It can be incredibly confusing when trying to navigate the murky world of vitamins — especially with so many different products to choose from. And when you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you have to take extra care to ensure your vitamins and supplements are in line with your dietary choices.
With the help of our Nutrition Experts, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on vegan Iron supplements, including who needs them, how to tell if you’re Iron-deficient, and what to look for in an Iron supplement.
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Why is Iron so important?
Iron is a mineral that’s vital to keeping your body in good health.
While all cells contain Iron, most of our Iron is stored in red blood cells. Iron helps our red blood cells transport oxygen throughout our bodies. Without enough Iron, your body will struggle to make new healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
Iron also serves several other important functions, including creating energy from nutrients and contributing to the transmission of nerve impulses.
Should vegans take an Iron supplement?
As Iron is traditionally found in meat and seafood, it can be tricky for vegetarians and vegans to get enough into their daily diet. As a result, Iron deficiencies are generally more common among vegetarians and vegans.
One small comparative study conducted in India discovered that 60% of plant-based eaters were mildly anemic, compared to 46% of meat eaters being mildly anemic. The remaining 40% of the vegetarians suffered from moderate anemia, while only 6% of the non-vegetarians had a moderate Iron deficiency.
It’s important to note that there’s two types of Iron: heme Iron and non-heme Iron. Heme Iron comes from animal products and is more easily absorbed by the body. Non-heme Iron comes from plant-based foods and is less bioavailable.
It’s estimated that Iron absorption in meat-eaters is between 14% to 18%, while Iron absorption for vegetarians/vegans is around 8% to 12%. This disparity is a key factor in why Iron deficiencies are much more common among plant-based eaters.
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you should be taking twice the recommended amount of daily Iron for non-vegetarians, according to the National Institute of Health.
To increase your daily Iron intake, try to focus on eating enough plant-based foods rich in Iron, including:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dark chocolate (70% cocoa and higher)
However, many doctors recommend Iron supplementation for vegans and vegetarians, especially if they’re also athletes and females — as both are also at a higher risk for Iron deficiency.
Do women need more Iron than men?
The short answer is: Yes.
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies among women. In fact, about 10% of all women in the United States are anemic.
Women lose a significant amount of Iron during their menstrual cycle. This means women need to consume more than twice the amount of Iron as men.
It’s recommended that women get 18 grams of Iron a day, while men only need about 8 grams.
Post-menopausal women, however, don’t need extra Iron.
How can I tell if I need to take an Iron supplement?
Getting your blood tested is the most common way to find out if you are anemic, but there are other tell-tale signs that indicate anemia.
You may be anemic if you experience one or more of these symptoms:
- Extreme tiredness and fatigue
- Poor concentration
- Having cold hands and feet
- Being short of breath
- Having unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances such as dirt, starch, or ice
Physical signs can be pale skin, dark circles under your eyes, and brittle nails.
Anemia is usually treated with a short-term Iron supplement and dietary changes, although severe anemia may require an Iron/blood transfusion.
What’s the best vegan Iron supplement? Top 3 things to look for
The best Iron supplement form is a delay-release capsule that doesn’t hit the stomach all at once, but instead releases over time.
1. Form of supplement
Iron supplements come in many forms, from capsules to tablets to liquid. If you have difficulty taking pills, a liquid supplement can be helpful, although liquid Iron supplements may cause an upset stomach as the Iron gets absorbed immediately.
2. Type of Iron
You should also pay attention to what kind of Iron is in a supplement. Some supplements use ferrous Iron, while others use ferric Iron. These forms may also be called divalent and trivalent, respectively. Ferrous / divalent Iron is a superior form of Iron that’s more bioavailable and absorbable, and generally causes fewer gastrointestinal effects.
3. Other additives
It’s also important to pay attention to what is included in the supplement besides Iron. You want a vegan Iron supplement that includes Vitamin C, as it substantially increases absorption. It’s even better if the supplement includes probiotics as well, as that has also been proven to enhance Iron absorption.
If you’re looking for the very best vegan Iron supplement on the market today, our Iron capsules should be on your radar.
Our Iron supplements check all the boxes that a high-quality Iron supplement should have — they’re made from superior ferrous Iron (Fe2+), are 100% vegan, come in delayed-release capsules, and include Vitamin C and Probiotics for effective absorption.
The bottom line
If you follow a plant-based diet, it’s important to pay extra attention to your nutrient needs. For extra guidance, check out our definitive guide on the best vitamins for vegans.
If you want to take out all the guesswork of choosing the right vitamins, take our 5-minute consultation quiz to find the perfect mix of vitamins for you. For extra guidance, we pair you with your very own personal Nutrition Expert for free when you sign up.
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