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Iron is very important for various functions in our body. For example, it binds oxygen to the haemoglobin in our red blood cells. Iron is also important for the immune system. Most people get enough iron from their diet. However, under certain circumstances, such as a vegan diet, pregnancy or increased nutrient requirements, it can be useful to supplement the diet with an iron supplement. We provide you with all the important information on this topic in our big vegan iron test 2021. We will introduce you to some products, show you what is important and answer all the important questions about vegan iron.




The most important facts

  • Iron is an important substance in your body. It binds the oxygen in your blood and muscles.
  • Iron deficiency particularly affects women, children and older people. It can manifest itself, for example, in persistent fatigue, hair loss and restless legs.
  • Vegan iron supplements are available in tablet, capsule and liquid form. You should always consult a doctor for advice on the correct dosage.

The Best Vegan Iron: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for vegan iron

When buying vegan iron, you can look at various aspects, such as:

By making the right choice for you, you can save money and also ensure that you don't give your body anything it doesn't need. Therefore, always look for high quality and, if necessary, ask to see the manufacturer's certificates.

Dosage form

The most common form of vegan iron are tablets or capsules. There are also solutions for drinking. Which form you choose is a matter of taste. Some people have problems taking tablets or capsules. In this case, a solution may be the right choice.

Dosage

No general recommendation can be made regarding the dosage of iron. This depends on many factors, such as the extent of the deficiency or the sex and age of the person concerned. Dosages of 14 to 50 milligrams are commonly found on the internet. Which dosage you should ultimately choose must always be decided by your doctor.

Quality

If you value a vegan diet, you should make sure that your iron supplement is really vegan. This is not always the case. However, this is usually easy to recognise, as the declaration is often clearly visible on the label. Your vegan iron should not contain an unnecessary amount of other nutrients. These are often in too high doses and can harm rather than help your body.

Composition

Your body can absorb iron especially well in combination with vitamin C. A preparation that contains both iron and vitamin C is a particularly convenient solution. You can also choose vegan iron without additional vitamin C.

You should look for high-quality ingredients.

Then you should take it with a glass of orange juice or eat some red peppers. These both contain a lot of vitamin C and help your body absorb the iron. Vegan iron should always be lactose-free. If you are sensitive to gluten, you should also make sure that your supplement is gluten-free.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about vegan iron answered in detail

In order to inform you comprehensively about the effectiveness of vegan iron and to give you an understanding of the current state of science, we have summarised all the important information for you in the following sections.

What is vegan iron and how does it work?

In case of iron deficiency, iron supplements are often prescribed or recommended. But vegans cannot take all of these supplements because some are not vegan. However, there are alternatives that fit a vegan lifestyle.

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Vegans have to be careful when choosing an iron supplement, because not all alternatives are vegan. (Image source: Anna Pelzer/unsplash)

An iron supplement, whether vegan or not, is meant to combat iron deficiency in your body. However, it may be that taking it orally is no longer enough. In this case, it is possible to administer iron intravenously. (1)

When and for whom does it make sense to take vegan iron?

Those who eat a vegan diet must always keep an eye on their iron supply. The body can absorb the iron contained in meat better than plant-based iron. A vegetarian or vegan diet excludes this source of iron. In addition, some plant foods contain substances that inhibit the absorption of plant iron. (2) An iron deficiency can be manifested by persistent fatigue, hair loss or restlessness in the legs. (1) A number of other symptoms are also possible. If you suspect you have an iron deficiency, you should always consult your family doctor first. He or she may check your serum ferritin concentration. This provides information about your iron status. (3) Only when a doctor has diagnosed an iron deficiency should you take an iron supplement. Your family doctor will help you choose a suitable iron supplement.

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You should not take food supplements such as iron without medical advice. (Image source: Hush Naidoo/unsplash)

Especially children, women and older people are more often affected by iron deficiency. (4)

Is vegan iron also suitable for children and babies?

In Europe, iron deficiency is not uncommon even in healthy children between 6 and 36 months. (5) . Children belong to the risk group for iron deficiency, as growth is accompanied by an increased need for iron. (6) Iron deficiency in children is also often counteracted with iron supplements. However, there are also indications that negative effects can occur even at low doses. These include reduced growth and increased illnesses such as diarrhoea. (7)

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Children are more susceptible to iron deficiency than other population groups. (Image source: Robert Collins/unsplash)

When feeding children a vegan diet, it is always a case-by-case decision whether to supplement iron or not. (8)

Can I also take vegan iron during pregnancy?

