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13 Vegetarian Foods That Have More Iron Than Meat

13 Vegetarian Foods That Have More Iron Than Meat
Infographic – herbsandhealth.net Photo sources – see foot of article

Iron is one of the essential minerals that are critical for many of the body’s functions. Our body needs iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from our lungs to the tissues. Iron also produces another protein called myoglobin which helps supply oxygen to our muscles.

For lifelong vegetarians or those who are transitioning to a non-meat diet, their most common concern is how to maintain iron consumption – because much of the iron in the average diet comes from from pork, beef, and chicken. With the meat out of the equation, is it possible to have non-meat options that offer the same amount of iron or more than meat? Fortunately, there are many delicious options that are both rich in iron and vegetarian-friendly:

1. Tofu

This food is made from soybeans, which, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition are a good source of nutritional iron. [1] Tofu’’s iron content remains stable even after heat treatment, according to another study reported by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. [2]

2. Quinoa

This seed contains more iron than common cereals. Roasting quinoa does not affect its mineral content, as found out by a study first reported in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. Quinoa is also rich in calcium and zinc. [3]

3. Dark Chocolate

According to a study reported in the journal Nature, dark chocolate is rich in minerals like iron and calcium and offers consumers health benefits that milk chocolate cannot match. Consumption of this food was associated by the study to increased epicatechin content of blood plasma. [4] Epicatechin is a strong antioxidant, which together with iron, promote muscle growth.

4. Dried Fruits

Dried peach halves, prunes, apricot halves, and raisins are somewhat unexpected sources of dietary iron. An article reported in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition showed that dried apricots have the highest iron content among some dried fruit samples from Turkey. [5]

5. Spirulina

This superfood is a type of blue-green algae that is rich in iron, calcium, and magnesium. A study published in Plant Foods and Human Nutrition confirmed the effectiveness of spirulina in improving the iron status of rats during pregnancy and lactation. [6]

6. Legumes

Beans provide essential nutrients for the body including protein and iron. One cup of kidney beans will give you 3.93 mg of iron, according to a database from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. [7]

7. Brussel Sprouts

These veggies are an excellent source of iron as well as antioxidants, vitamins, folate, and fiber. Brussels sprouts are one of the foods recommended by a Spanish study as part of a diet for patients with deficiency anemia. This diet also includes beetroot, asparagus, romaine lettuce, and oranges. [8]

8. Pumpkin Seeds

You can eat pumpkin seeds raw, which provides the most benefit. However, pumpkin seeds also pack an iron punch when roasted for no more than twenty minutes. A study published in the journal BioFactors recommended the consumption of pumpkin seed kernels as sources of dietary iron for women at reproductive ages. [9]

9. Nuts

Which nuts contain the most iron? Cashews are on top, with 8.22 mg, followed by almonds, macadamias, and pistachios. Nuts top the list of foods that have particularly high amounts of iron, according to a report from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. [10]

10. Sugarcane Molasses

This “healthy sugar” contains iron, sulfur, fructose, and copper, making it a potential dietary supplement for iron deficiency anemia, as per a study first published online by the Journal of Dietary Supplements. [11]

11. Sesame Butter / “Tahini”

Also known as tahini, sesame butter is an excellent addition if you are already eating iron-rich fruits and vegetables. Tahini is often associated with hummus which may help improve the nutrient profiles of meals. [12]

12. Tomato Paste

When consumed raw, tomatoes only offer 0.5mg of iron per cup. Dried or concentrated tomatoes offer a greater amount of iron than fresh ones. Tomatoes also provide vitamin C which helps increase iron absorption, based on a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. [13]

13. Potatoes

The iron content of potatoes is mostly concentrated in the skin. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition discovered that there is much greater solubilization of iron from potato than from other foods. The tubers also provide vitamin C which enhances iron absorption. [14]


[1] Murray-Kolb LE et al. January 2003. Women with low iron stores absorb iron from soybeans. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12499339

[2] Masuda T. October 14, 2015. Soybean Ferritin Forms an Iron-Containing Oligomer in Tofu Even after Heat Treatment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26390371

[3] Repo-Carrasco-Valencia RA et al. September 2010. Effects of roasting and boiling of quinoa, kiwicha and kañiwa on composition and availability of minerals in vitro. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20582934

[4] Serafini M et al. August 28, 2003. Plasma antioxidants from chocolate. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v424/n6952/full/4241013a.html?foxtrotcallback=true

