Iron deficiency leads to fatigue, chest pain, and shortness of breath, among several other symptoms.
It’s common in the general omnivore population.
Considering that iron is even harder to get for vegans because plant iron comes in the less absorbable non-heme form, it’s no wonder that vegans are at a higher risk of being deficient.
Women who are menstruating regularly need even more iron to be healthy.
Do Vegans Need to Take an Iron Supplement?
For a person like myself who has lots of time to cook, it’s possible to get enough iron from vegan food sources.
But not everyone has that luxury.
The alternative is to start taking iron supplements, which is recommended if you’ve confirmed a deficiency. For reference, 14-18% of Americans regularly take a supplement that has iron, so it’s pretty common. It takes about 8-12 weeks to correct an iron deficiency with a supplement.
Before I move on, you should always check with a doctor before taking iron supplements because there can be side effects:
- Iron poisoning – Too much iron (over 20 mg/kg body weight) can lead to serious health risks (common in children).
- Antibiotic interaction – If you’re on medication, an iron supplement might inhibit it.
- Stomach issues – Typically not life threatening, but not comfortable.
Proper use of iron supplements is perfectly safe, just do it right.
Taking an iron supplement is a convenient way for vegans to get enough iron (which many don’t). Just make sure you follow the directions on the label.
What to Look For In a Vegan Iron Supplement
There are 3 things you may want to pay extra attention to in supplements:
- The amount of iron per serving.
- The form of the iron.
- Vitamin C.
Let me quickly summarize what you need to know about each of them.
How Much Iron Do You Need Per Day?
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron is 8 mg (for men) to 18 mg (for women).
Vegans that donate blood on a regular basis should try to get a bit more even.
Remember that you get at least some iron from your regular diet.
With an iron supplement, you want just enough not to be deficient, but you want to avoid getting too much that will make you sick.
Iron supplements usually have between 18-40 mg of iron per serving.
If you’re a man, you want to pick one on the lower end of that spectrum.
Even women will be fine on the lower end (if you want to be on the same side).
The only times you would benefit from the ones with much more iron would be if you have a history of anemia, or menstruate heavily. But these should be situations where you consult with your doctor first.
Note that if you do have an iron deficiency, it typically takes around 8-12 weeks of iron supplementation to resolve most deficiencies.
Which Form of Iron Supplement is Best?
If you look at a bunch of iron supplements, you’ll see 3 main types of iron:
- Ferric iron – The least dissolvable type.
- Ferrous iron – More absorbable than ferric iron. Comes in forms like ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, etc.
- Carbonyl iron – A form of pure iron. The most absorbable type, and easiest on stomach issues in most cases.
Considering how much iron is in these supplements, the form doesn’t really matter.
If you have stomach issues, I’d recommend trying the carbonyl type first if possible.
Vitamin C Improves Iron Absorption
Most (but not all) iron supplements include vitamin C.
That’s because vitamin C improves iron absorption substantially.
When you’re getting iron from food sources, you should try to eat it with at least 14 mg of vitamin C per mg of iron.
Considering supplements consist of isolated, more soluble forms, you don’t need quite that much vitamin C, but should still look for some.
- Men need 8 mg of iron per day, women need 18 mg.
- The type of iron in a supplement doesn’t matter in most cases.
- If you have a sensitive stomach, try to find a supplement with carbonyl iron.
- Look for a supplement with vitamin C, which greatly improves iron absorption.
The 4 Best Vegan Iron Supplements Reviewed
There aren’t quite as many vegan options as non-vegan options of course, but there’s still quite a few. I narrowed them down to the 4 best overall vegan iron supplements.
Overall, they are all around the same price and pretty affordable (usually around $20 for a 3 month supply).
|Name||Iron (mg)||Vitamin C (mg)||Cost per serving|
|EZ Melts Iron||18||30||$|
|Garden of Life||28||60||$|
|MegaFood Blood Builder||26||15||$$|
I’ll review each one in a bit more detail below if the chart wasn’t quite enough information for what you’re looking for.
Best Overall and for Sensitive Stomachs
Form of iron: Carbonyl Iron
This is one of the very few options you have for carbonyl iron, which is the most absorbable form of iron, and usually easiest on the stomach.
There are quite a few things about EZ Melt’s iron that makes it stand out from others:
- Fast-melting tablets that taste good.
- Small tablets compared to typical iron pills.
- Made in the U.S.
- 3rd party lab testing to ensure purity of product.
Additionally, it has the best ratio of iron:vitamin C of any product I came across.
There’s 18 mg of iron per servings, and 30 mg of vitamin C.
Overall this is the best option for vegan men and women unless you fall under a special case where you need a higher dose.
Form of iron: Not revealed
Garden of Life has a good reputation among vegan supplement manufacturers.
For some reason, though, they don’t reveal the form of iron in this supplement. Again, it’s not that important, but could be useful information to have.
The biggest way that this stands out from the rest is that it has other vitamins and minerals added.
For iron absorption specifically that’s not important, but if you were already taking a B12 pill for example, you could do away with it.
Here’s what is in Garden of Life’s iron supplement:
- Iron – 28 mg
- Vitamin C – 60 mg
- Folate – 300 mcg
- Vitamin B12 – 45 mcg
- Vitamin B6 – 5 mg
It has a good amount of vitamin C, which is great.
The amount of iron in it is probably too high to make it ideal for men. But for women it should be okay.
3. MegaFood Blood Builder (With Vitamin B12)
Form of iron: FoodState form
I never came across this form of iron anywhere else, but the product looks solid as a whole, which is why it made this list (the type of iron isn’t that important anyways).
In any case, MegaFood says their “foodstate form” iron is not in a typical isolated form, but in a form that iron comes in regularly in food. So it should be fine in any case, but I’m not sure if it’s better or worse than other forms.
Moving on, this product has a reasonable amount of iron, plus other vitamins:
- Iron – 26 mg
- Vitamin C – 15 mg
- Folate – 400 mcg
- Vitamin B12 – 30 mcg
While more vitamin C would likely improve absorption, at least there’s some.
Additionally, if you’re already taking a vegan vitamin B12 supplement, you could stop taking that since this has over 100% of the RDA for B12.
Form of iron: Amino Acid Chelated
This is the one product on this list that doesn’t have vitamin C in it.
Chelated minerals aren’t common in supplements, but they absorb well. Basically, iron molecules are attached to amino acids to improve absorption.
That should allow you to absorb enough iron from it, even without the vitamin C.
Additionally, this product has 30 mcg of vitamin B12, which is more than enough for your daily needs.
With 29 mg of iron per serving, this is again better suited for vegan women than men.
Wrapping up: Hopefully this has made the confusing world of vegan iron supplements a little easier to navigate, and that you find one that fits your needs. If you have any questions, leave them below.