There are other circumstances besides a vegan diet that increase the risk of iron deficiency. These include pregnancy, for example. Pregnant women have about twice the iron requirement as women who are not pregnant. Iron deficiency and anaemia are two common complications of pregnancy. Treatment with an oral iron supplement is the remedy of choice here in most cases. (9) Even if you are pregnant, you should not take iron supplements on your own. Your gynaecologist always keeps an eye on your iron supply and will prescribe an appropriate remedy if necessary.

How much do vegan iron products cost?

There are two price levels for vegan iron: under 20 euros and over 20 euros. The more expensive products are usually either combination preparations for vegans that contain many different nutrients, or products with lower doses of iron.

Type price range
Dosage below 40 milligrams of iron 10 to 26 euros
Dosage with 40 milligrams of iron 13 to 20 euros
Dosage with 50 milligrams of iron 15 to 20 euros
Combination preparation 5 to 25 euros

Basically, there are no big price differences for vegan iron. What is striking is the wide price range for the combination preparations. Here, the cheapest product of all is also represented at around 5 euros. This enormous price difference could possibly be related to the quality, but this package also contains considerably fewer (about a third to a quarter) tablets than all the other products.

What side effects can vegan iron have?

Taking iron supplements seems to be associated with the development of diseases of the small and large intestine. However, the dosage of the preparation does not seem to play a role in this. (10) In some cases, side effects such as nausea or constipation have been observed in pregnant women. In this case, it may be an alternative to reduce the daily intake of iron to one to three times a week. (11) However, you should discuss this with your doctor.

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Iron supplements can also have side effects such as constipation. (Image source: Volodymyr Hryshchenko/unsplash)

When taking iron, it is always important to weigh up the risks of an undersupply and the risks of an oversupply. (12) That is why the right dosage is so important. It's also why you should never reach for an iron supplement without medical advice.

What types of vegan iron are there?

Vegan iron is not available in pure form, so it always has to be extracted and prepared first. Ultimately, preparations are made from it in different dosage forms. We present the four most common types in the table below.

Type Description
vegan iron tablets Here you take the iron in a firmly compressed form. The tablets then dissolve in the stomach.
liquid vegan iron Iron as a juice or tonic is more convenient for some people as there is no need to swallow solid objects.
vegan iron capsules iron capsules are tasteless and work similarly to iron tablets.

We will explain what exactly makes up each type and what advantages and disadvantages they have below.

Vegan iron tablets

Iron tablets dissolve in the stomach. The nutrients are then absorbed through the stomach lining. Most iron tablets come in combination with vitamin C. This makes it easier for your body to absorb the iron. This makes it easier for your body to absorb the iron. So you don't have to make sure you take orange juice or peppers with your tablets. The tablets are available in large storage packs so that you are supplied for several months. Tablets basically have the advantage that the dosage is always the same and predetermined. They also have a long shelf life and can be cut into pieces if necessary.

Advantages
  • Combination preparations available
  • stock packs possible
  • longer shelf life
  • exact dosage
Disadvantages
  • may not be tasteless
  • unpleasant to take for some people

Iron tablets are the most common type of iron supplement. However, if you prefer not to take tablets, we have presented other alternatives below.

Liquid vegan iron

Iron is also available as a juice or tonic. It is even available as a spray. The main advantage of this type of preparation is that it is easy to take, as there are no tablets or capsules to swallow. However, you have to dose a juice or tonic yourself. This can quickly become a sticky affair.

Advantages
  • easy to take
  • pleasant taste
Disadvantages
  • you have to measure it yourself
  • shorter shelf life

In terms of taste, most juices are quite pleasant. However, they can discolour the teeth. A liquid iron preparation does not keep as long as the solid forms. For those who cannot cope with tablets or capsules, they can still be a real alternative. An iron spray has the advantage that the nutrients are absorbed directly through the oral mucosa.

Vegan iron capsules

Capsules also offer the advantage of a long shelf life. In addition, the shell of the capsule can mask an unpleasant taste of its own. Iron capsules are also easy to dose. However, they cannot be cut into pieces.

Advantages
  • long shelf life
  • no taste of its own
  • suitable dosage
Disadvantages
  • sometimes not vegan
  • cannot be divided

Those who really value a vegan lifestyle should make sure that the capsules do not contain animal products. Often the shell is made of animal gelatine, which is of course not vegan.

How should vegan iron be dosed?

You should not take food supplements like iron without medical advice. If you are diagnosed with an iron deficiency, your doctor will determine the appropriate dosage. The recommended daily intake of iron depends on your gender and age. Men over 19 usually need 10 milligrams of iron a day. Menstruating women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding need about 15 milligrams of iron. During pregnancy, the requirement increases to 30 milligrams. (13)

What are the alternatives to vegan iron?