[5] Duran A et al. November-December 2008. Trace element levels in some dried fruit samples from Turkey. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18991103

[6] Kapoor R and Mehta U. 1998. Supplementary effect of spirulina on hematological status of rats during pregnancy and lactation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10426118

[7] U.S. Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/4643?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=Abridged&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=kidney+beans

[8] Santoyo-Sanchez A et al. 2015. Revista Médica del Hospital General de México Dietary recommendations in patients with deficiency anaemia. http://www.elsevier.es/en-revista-revista-medica-del-hospital-general-325-articulo-dietary-recommendations-in-patients-with-S0185106315000463

[9] Naghii MR and Mofid M. 2007. Impact of daily consumption of iron fortified ready-to-eat cereal and pumpkin seed kernels (Cucurbita pepo) on serum iron in adult women. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18198398

[10] PubMed Health. March 20, 2014. How can I get enough iron? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072802/

[11] Jain R and Venkatasubramanian. January 6, 2017. Sugarcane Molasses – A Potential Dietary Supplement in the Management of Iron Deficiency Anemia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28125303

[12] Wallace TC et al. December 2016. The Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Chickpeas and Hummus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5188421

[13] Stahl W et al. May 2001. Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11340098

[14] Fairweather-Tait SJ. July 1983. Studies on the availability of iron in potatoes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6882727

Infographic photo sources:

Tofu – https://pixabay.com/en/slice-the-tofu-cut-a-part-conveyance-597229/
Quinoa – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Quinoa-gepufft.jpg
Dark chocolate – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Schokolade-schwarz.jpg
Dried fruits – https://pixabay.com/en/raisins-dried-golden-grapes-fruit-88532/
Spirulina – https://pixabay.com/en/spirulina-alga-vegetable-proteins-1829077/
Legumes – https://pixabay.com/en/chickpeas-grains-eating-2240388/
Brussels sprouts – https://pixabay.com/en/brussels-sprouts-vegetables-463378/
Pumpkin seeds – https://pixabay.com/en/pumpkin-seeds-kernels-green-1489510/
Nuts – https://www.pexels.com/photo/almonds-pistachios-cashews-dried-nuts-86649/
Sugarcane molasses – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blackstrapmolasses.JPG
Sesame butter – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sesame-butter.jpg
Tomato paste – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tomato_passata.jpg
Potatoes – https://pixabay.com/en/potatoes-vegetables-erdfrucht-bio-1585075/

Study: 28,187 Plant Species Used As Medicines Throughout The World

Study - 28,187 Plant Species Used As Medicines Throughout The World
image © Neil Palmer (CIAT) – Wikipedia – lic. under CC BY-SA 2.0

Plants have long been used as medicines since prehistoric times, with the earliest records dating from the Sumerian civilization. In fact, the usage of medicinal plants for healing is as old as mankind itself. Humans have learned to utilize barks, fruiting bodies, leaves, roots, and other parts of the plants and gradually accumulated and built on this knowledge throughout time. [1]

Sumerian, Indian, Egyptian, Greek, and Chinese historians had written documents on medicinal plants’ usage for the preparation of drugs. One of the most prominent writers on plant drugs was Dioscorides, a military physician and pharmacologist of Nero’’s army who is considered as the father of pharmacology. [2]

In present days, the most complete documentation of plant species used as medicines is performed by the Royal Botanical Gardens aka. Kew Gardens. The London-based institution has just published its second annual State of the World’s Plants, which involved 128 scientists from 12 countries and contains data not only on medicinal plants but also information on plant health and climate change. [3]

The report identified an incredible 28,187 plant species with medicinal uses and discovered more than 1,700 new plants in the past year. It also presents data on the relevance of plants and their values to all aspects of the lives of humans.

While the number of plant species cited with therapeutic potential will excite the pharmacopeia world, the report clarifies that the number is probably a very conservative figure. Also, only more than four thousand of the species used in plant-based medicines are mentioned in medicinal regulatory publications. [4] The people behind the report call for more precise use of scientific plant names and greater awareness of the alternative synonyms in use.

Ambiguous labeling has prevented many species from being listed officially, according to Her Excellency, Dr. Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritius. [5] The failure of official bodies to have a concrete assessment of beneficial plants for their pharmaceutical qualities poses a risk to the health of people who are taking plant-based remedies without being aware of their side effects.

