Skip to main content

How to Increase the Iron in Your Diet Without Eating Meat

Robert Morgan "Bobby" is a holistic practitioner, master herbalist, iridologist, colonic therapist, author, and international lecturer.

Click on the link to see a larger detailed map showing the wide extent of anemia across the planet.

Click on the link to see a larger detailed map showing the wide extent of anemia across the planet.

Anemia: A Worldwide Problem

The primary cause of anemia stems from prolonged iron deficiency. This shortcoming of iron in the body is mostly caused by the lack of adequate iron in the diet or the body's inability to absorb the iron.

The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of people in the world are suffering from some form of anemia, meaning they simply do not have enough iron circulating in their bloodstreams.

Iron Deficiency Strikes Vegans, Vegetarians, and Meat-Eaters Alike

We vegans and vegetarians seem to at times need more iron in our diets. When I am feeling tired and run down, I can often narrow it down to not getting adequate amounts or combinations of plant foods that have iron in them.

The only way I can get the iron I need, without eating meat, is to pay close attention to how I combine my foods at each meal. I have to make sure I include foods high in iron in my daily intake. Finding and incorporating these foods into my diet may seem like a pain, but it's worth it to me. I believe that the health benefits of eating a vegan or vegetarian diet outweigh these kinds of small hassles.

Many of my meat-eating friends and clients seem to run into the same problems I do when it comes to iron deficiency; even though they get heme iron in their diets, which is more bioavailable. After working with many of them, I have come to the conclusion, that if they are parasite and yeast free, they can absorb from two to three times as much iron, as I can. As all my iron comes from my raw, live food, plant-based diet.

There Are Some Downsides to Eating Meat

So, as I said, my meat-eating friends' and clients' sources of heme iron are more easily assimilated, but the problem lies in their primary sources of the iron being meat. This means they are more likely to have the adverse side effects associated with a meat diet. Their primary challenge is having to deal with parasites. Parasites are almost always found in meat, showing up as roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, and dozens of other flukes and protozoan organisms. These parasites cause poor nutrient absorption and intestinal bleeding, which is not always noticeable to my friends and clients when they inspect their feces.

When I detox them and do a parasite cleanse their iron levels go up for a short time, then decrease as they continue to eat meat and the worms, flukes, and protozoan re-inhabit their bodies.

So, hopefully, what I am sharing with you should help my vegan and vegetarian friends explain the misconception, that we cannot get enough Iron from our diet. As vegans and vegetarians, we have the same problem, as our meat-eating friends when it comes to many of us having iron deficiencies. The major difference is our deficiencies are not caused by parasites. I think we just may have a better long-term solution.

80% of the world’s population may be iron deficient

80% of the world’s population may be iron deficient

Iron Deficiency Is a Worldwide Problem

Iron deficiency is a serious problem worldwide. In fact, it's the number one nutritional disorder in the world. And the World Health Organization estimates that as many as 80% of the world’s population may be iron-deficient, with the highest deficiencies found in third world countries, where parasite infestation is rampant.

Iron Requirements
The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following:

Infants and children
• Younger than six months: 0.27 milligrams per day (mg/day)
• 7 months to 1 year: 11 mg/day
• 1 to 3 years: 7 mg/day
• 4 to 8 years: 10 mg/day

• 9 to 13 years: 8 mg/day
• 14 to 18 years: 11 mg/day
• Age 19 and older: 8 mg/day

• 9 to 13 years: 8 mg/day
• 14 to 18 years: 15 mg/day
• 19 to 50 years: 18 mg/day
• 51 and older: 8 mg/day

Vegans have dozens of excellent sources of iron.

Vegans have dozens of excellent sources of iron.

Choose Foods With the Highest Iron Content

Some do's to ensure you are getting the highest levels of iron from your food include choosing the foods with the highest iron content. In conjunction with making the right food choices, it would be a wise move to prepare them in a manner that causes the iron to be easily absorbed by your digestive system.

Being 100% raw for several years, left me with low iron levels and the physical symptoms that accompany the deficiency. By adding in just a few cooked foods like blackstrap molasses, spinach, lentils, soybeans, and buckwheat, I can manage my iron requirements and keep my energy at optimum levels.

Top 6 Vegan & Vegetarian Iron Rich Foods

Iron is easier to assimilate from cooked foods.


Morel Mushrooms

1 1/2 cups


Soy Beans Cooked

1 cup


Blackstrap Molasses

2 tablespoons


Lentils Cooked

1 cup


Spinach Cooked

1 cup



1/2 cup


This is a good time to give you a couple of quick and recipes for getting your iron levels up right now.

Blackstrap molasses are an excellent source of iron and taste great in smoothies.