Instead of taking an iron supplement, you can also eat more iron-rich foods. Of course, this only works if your iron deficit is not yet too great. If you often have to deal with low iron, a change in diet can be a permanent solution. Oral iron supplements are usually not tolerated well enough to be taken permanently. (14) Below we have listed some vegan foods that contain a lot of iron:

  • Oatmeal
  • steamed chanterelles
  • Pistachios
  • Swiss chard
  • Chickpeas

There are other foods that are good for replenishing your iron stores. There are also foods that can inhibit iron absorption. If possible, you should not eat these at the same time as iron-rich foods. These include:

  • Tea
  • Red wine
  • Coffee
  • Processed cheese

Here, too, the list could be continued. Of course, you can also promote iron intake. You should pay attention to foods with ascorbic acid. (15) Oranges, broccoli and red peppers can help.

Image source: Firsova / 123rf

References (15)

1. DeLoughery, T.G. , Iron Deficiency Anemia, Medical Clinics of North America, Volume 101, Issue 2, 2017, Pages 319-332, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcna.2016.09.004
Source

2. Haider LM, Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G, Ekmekcioglu C. The effect of vegetarian diets on iron status in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2018 May 24;58(8):1359-1374. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2016.1259210. Epub 2017 Jul 5. PMID: 27880062.
Source

3. Rushton DH. Nutritional factors and hair loss. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2002 Jul;27(5):396-404. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2230.2002.01076.x. PMID: 12190640.
Source

4. Cappellini MD, Musallam KM, Taher AT. Iron deficiency anaemia revisited. J Intern Med. 2020 Feb;287(2):153-170. doi: 10.1111/joim.13004. Epub 2019 Nov 12. PMID: 31665543.
Source

5. van der Merwe LF, Eussen SR. Iron status of young children in Europe. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Dec;106(Suppl 6):1663S-1671S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.156018. Epub 2017 Oct 25. PMID: 29070549; PMCID: PMC5701725.
Source

6. Domellöf M, Braegger C, Campoy C, Colomb V, Decsi T, Fewtrell M, Hojsak I, Mihatsch W, Molgaard C, Shamir R, Turck D, van Goudoever J; ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition. Iron requirements of infants and toddlers. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2014 Jan;58(1):119-29. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000206. PMID: 24135983.
Source

7. Lönnerdal B. Excess iron intake as a factor in growth, infections, and development of infants and young children. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Dec;106(Suppl 6):1681S-1687S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.156042. Epub 2017 Oct 25. PMID: 29070544; PMCID: PMC5701711.
Source

8. Lemale J, Mas E, Jung C, Bellaiche M, Tounian P; French-speaking Pediatric Hepatology, Gastroenterology and Nutrition Group (GFHGNP). Vegan diet in children and adolescents. Recommendations from the French-speaking Pediatric Hepatology, Gastroenterology and Nutrition Group (GFHGNP). Arch Pediatr. 2019 Oct;26(7):442-450. doi: 10.1016/j.arcped.2019.09.001. Epub 2019 Oct 12. PMID: 31615715.
Source

9. Flachs Madsen LR, Bülow NS, Tanvig M, Oldenburg A, Andersen LLT, Skorstengaard M, Petersen L, Ring CM, Magnusson K, Lauenborg J. [Diagnostics and treatment of iron deficiency in pregnancy]. Ugeskr Laeger. 2018 Oct 8;180(41):V03180210. Danish. PMID: 30327079.
Source

10. Tolkien Z, Stecher L, Mander AP, Pereira DI, Powell JJ. Ferrous sulfate supplementation causes significant gastrointestinal side-effects in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2015 Feb 20;10(2):e0117383. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117383. PMID: 25700159; PMCID: PMC4336293.
Source

11. Fernández-Gaxiola AC, De-Regil L. Intermittent iron supplementation for reducing anaemia and its associated impairments in adolescent and adult menstruating women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2019, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD009218. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009218.pub3
Source

12. Brannon PM, Taylor CL. Iron Supplementation during Pregnancy and Infancy: Uncertainties and Implications for Research and Policy. Nutrients. 2017 Dec 6;9(12):1327. doi: 10.3390/nu9121327. PMID: 29210994; PMCID: PMC5748777.
Source

13. Klaus Schümann, Thomas Ettle, Bernadett Szegner, Bernd Elsenhans, Noel W. Solomons, Risiken und Nutzen der Eisensupplementation: Empfehlungen zur Eisenaufnahme kritisch betrachtet, Perspectives in Medicine, Volume 2, Issues 1–4, 2014, Pages 19-39, ISSN 2211-968X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.permed.2013.09.003.
Source

14. Clénin GE. The treatment of iron deficiency without anaemia (in otherwise healthy persons). Swiss Med Wkly. 2017 Jun 14;147:w14434. doi: 10.4414/smw.2017.14434. PMID: 28634965.
Source

15. Teucher B, Olivares M, Cori H. Enhancers of iron absorption: ascorbic acid and other organic acids. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2004 Nov;74(6):403-19. doi: 10.1024/0300-9831.74.6.403. PMID: 15743017.
Source

Why you can trust me?