A classic example of misleading labeling is the trade name of ‘ginseng’ which refers to several species, each with its own chemistry and therapeutic properties. However inaccurate labeling could have dangerous consequences: In Belgium, more than 100 patients are now requiring kidney dialysis for the remainder of their lives due to the replacement of one Chinese medicinal herb with another that shares the same name.

Here are a few of the new discoveries:

•• Nine species of a climbing vine used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease
•• Plants containing Artemisinin and quinine, useful for fighting malaria [6]
•• Seven different species of Aspalathus plants used for making South African rooibos tea
•• Five new species of Manihot found in Brazil
•• A new parsnip species uncovered in Turkey
•• New species of rose, coffee, Aloe vera, and cassava

However, many of the newly discovered plants are already threatened with extinction due to desertification and the destruction of natural habitats. It’s in one sense a race against time with so many species being lost due to both natural and man-made causes. Historical climate change has had a profound impact on the distribution of plants and animals worldwide. The general effects of climate change include habitat degradation, habitat loss, and introduction of potentially invasive species. [7]

Wildfires are also of significant worry. When exposed to high-temperatures, mortality can occur in plants and seeds. Kew analyzed satellite imagery to trace the destruction of plants. They found that over the past two decades, an average of 340 million hectares of the Earth burns every year. [8]

Further Reading:

Our List Of Herbs contains over 200 different medicinal plants, with a full page of info on each plant including scientific research.

Amazon Tribe Creates 500-Page Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia

Ancient And Classical Herbals


[1] Biljana Bauer Petrovska. 2012. Pharmacology Review. Historical review of medicinal plants’ usage. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3358962/

[2] William Burns. September 17, 2016. Knowledge and Power: Science in World History. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=OtAYDQAAQBAJ&dq=Power+and+knowledge+of+ancient+physicians&source=gbs_navlinks_s

[3] Royal Botanical Gardens. The State of the World’s Plants Report 2017. https://www.kew.org/about-our-organisation/press-media/press-releases/the-state-of-the-worlds-plants-report-2017

[4] Nina Lilian Etkin. 1986. Plants in Indigenous Medicine & Diet: Biobehavioral Approaches. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=fC-a_LZuBGcC&dq=medicinal+plants+identified+by+publications&lr=&source=gbs_navlinks_s

[5] Mark Kinver. November 2, 2016. Project aims to end ‘ambiguity’ of plant-based medicine. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37835543

[6] Achan J et al. May 24, 2011. Malaria Journal. Quinine, an old anti-malarial drug in a modern world: role in the treatment of malaria. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3121651/

[7] Jeffrey S. Dukes; Harold A. Mooney .April 1999. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Does global change increase the success of biological invaders? http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/fulltext/S0169-5347(98)01554-7?_returnURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0169534798015547%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

[8] Maureen Cofflard. May 18, 2017. UK survey finds 28,000 plant species for medical use. https://phys.org/news/2017-05-uk-survey-species-medical.html

Senior IARC Scientist Defends His Research – Glyphosate Can Cause Cancer

Senior IARC Scientist Defends His Research - Glyphosate Can Cause Cancer
Photo © Fotokostic – shutterstock.com

Despite the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s recent classification of glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic”, little has been done to curb its widespread use all over world. Roundup, whose main ingredient is glyphosate, is still the most widely-used herbicide in the world. A report by Benbrook in 2016 published in the Environmental Sciences Europe journal focused on the trends in glyphosate use worldwide and revealed very harrowing results.

With glyphosate being in the market for more than 42 years, its use has grown exponentially since 1995. The steady use of glyphosate from the 1970s to 1995 was marked by a dramatic increase from 1995 to 2014, from 12.5 million kilograms by volume to 36 million kilograms by the 2000s. Benbrooks reports that total use (agricultural and non-agricultural use) was 67 million kilograms in 1995, which rose more than 12-fold in 2014, or 826 million kilograms. [1]

After their statement last 2015 that glyphosate, a compound used in the herbicide Roundup, is a “probable human carcinogen” senior IARC scientist Kurt Straif said in an interview with Euronews that despite pressure from the chemical industry, the agency’s classification of the compound will stand. [2]

“We are the authority to classify cancer substances worldwide for the WHO, and it was then this other panel that looked at a very narrow angle of exposure from daily food, and then came up with the conclusion on how much of that may be safe or not.”

