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Iron from Plants is Better Quality Source than from Animal Blood

February 23, 2021

This article discusses why plant based iron sources are better quality than iron that comes from blood in animal products. Humans do not need to eat or drink blood to have a healthy level of iron. In-fact animal iron sources potentially cause too much iron which causes inflammation and a variety of diseases. The only reason you may want to consume meat with blood is if you don't have any other source of iron, or do not have access to plant based foods that have high levels of iron in them.

There are 2 kinds of iron in food:

  • Heme iron - found in blood and muscle (meat and animal products) 
  • Non-heme iron - found in plant foods like green leafy vegetables, beans, and nuts. (plant based whole foods). 

Heme Iron is iron in an animals blood. That iron got there because the animal ate Non-heme iron from plants. This iron already in the blood of an animal absorbs about 10 time easier than Non-heme iron found in plants. That fact alone is sometime the only thing people know about iron, and is why some people say getting iron from animal products is superior. But as you learn more, it turns out that the high absorption is not a good thing. It's actually dangerously bad for the body as high iron levels have damaging effects on the body.

Real Food has Mud Not Blood

You can think of it as taking iron from an animal's blood that got the iron from eating plants. Or you can just eat plants to absorb the iron in a way that our bodies are designed to absorb nutrients. There is plenty of Non-heme iron in plants like leafy green vegetables, beans, legumes and nuts.

Vegetarians tend to have a well balanced amount of iron, as Non-heme iron absorption from plants is regulated by hormones. If the body has enough iron, it will absorb less. if it has too little, it absorbs more.  There is no correlation between low iron and vegans or vegetarians. So there is no advantage to Heme-iron if you are eating a healthy diet of a variety of whole foods. 

Iron Sources in Plants
Source: -
Why Heme (Animal Based) Iron is Bad for You and Healthy Alternative Vegan Iron Sources

Heme-iron from animal products is absorbed into the body at a higher rate. There is no mechanism to limit the absorption of Heme-iron, which makes it risky for absorbing too much. It is a "pro-oxidant" (opposite of anti-oxidant), and too much of it can induce oxidative stress (inflammation) and DNA damage due to the iron-associated production of a dangerous free radical called hydroxyl (-OH ).  Specifically, heme iron has been linked to metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis,  cancer and other serious medical conditions. 


If you are low in iron for a specific reason and want to boost your bodies ability to absorb plant based non-heme iron to the levels you would absorb heme iron, you can combine it with fruit with high levels of vitamin C.

This video is really good at explaining the miss-conception and the science behind heme-iron and plant based non-heme iron: 

I eat Chia seeds, Spinach, Lemon, banana and avocados almost every day. I eat a variety of other plant based sources of iron on a weekly basis.

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