Review
DeLoughery, T.G. , Iron Deficiency Anemia, Medical Clinics of North America, Volume 101, Issue 2, 2017, Pages 319-332, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcna.2016.09.004
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Haider LM, Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G, Ekmekcioglu C. The effect of vegetarian diets on iron status in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2018 May 24;58(8):1359-1374. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2016.1259210. Epub 2017 Jul 5. PMID: 27880062.
Go to source
Review
Rushton DH. Nutritional factors and hair loss. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2002 Jul;27(5):396-404. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2230.2002.01076.x. PMID: 12190640.
Go to source
Review
Cappellini MD, Musallam KM, Taher AT. Iron deficiency anaemia revisited. J Intern Med. 2020 Feb;287(2):153-170. doi: 10.1111/joim.13004. Epub 2019 Nov 12. PMID: 31665543.
Go to source
Review
van der Merwe LF, Eussen SR. Iron status of young children in Europe. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Dec;106(Suppl 6):1663S-1671S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.156018. Epub 2017 Oct 25. PMID: 29070549; PMCID: PMC5701725.
Go to source
Positionspapier
Domellöf M, Braegger C, Campoy C, Colomb V, Decsi T, Fewtrell M, Hojsak I, Mihatsch W, Molgaard C, Shamir R, Turck D, van Goudoever J; ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition. Iron requirements of infants and toddlers. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2014 Jan;58(1):119-29. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000206. PMID: 24135983.
Go to source
Review
Lönnerdal B. Excess iron intake as a factor in growth, infections, and development of infants and young children. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Dec;106(Suppl 6):1681S-1687S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.156042. Epub 2017 Oct 25. PMID: 29070544; PMCID: PMC5701711.
Go to source
Leitlinie für die Praxis
Lemale J, Mas E, Jung C, Bellaiche M, Tounian P; French-speaking Pediatric Hepatology, Gastroenterology and Nutrition Group (GFHGNP). Vegan diet in children and adolescents. Recommendations from the French-speaking Pediatric Hepatology, Gastroenterology and Nutrition Group (GFHGNP). Arch Pediatr. 2019 Oct;26(7):442-450. doi: 10.1016/j.arcped.2019.09.001. Epub 2019 Oct 12. PMID: 31615715.
Go to source
Review
Flachs Madsen LR, Bülow NS, Tanvig M, Oldenburg A, Andersen LLT, Skorstengaard M, Petersen L, Ring CM, Magnusson K, Lauenborg J. [Diagnostics and treatment of iron deficiency in pregnancy]. Ugeskr Laeger. 2018 Oct 8;180(41):V03180210. Danish. PMID: 30327079.
Go to source
Review
Tolkien Z, Stecher L, Mander AP, Pereira DI, Powell JJ. Ferrous sulfate supplementation causes significant gastrointestinal side-effects in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2015 Feb 20;10(2):e0117383. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117383. PMID: 25700159; PMCID: PMC4336293.
Go to source
Review
Fernández-Gaxiola AC, De-Regil L. Intermittent iron supplementation for reducing anaemia and its associated impairments in adolescent and adult menstruating women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2019, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD009218. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009218.pub3
Go to source
Review
Brannon PM, Taylor CL. Iron Supplementation during Pregnancy and Infancy: Uncertainties and Implications for Research and Policy. Nutrients. 2017 Dec 6;9(12):1327. doi: 10.3390/nu9121327. PMID: 29210994; PMCID: PMC5748777.
Go to source
Eingeladener Übersichtsartikel
Klaus Schümann, Thomas Ettle, Bernadett Szegner, Bernd Elsenhans, Noel W. Solomons, Risiken und Nutzen der Eisensupplementation: Empfehlungen zur Eisenaufnahme kritisch betrachtet, Perspectives in Medicine, Volume 2, Issues 1–4, 2014, Pages 19-39, ISSN 2211-968X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.permed.2013.09.003.
Go to source
Review
Clénin GE. The treatment of iron deficiency without anaemia (in otherwise healthy persons). Swiss Med Wkly. 2017 Jun 14;147:w14434. doi: 10.4414/smw.2017.14434. PMID: 28634965.
Go to source
Review
Teucher B, Olivares M, Cori H. Enhancers of iron absorption: ascorbic acid and other organic acids. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2004 Nov;74(6):403-19. doi: 10.1024/0300-9831.74.6.403. PMID: 15743017.
Go to source
Reviews