Food & Recipes

5 Meat-Free, Iron-Rich Food Combinations

If you’re a vegetarian — or even someone who just doesn’t eat a lot of meat — you’re likely often asked if you’re getting enough iron in your diet.

Because iron is found in foods such as red meat, pork, and poultry, people likely assume because you aren’t eating meat, you aren’t getting enough iron in your diet.

Luckily, plenty of plant-based foods contain iron, and if you include enough of them in your diet, you won’t have to worry about being low in the nutrient.

However, there is a slight difference in the type of iron found in plant-based foods than found in animal proteins. Heme iron is derived from hemoglobin, which comes from animal sources.

Non-heme iron comes from plants, but our body has a harder time absorbing iron from non-heme sources. Luckily, pairing your iron-filled food with foods rich in vitamin C can help improve absorption, so it’s important to pick your plant-based meals accordingly.

If you want to include more iron-rich foods into your diet, try these meat-free combinations that are filled with the nutrient.

1. Black Beans And Tomatoes

It’s not too hard to pair black beans and tomatoes together. Make a black bean burrito, mix together a Mexican-inspired salad, or even create a hearty soup with the two ingredients to create an iron-rich combo that will be sure to rival any old cheeseburger.

black bean salsa photo
Photo by Maggie Hoffman

2. Broccoli And Lemon

Broccoli and lemon can be prepared by itself, added to a salad, or even mixed together in a rice or quinoa dish. The vitamin C in lemon will help to increase absorption of the iron found in the broccoli, and it also adds a flavorful kick.

lemon broccoli photo
Photo by amberdegrace

3. Lentils And Yellow Peppers

Lentils and yellow peppers taste great together in a curry, a spiced salad, or even soup. Lentils are an excellent source of meat-free protein, and yellow peppers contain more vitamin C than even an orange.

lentils yellow pepper photo
Photo by marajane creations

4. Kale And Red Peppers

Whether you combine kale and red peppers in a salad, toss them with some pasta, or even throw them into an omelette, the two work together to create an iron-rich combination that includes a little crunch. Kale is filled with both iron and vitamin C, and red peppers, with their own dose of vitamin C, help to increase absorption as well.

kale red pepper photo
Photo by Shoshanah

5. Spinach And Strawberries

Add some strawberries to your spinach salad for extra flair, or blend the two ingredients together to make a green smoothie that’s not only refreshing, but filled with nutrients as well. Spinach is high in iron, while strawberries provide the much-needed vitamin C.

spinach strawberries photo
Photo by stevendepolo

Photo by Plat