For years, the safety of glyphosate has been questioned and debated by agencies, activists and consumers, greatly concerned because Roundup is widely-used around the globe by farmers and homeowners. Many consumers have been urging the government to restrict or ban glyphosate-containing herbicides to protect the human and environmental health. [3]

But aside from restricting the use of glyphosate, the public also want a clear and firm answer on the health risks that it poses, since the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) released a review last May 2016 stating that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans” and it is unlikely to have a destructive effect on cells’ genetic material. [4] This creates a confusion among consumers since their statements are opposing.

IARC’s Stand On Glyphosate’s Risks

The IARC classification of glyphosate means that exposure to chemicals containing this compound could lead to cancer. This classification was convened upon in 2015 and published in the same year, along with classifications of four other herbicides and insecticides. The weight of an IARC classification of glyphosate as a “probably human carcinogen” should have made waves but there have been many barriers in the way of banning this dangerous chemical.

Various studies on glyphosate were considered before the IARC released its official statement on the safety of this chemical. The IARC found that glyphosate caused DNA and chromosomal damage to human cells, which can lead to cancer. This was seen especially in the blood markers of humans who lived in places where glyphosate was sprayed nearby. In experimental animals, there was sufficient evidence of the carcinogenicity of glyphosate. [5]

Straif has only one thing to say regarding this matter. “I think it’s important to understand the literature that our assessment that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans still stands, and then you have to look at the other assessments for the specific scenarios, and that is not my authority to comment on these evaluations.”

The Reality Of Glyphosate Use

Today, the European Commission has extended glyphosate’s license until the end of 2017 – despite clear warnings made by the IARC. Roundup is still available worldwide and there are very few restrictions on its use. The limitations made by the EC in response to the controversy of extending glyphosate’s license are insignificant, made to appease the groups fighting against glyphosate: [6]

● Banning POE-tallowamine from products containing glyphosate (it is already being phased out of use, so manufacturers are not affected by this restriction)

● Obligating users to exercise caution in “pre-harvest uses” (this is not legally binding)

● “Minimizing” use in public areas like parks and playgrounds (again, not legally binding since the word minimizing can be interpreted differently since it does not mean “ban”)

As a consumer, you have to ask why this is possible when glyphosate increases human risk for cancer. Numerous reasons, unfounded as they may be, have been given – but mainly focus on the fact glyphosate exposure is too low for any actual increase in cancer risk. The studies included in the IARC classification beg to disagree.

Looking Into The Detox Project

Recently, “The Detox Project” has been gaining popularity because of its findings regarding human glyphosate exposure. The project is an ongoing project by scientists and activists from the University of California in San Francisco which encourages people to get their urine sample tested for the presence of glyphosate. The project’s initial results revealed that 93 percent of a sample size of 131 people had glyphosate in their urine, with children having the highest concentration, with 3.56 parts per billion compared to 3.09 parts per billion in adults. While these numbers do not mean that people with glyphosate in their bodies will get cancer, it certainly increases their risk compared to people who have not been exposed to glyphosate at all. [7]

As of now, scientists and activists are still pushing the petitions on banning the use of glyphosate especially now that it has been classified as a probably human carcinogen, while others have taken small steps to reduce use and exposure to the said herbicide. [2]

Ok, here’s the video:

Further Reading:

California’s Decision To List Glyphosate As Cancer-Causing Upheld By Courts

Fears As 93% Of Americans Tested Positive For Glyphosate And Children Found To Have The Highest Levels

Pay Up! Monsanto Found Guilty of Chemical Poisoning In France


[1] Benbrook, C. (2016). Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally. https://enveurope.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s12302-016-0070-0

[2] “Glyphosate Can Cause Cancer”. http://www.euronews.com/2016/07/01/glyphosate-can-cause-cancer

[3] Gillam, C. 2016. Glyphosate ‘Revolution’ Growing – Consumers Want Answers. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carey-gillam/glyphosate-revolution-gro_b_10122764.html

[4] Kelland, K. 2016. U.N. experts find weed killer glyphosate unlikely to cause cancer. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-who-glyphosate-idUSKCN0Y71HR

[5] International Agency for Research on Cancer (2015). ARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides. http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/MonographVolume112.pdf

[6] European Commission Press Release Database. FAQs: Glyphosate. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-2012_en.htm

[7] The Detox Project. https://detoxproject.org/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-glyphosate-testing/