Some vegetables that are good sources of iron include soybeans, lentils, spinach and tofu. Most beans and dark, leafy greens and some mushrooms are rich in iron. Eating dried fruit, olives, nuts and enriched grains are other ways of adding iron to a diet without resorting to eating meat.
Animal products are by far the best way to get iron into the diet, but even vegans can find enough of the nutrient without supplements. One problem is that vegetable-based iron sources contain non-heme iron, which is absorbed less readily by the body than iron from animal sources. Those following a vegan or vegetarian diet should consult with a physician or nutritionist to ensure they receive enough iron to avoid anemia and other problems.
While spinach is high in protein, for more than a decade it was mistakenly believed that it contained far more iron than it actually does. Nutritionists in the 19th century made mistakes in their study of the plant, reporting an iron content much higher than its actual nutritional value. A popular myth suggests that this mistake led to the cartoon character Popeye adopting canned spinach as his vegetable of choice, but in reality it was chosen due to its high vitamin A content. While children encouraged to eat their spinach may not have been receiving the doses of iron that their parents were hoping for, the vegetable was doing its part to protect the eyesight of generations of kids.