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Plant Iron vs. Animal Iron: What’s the Difference?

Let’s take a closer look at some of the differences between plant and animal iron, and how it’s more beneficial to rely on a plant-based diet.

Those on the fence about following a primarily raw, plant-based diet are most commonly concerned about iron deficiencies, but there's no need to be. In fact, those who refuse to eat meat and instead rely on plant-based foods receive more fiber, magnesium, vitamins and, yes, even iron, according to Nutrition Facts. Plus, those individuals don't have to worry about the harmful side effects that come with consuming animal products. But what is it that makes plant iron the better option?

Let's take a closer look at some of the differences between plant and animal iron, and how it may be more beneficial to rely on a plant-based diet:

Plant Iron vs. Animal Iron: What's the difference?
It's easy to assume that iron only exists in meats, but there's plenty more where that came from. Non-heme iron, the kind found in plants, is the first type. Heme iron is the kind found in meats. The main difference between the two is that heme iron is absorbed faster than plant iron. While this may seem like a good thing, it could cause concern, because having too much iron in the blood – also known as hemochromatosis – is associated with heart attacks and can harm the lining of the blood vessels. This is more likely to occur when relying on meats for iron.

The second big difference is that absorption of heme iron is not regulated, while plant iron absorption is. If your body needs more iron, it absorbs more from plants. If you don't need more iron, it absorbs less plant iron. However, it will keep on absorbing heme iron, even reaching dangerous levels.

But this isn't the only reason consuming meats is harmful. Animal fat that is most likely found in its flesh can block up your blood flow and lead to high blood pressure. Plus, meats are acid-forming foods and can cause stomach problems after consumption.

Lentils are loaded with iron.Lentils are loaded with iron.

While non-heme iron is not as absorbable as heme, it can still be absorbed and contribute to overall wellness, especially if you refrain from drinking beverages like coffee, tea and wine, as they reduce iron absorption, according to Health Direct. Plus, eating raw, plant-based foods doesn't come with the blood-related chronic issues caused by consuming meats.

Some of the best sources of iron are found in plant-based foods like lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, apricots, figs, spinach, silverbeet and broccoli. Additionally, you can improve the absorption of iron in your system by eating more vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, kiwis and leafy green vegetables. Consider adding them to your meal, along with the iron-rich foods, for maximum absorption. You can also take a vitamin C supplement before eating for the same effect.

Making the Transition
As you can see, following a primarily raw, plant-based diet is one of the most health-conscious decisions you can make. If you need help making the transition away from meat, we have a plethora of books and resources you can use for guidance. Additionally, you can give our Hallelujah Diet Get Started Kit a shot. Packed with some of our fundamental supplements, you can aid your body back to optimal health and prepare it for a plant-based lifestyle.


  1. Jennifer July 25, 2017

    This is great information on iron. I know a lot of people who deal with iron deficiencies. It’s good to know the simple things we can do and things to avoid that will help without consuming the meat.

  2. Annette July 25, 2017

    This was a very interesting blog! So now I know about the Heme and Non Heme Iron and the importance of where we need to get our iron from. This part stood out at me…” because having too much iron in the blood – also known as hemochromatosis – is associated with heart attacks and can harm the lining of the blood vessels.” This really made me think on how important it is now to eat more healthy foods where your body can absorbed the good iron from.

  3. Angela Solomon August 7, 2017

    Thank you for this article, I do have an iron dificiency and constantly watch my diet to assure I am getting iron in each day. Having the list of plant based foods that are higer in iron helps me to make the right decisions.

  4. Carolyn B, Calhoun August 10, 2017

    Thanks for the list of the foods higher in iron. So many have an iron deficiency and don’t even know it. And on the other hand is being sure you do not have too much iron in your system. Got to maintain a healthy balance , Thanks for this blog. So much information we are not aware of.

  5. T Black August 15, 2017

    Great article! I appreciate you listing some excellent options for iron when following a plant-based diet. Very helpful.

    To be honest, I didn’t realize there was a difference between plant iron and meat iron. Thank you for explaining the difference and helping us understand the risks associated with consuming too much of the wrong kind.

  6. Suzanne July 16, 2019

    My iron is too high so I have to stop taking Vit C. I was not a big meat eater especially red meat. I was advised to stop eating completely red meat but it’s okay for grass fed chicken and fish. I did this and my iron has come down not at the normal level yet. I will be seeing an Hematologist to find out what is the reason I’m retaining too much iron. I don’t have hemochromatosis which is usually hereditary. I also don’t have high cholesterol and was checked for heart disease and all tests are normal.

  7. Connie July 16, 2019

    It is good to know that I can get iron from plant foods without the negatives that come with eating meat. According to this article, the kind of iron that comes from meat is heme iron which is quickly absorbed into the body. Getting too much iron is associated with heart attacks and can harm the lining of the blood vessels. That is amazing that my body regulates absorption of iron from plants –absorbing more iron when my body needs more iron. The heme iron that comes from meat is not the kind that my body can regulate. Animal fat can block blood flow and lead to high blood pressure. Meat is acid forming and can lead to high blood pressure. It is great that my body can get so much of what it needs from plants including iron.

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