Nuts are a fairly good plant-based source of iron, but some are better than others.
I’ve compiled data on the amount of iron in each type of common nut per 100 gram serving.
Table of Contents
How Much Iron Do You Need?
In order to make sense of the data just below on this page, you’ll need to have a reference for what a “lot” of iron actually is.
For an adult man, the recommended amount is at least 8 mg of iron per day. For a woman, the RDA is 18 mg.
Nuts High in Iron
The table below shows both the amount of iron in a variety of nuts as a raw quantity, and also as a percent of RDA (using 18 mg as the reference value).
|Iron (mg)||Iron (%RDA)|
All nuts have at least 13% of the RDA in a 100 gram serving, but the nuts highest in iron are:
- Pine nuts
Are Nuts a Good Iron Source Compared to Alternatives?
One other question we can ask is whether or not it’s worth it to get iron from nuts.
The first part of the answer is to look at how it stacks up with other iron sources.
Heme vs. Non-Heme Iron
One of the biggest challenges for a vegan is to get enough iron.
This isn’t because it’s that hard to get iron from plant-sources, but because of the type of iron:
- Plants like nuts have non-heme iron
- Animal products (i.e. meat) have heme iron
Heme iron can be absorbed much more efficiently, which is one of the limitations of plant-based iron sources like nuts.
Nuts Compared to Other Plant Sources of Iron
Even though it’s more difficult, it’s still possible to get enough iron as a vegan.
But let’s compare the amount of iron to other potential plant-based sources of iron. Here’s a chart of the best vegan iron sources per 100 grams.
While seeds are arguably the best plant-based food for iron, nuts are a close second.
Most of the nuts we’ve looked at rank well on that list.
Is Getting a Lot of Iron From Nuts Healthy?
The final thing we need to consider is whether or not eating 200 grams or more of nuts is healthy, because it’s quite a large serving.
For reference, a cup of nuts is about 135 grams.
So if you wanted to get over half of your RDA of iron from nuts, you’d have to eat 1.5-2 cups of the top nuts we’ve looked at.
That comes with some drawbacks:
- Nuts have a lot of calories – Just 1 cup of nuts typically has about 900 calories, which is a large chunk of the recommended amount of daily calories.
- Most nuts have poor omega fat ratios – Research shows that having a poor ratio of omega 3 to 6 fats can lead to inflammation, which can lead to many consequences. See my page on the omega fat ratios of nuts for specific data.
In short, it’s hard to fit a large quantity of nuts in most healthy diets.
Nuts are a great source of iron, but shouldn’t be the only iron-dense source of iron in a healthy diet.