Are spinach and other vegetables a true substitute for meat as an iron source?

May 24, 2017

Sufficient iron intake plays an integral part in maintaining a healthy body.  In fact, iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutrition deficiency across all parts of the world. A deficiency in iron can cause loss of energy, mood changes and headaches.

Some have claimed spinach and other vegetables can be substituted for meat as an equal source of iron. However, research has shown this isn’t the case. First, the ease of absorption and utilization of iron and zinc is substantially higher after consumption of meat in comparison to vegetables. Thus, vegetarians must consume 1.8 times the amount of iron to meet the recommended intake compared to meat eaters.

Furthermore, the type of iron differs among plant and animal based found sources. Iron sources found in animal proteins contain heme iron, which has found to be more readily absorbed in the body. Whereas non-heme iron, found in plants, can be restricted during absorption due to certain compounds found in plants.

With all this in mind, it is crucial consumers still incorporate vegetables into the diet as they are good sources of vitamins and antioxidants. However, it is important to understand the differences in plant and animal-based foods to make informed decisions when it comes to a healthy, well balanced diet.




Image Sources:




Video Podcasts and Webinars

  • Grass or grain? Is there a definitively sustainable beef production system?


    The webinar examined the science relating to grass-fed and grain-fed beef in terms of sustainable... read more »

  • 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Update


    Kris Sollid, Registered Dietitian with the International Food Information Council and Sarah Romo... read more »

  • Meat in the Diet


    read more »

Social Media