Blackstrap molasses are an excellent source of iron and taste great in smoothies.

Bobby's Ironman—Blackstrap Molasses Smoothie

Start your day off right and leave morning brain fog behind. Make this healthy powerhouse smoothie every morning and get an important part of your body's daily requirements of iron, manganese, copper, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium.

  • 1 cup cold almond milk
  • 1 cup coconut water (optional—can replace with more almond milk or water)
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tablespoons Organic Blackstrap molasses = 60% of your daily iron, 80% of your potassium
  • Blend and enjoy

Note: if you are not suffering from iron deficiency, you can add as little as a teaspoon of the molasses and fortify your iron reserves.

Note: A better option for your organic baby spinach than in a smoothie would be to consider cooking it, as you will get more than twice the iron from the spinach. Lightly steam or saute spinach with some garlic and red bell pepper. When you prepare the spinach and peppers this way ("tender crisp") the peppers will give you more vitamin C than an orange, and foods with vitamin C help us absorb more Iron.

Note: You can also just add in the molasses to your regular morning smoothie and enjoy the benefits of the iron boost.

Note: If you don't have a problem with raw cacao, you can add it to the Iron Man smoothie and blast the iron levels of this drink into outer space.

This soup will give you the iron you need in order to be in the Iron Man Competitions.

This soup will give you the iron you need in order to be in the Iron Man Competitions.

Bobby's Triathlon Lentil & Spinach Soup

This fantastic soup is easy to prepare, and a cup of it will give you plenty of iron your body needs to power you through the day.

  • 4 cups cooked lentils
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
  • 8 cups of water

Cook all ingredients until the lentils are tender, and then add 4 cups of organic baby spinach and cook for five more minutes, Serve hot or cold. Gets tastier when you let it steep overnight.

Note: Ad spices and herbs to taste. Enjoy.



A Few More Reasons Why I Don't Eat Heme Iron

Like most things in life, there is a positive and negative side to them, and heme iron is not the exception. Being easily absorbed by the body has its upside, but as we discussed earlier, it also has its downside, including parasites and other nasty critters. Unfortunately, there is another downside that goes along with heme iron in that it can exacerbate Hemochromatosis, a severe genetic disorder associated with coronary heart disease and liver cancer.

I am a cancer "surthrivor," and I depend on maintaining an alkaline system where the antioxidants that my plant-based diet provides help sustain my health and help prevent the return of cancer. Heme iron has been shown to be a potent oxidizing agent creating more free radicals that in turn damage my cells.

When I eat a balanced plant-based diet, I am aware and in control of the amount of iron my body requires. I know it only absorbs what it needs from the iron-rich plant foods I eat. When my iron needs are higher, my body automatically compensates and takes in more iron. When my body needs less plant-based iron, it automatically lowers the absorption rate.

  • Bobby Morgan is a Naturopath and Energy Healer
  • Sue Ellen Meisheri is a Registered Nurse


  1. Non-Heme Iron Proteins: Role in Energy Conversion– Anthony San Pietro
  2. Principles of Medical Biochemistry - Gerhard Meisenberg and William H. Simmons
  3. Sources: USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24, 2013. The RDA for iron is 8 mg/day for adult men and for post-menopausal women and 18 mg/day for pre-menopausal women. Vegetarians (including vegans) may need up to 1.8 times more iron.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 Robert Morgan


Robert Morgan (author) on August 08, 2015:

Thank you dear one. You are a wonderful writer. I appreciate your kind words.Blessings.

Akriti Mattu from Shimla, India on August 08, 2015:

Very informational post :)

Robert Morgan (author) on August 08, 2015:

Thanks so much for sharing your health challenge about iron. I have a couple of suggestions:

1. Purchase some organic blackstrap molasses and add a tablespoon to your morning juice or smoothie.

2. Since you are a meat eater, cook up fresh calves liver with onions once a week. You can add potatoes as a starchy carb to help increase the delivery of the iron.

3. Make a meal that includes morel mushrooms, they are loaded with iron. Hope this helps. Sending healful blessings your way. Bobby

Missy Smith from Florida on August 07, 2015:

This was a great article for me to read, as I have had an iron problem most of my life. I do eat meat, but eat very little. I like eating salads and things like that. I'm not much on spinach, but the lentil and spinach soup looks like something I may like. :)

As of this past year, I haven't heard a lot about my iron, so I assume it's fine at the moment. However, last year at this time, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and for months it was lots of blood work to find the right medicine that would help me. This condition has been the main focus this year.

I go back to my doctor this September for my six months blood work to check if everything is on the up and up. I still worry about my iron intake, because I know I can't just assume it is fine. So, this will be a helpful article for me to refer to.

