You can see the advantages and disadvantages of legumes in the following table:


In general, meat refers to the soft tissues of animals and humans. Basically, we associate meat with certain parts of mammals or birds that we consume as food. Meat contains hemoglobin, which in turn contains iron and can be easily absorbed by our body. We have listed the advantages and disadvantages of meat in a table:

grain products

Cereals are among the grass plants that provide seeds for our diet. Wheat, barley, oats, rice and rye are the most well-known grains. Bread or oatmeal are made from grain and are already important staple foods for us humans. You can now find out the advantages and disadvantages of grain products:


We hope that this guide has given you the basic information you need to know about iron-rich vegetables. You have learned from us that iron-rich vegetables in combination with animal foods can best cover the daily iron content. Vegetables provide our body with fiber, vitamins, minerals and trace elements, among other things. These substances are of great benefit to our immune system.

Therefore, you should always ensure a healthy, iron-rich and balanced diet. Be sure to change your diet if you eat unhealthily and are struggling with the symptoms mentioned at the beginning. In addition to iron-rich vegetables, you should also include legumes and fruit in your diet.


  1. Annette von Drygalski 1 , John W Adamson Affiliates expand PMID: 22968710 DOI: 10.1177/0148607112459648
  2. Jack R Dainty 1 , Rachel Berry 1 , Sean R Lynch 2 , Linda J Harvey 1 , Susan J Fairweather-Tait 3 Affiliates expand PMID: 25356629 PMCID: PMC4214798 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111824
  3. Jens Dahlerup 1 , Stefan Lindgren 2 , Björn Moum 3 Affiliates expand PMID: 25756711
  4. Christian Breyman 1 Affiliates expand PMID: 26404445 DOI: 10.1053/j.seminhematol.2015.07.003
  5. Roman Pawlak, PhD, RD, Julia Berger, BS, and Ian Hines, PhD
  6. R Green, R Charlton, H Seftel, T Bothwell, F Mayet, B Adams, C Finch, M Layrisse PMID: 5672736 DOI: 10.1016/0002-9343(68)90069-7
  7. I Rodriguez-Ramiro 1 , C Dell'Aquila 2 , JL Ward 2 , AL Neal 2 , SFA Bruggraber 3 , PR Shewry 2 , S Fairweather-Tait 4 Affiliations collapse affiliations 1 Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. Electronic address: [email protected] 2 Rothamsted Research, Hertfordshire, UK. 3 MRC Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge, UK. 4 Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. PMID: 31394334 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2019.125292
  8. JW lamp 1 Affiliates expand PMID: 10479220 DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/70.3.475s
  9. Raffaella Gozzelino1, Paolo Arosio2 Affiliates expand PMID: 26805813 PMCID: PMC4730371 DOI: 10.3390/ijms17010130
  10. A Pusztai 1 , G Grant, T Duguid, DS Brown, WJ Peumans, EJ Van Damme, S Bardocz Affiliates expand PMID: 7782910 DOI: 10.1093/jn/125.6.1554
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