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11 Iron-Rich Foods Vegetarians Should Add to Their Diet

Just because you don't eat steak doesn't mean you're stuck with low levels of this VIP mineral. Here's how to get your daily dose of iron from 100 percent plant-based foods.

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Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a surprisingly excellent source of iron for vegetarians. One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains about one milligram of iron, which is 5 percent of the recommended daily amount. Get their maximum nutrition by eating them raw, or gain a whole lot of flavor by roasting them for 15 to 20 minutes.

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Brussels sprouts

This cruciferous vegetable, in season in the fall and winter, is high in iron, which transports oxygen throughout your body and helps with energy production and metabolism. Brussels sprouts help prevent fatigue and other symptoms of iron deficiency and are also high in vitamins, folate, fiber, and antioxidants. Not getting enough iron-rich foods can cause symptoms of anemia, so talk to your doctor if you experience any of these signs.

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Lentils

As far as iron-rich foods go, this petite legume is perfect for vegetarians because it’s low in calories, high in fiber, and high in protein. As a bonus, legumes are just one of many foods with cancer-fighting powers.

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Black beans

Black beans are loaded with iron. Adding one cup to your daily food intake will give you 20 percent of the recommended amount of iron. Also high in filling fiber and protein, they’re a perfect food to help satisfy hunger and provide lasting energy. Check out more health benefits of beans, plus some surprising risks.

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Arugula

Fiber-rich arugula is also a good source of iron, and can improve the health of your red blood cells. Arugula won’t cost you much by way of calories like some iron-rich foods. It has just 5 per cup, and you’ll also get a nice helping of vitamin A, vitamin K, and even omega-3 fatty acids.

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Dried fruit

Dried fruit contains more iron per serving than fresh fruit because it’s been condensed. Try eating snacks such as dried peaches, raisins, and apricots to get more iron into your diet. Here are more healthy snack ideas to beat between-meal blahs.

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Prune juice

Prune juice is an unexpected source of iron. It also contains high levels of vitamin C, which allows your body to absorb the iron more efficiently. Read about other fruit juices with health benefits.

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Cooked spinach

Cooked spinach is also high in both iron and vitamin C. This combo allows your body to absorb as much iron as possible. Eating spinach raw is also a healthy option, but cooking it yields greater amounts of iron. Because it also contains magnesium, spinach is one of a handful of foods that are good for your gut.

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Brown rice

This simple diet staple is a great iron-rich food for vegetarians. Its high levels of iron help your body combat anemia, and its B vitamin content helps prevent fatigue. Brown rice is also rich in fiber, so it’s filling. Add brown rice to your meal of beans or vegetables to pack in even more iron, or consider it as an alternate healthy breakfast food.

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Tofu

This versatile vegetarian protein contains high amounts of iron and other essential minerals. To add more flavor to tofu, prepare it with some of your favorite sauces or seasonings.

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Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is not only delicious but it’s also extremely high in iron—100 grams, which is about one serving, contains 35 percent of your daily recommended intake, making it a tasty treat to work into your diet in moderation.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 with a B.A. in Journalism. When she’s not writing for RD.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.