Robert Morgan (author) on August 05, 2015:

I am blessed to know you Charito. I'm glad you stopped by and clarified my confusion. I have your 2 of your hubs listed for reading later tonight or in the morning. Blessings to you and your family.

Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on August 05, 2015:

Thank you for your advice, Bobby. (By the way, "Rosario" and "Charito" - we're one and the same person. "Rosario Maria" is my full name, but I prefer to be called by my nickname which is "Charito".)

Robert Morgan (author) on August 05, 2015:

Hello, Nadine, that's right its, getting close to dinner time in SA. I had been to your beautiful city and country, in the late 80's when I needed to have two passports since I was traveling to other African countries. I already love your HubPages and look forward to reading your article. Even though I have been on HubPages over three years, I'm just learning the ropes, since I just actually started writing the hubs, over the past couple of months. You mentioned sharing a link, do I just add another Hubbers link at the bottom of my article? Can I add more than one link? Guess I should look it up lol. Thanks and blessings.

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on August 05, 2015:

Great post, I will share the link in my following hub article, and you will find out why. Tonight I'm cooking spinach! Combining the leaves from our garden and from the organic market.

Robert Morgan (author) on August 02, 2015:

Hello, Ms. Charito, First let me apologize for somehow getting you mixed up with Rosario. As for your question; for one to make radical changes in their diets after eating a healthy natural diet over a lifetime, may not be necessary, unless they are experiencing health challenges. My thoughts are that you continue eating a healthy natural diet that is plant-based and incorporates some minor adjustments, just as you have mentioned you are increasing your "leafy green vegetables". Being a Vegan, I shy away from meats, but my wife still eats fish and chicken, sparingly, as she seems not to be able to thrive on my vegan diet. I alway talk with my clients about reducing red meats to as low a level as possible, because of their tendency to acidify the blood and have been found to contribute to several diseases, including cancer. It's good you are purchasing lean cuts, also consider only eating organic, grass feed beef and organic pork. OK, fish, mainly raw fish must be checked for parasites. You will most likely not be able to avoid them, so you may wish to do a monthly parasite cleanse. Well, that about does it. Wishing you and your loved ones the best of days, and may your home be filled with every blessing.

Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on August 01, 2015:

Hello, Bobby. I'm Ms. Charito. Several years back before reaching my menopause, I was diagnosed to be iron-deficient. I would easily feel tired. My OB/GYN then prescribed some iron tablets which I have stopped taking.

I'm now trying to correct my diet by eating more leafy vegetables and bitter melon. But I also eat lean meat (beef and pork).

I wonder if it's fine to eat more chicken liver and raw fish (since I like Japanese sushi and sashimi).

Robert Morgan (author) on August 01, 2015:

Hi, Billy, sorry about the late acknowledgement. I appreciate your comments and I know how difficult it is to change our eating habits, especially when we move past middle age. You must be doing something right. The great thing about life is that as long as we are healthy we can pretty much do anything we like. So, I am glad you're healthy and as long as you're in touch with your nutritional needs, you should be fine, especially if you throw a few proactive measures in for good measure. Blessings, Bobby

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 31, 2015:

Thanks for the information, Bobby. I hate to admit I don't eat any of the foods you listed. Now you have me thinking seriously about a change of diet. I've always had good health but how much longer do I want to bet on that good health continuing? Maybe I need to be proactive. :)

Robert Morgan (author) on July 28, 2015:

Hi Scott, Declining energy is not something to take lightly. Hope you have had a good checkup including a full blood panel screening including testosterone. A couple of things you can do right now to up your energy is to add MACA, MORINGA and some good green powder that includes blue/green algaes, wheat grass, etc. to your smoothie. Also, I find that If I double up on water for a few days it cleanses my system and energizes me. These suggestions are just, suggestions. Get checked out and stay well. Blessings, Bobby

promisem on July 28, 2015:

Rawspirit, I'm trying to deal with declining energy, and your tips have given me some ideas worth pursuing. I've been adding raw spinach to my smoothies, but didn't realize that cooking it will release more iron. Good to know.

Robert Morgan (author) on July 27, 2015:

Ok, get to it lol. I have 102 more of yours to read while you write this one. lol.

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on July 27, 2015:

Yes, I should write an article.

Take we take my camera and share with you the mud we are coping with now.

Has been a very wet winter, the Urenui river runs through our farm, so heavy rain overflows into the paddocks, leaving lots of slush and rubbish.

On my way to feed the cows now.

Robert Morgan (author) on July 27, 2015:

You both are amazing. Especially a lady who is a cancer Surthrivor. That's my name for people like you and me. We don't just survive cancer we are better and stronger people because of it. 120 cows, that's a lot of cows! I'm in my 60's, and I feel like I would be a wimpy guy next to you and your husband. lol. I wish you would write a little story about your lives there on the cattle farm in New Zeland. Make sure it has lots of pics. We would all love to see it. PLEASE, PLEASE. You have an incredible spirit; no big long article just put your spin on it. I can see it now. So, when you're finished with the cows ,take a rest and get to writing. Lots of blessings to you and your hubby. Bobby

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on July 27, 2015:

Answering your question "how many cows do you have?"

120cows, it's mid-winter in NZ, so it's feeding hay silage, etc in the paddocks.

We live in the bush country, very wet, feed the cows by pulling the large bags of grass, putting it on a trailer and spreading it out to the cows, very hard work, no machinery just use a quad and trailer and man-power, we are both in our seventies used to hard work.

Thanks for asking the question.

Robert Morgan (author) on July 27, 2015:

Thank you Faith, I read your cancer survivor story, and it touched my heart. I call us Cancer Surthrivors. I like that moniker, as it describes those of us who rejoice in having had the opportunity of experiencing cancer and living to tell the story. Back to the parasites, they are nasty little critters. When I was living in Africa, I had one crawl out my eye. Yuck! The problem with them is that they actually can play havoc with your immune system and for us Surthrivors, we have to make sure our immune systems are working at the highest level possible. As for your iron deficiency, like I said its prevalent among those who eat meat as well as vegetarians. Keep eating your veggies and try to keep red meats, or any meat for that matter, at a minimum. Try some good easily assimilated plant based proteins, like quinoa and hemp seeds. There're plenty of good plant based foods that are full of iron and don't require us to take the chances with the meat. Wishing you the best of best day, Bobby

Faith Reaper from southern USA on July 26, 2015:

Wow, Bobby, you have provided a lot of great and useful information here. We try not to eat much red meat anymore, but after reading about the parasites and such, I may give it up altogether! A few years ago, I had to have a couple of five-hour iron infusions, much to my surprise. Boy, was that an eye-opener for me. I was clueless about the iron deficiency, however, I was fatigued. They discovered it at the cancer center no doubt being they are always testing one's blood. I was healed of breast cancer in 2011.

Thank you for including your smoothie recipe and soup recipe too! I may have to give those a try.

Up +++ and sharing everywhere

Blessings and peace

Robert Morgan (author) on July 25, 2015:

Hello Ms. CrisSp, thanks for your kind words. Like you I get my iron from the same sources, being a living foods vegan for several years I had to work extra hard at getting protein and iron. I now get a lot of my iron for Blackstrap molasses which I add into my green drinks and smoothies once or twice a day. Thanks again for your comments.

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on July 25, 2015:

Very informative and helpful hub specially for those with iron deficiency like me.

I don't eat red meat, that's why but I'm trying to get as much from other resources. I like lentils and spinach soup. I'd cook it from time to time too.

Robert Morgan (author) on July 23, 2015:

You are amazing. Glad to know both of you are doing well. Oh, by the way how many cows do you have?

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on July 23, 2015:

My husband and I are red meat eaters, but my husband became anemic. He has a heart condition and was using aspirin to thin his blood.

He was always falling asleep as soon as he sat down, the doctor wanted to give him iron injections, but he refused them, stop taking the asprin, now he is full of energy doen't fall aspleep and very healthy, sometimes drugs make you worst.

We both have the same diet, I have no problem, in fact, I have trouble sleeping, we are both in our seventies.

Robert Morgan (author) on July 21, 2015:

Thanks again... I appreciate your kind words. With the health challenge you are facing, red meat could really aggravate your symptoms. Wishing you the best.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 20, 2015:

Useful information, especially since I do not eat red eat.

Robert Morgan (author) on July 19, 2015:

Thank you so much. Glad to know that what I have written will serve you and your family. Blessings

Kathy Henderson from Pa on July 16, 2015:

Great tips, I struggle with anemia and so does my daughter and hubby. Going to try your recipes for sure. :)

Robert Morgan (author) on June 27, 2015:

Thank you for stopping by. I love being vegetarian.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on June 26, 2015:

This is very informative and helpful hub indeed!

You are right in pointing out that Vegetarians have to keep an eye about their Iron rich foods intake.

Thanks for sharing, voted up as useful!

Robert Morgan (author) on June 11, 2015:

Thanks Larry, Being a vegan, iron rich leafy greens play an important part in my being able to keep my iron balanced. Thanks again for taking the time to read the article.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 08, 2015:

The interesting thing about iron is too much or too little is bad.

Very informative read.