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Worried that your diet is lacking in iron? Want to increase your iron intake? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide we’ll discuss everything you need to know about iron, including what it is, why it’s important, and proven ways to increase your iron levels.
What is iron?
Iron is a mineral that has several roles throughout the body. Its main function is to carry oxygen in the hemoglobin of red blood cells. This enables the cells to produce energy. Iron also helps to remove carbon dioxide from the cells. It's even needed to make certain hormones.
When the body doesn't have enough iron, red blood cells aren't able to carry oxygen efficiently. This condition is called iron deficiency anemia.
Iron found in food comes in two different forms: heme and nonheme. Plant foods, like vegetables, and iron-fortified food products, like cereal, contain nonheme iron. Poultry, meat, and seafood contain both heme and nonheme iron.
The body most efficiently absorbs iron from plant sources when eaten with poultry, meat, or seafood, as well as when eaten with foods that contain high amounts of vitamin C, including citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, and broccoli.
How much iron do I need in a day?
There are many factors that dictate how much iron you need on a daily basis, including your age, sex, and your diet. Vegetarians, vegans, and others who don't consume poultry, meat, or seafood, need about twice as much iron as the average person. This is because the body doesn't absorb non-heme iron, which comes from plant foods, as well as heme iron, which is found in animal products.
Adult men aged 19-50 years old need around 8 mg of iron each day, while women of the same age need about 18 mg. Adults 51 years and older need 8 mg of iron each day to maintain healthy levels. It's important to note that pregnant women need more iron and should consume around 27 mg a day.
What are the symptoms of low iron?
An iron deficiency rarely causes obvious symptoms. This is because the body stores iron in the muscles, bone marrow, and various organs, including the liver and spleen. When iron stores become low, iron deficiency anemia sets in.
When this happens, the red blood cells contain less hemoglobin because of their reduced size. This means that there's less oxygen in the blood that's carried from the lungs throughout the body.
Some of the most common symptoms associated with iron deficiency anemia include:
Weakness and tiredness
Lack of energy
Inability to concentrate
If you experience any of these symptoms, it's best to contact your doctor, who can perform testing to determine if you're suffering from iron deficiency anemia.
Who is at risk of not getting enough iron?
Most people get plenty of iron from their diet alone. However, there are certain groups of people who are at a higher risk of being deficient in iron. These include:
Teens and women with heavy periods
Frequent blood donors
Infants, especially premature or low-birth weight
People with certain health conditions (heart failure, cancer and GI disorders)
Vegetarians and vegans are also at an increased risk of an iron deficiency.
Are there different types of iron supplements?
There's no shortage of health supplements available today, including iron supplements. Iron is found in most multivitamin supplements and there are also iron only supplements. Iron supplements can contain four types of iron: ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, ferric citrate, or ferric sulfate.
NOTE: Taking too much iron can be toxic. Always talk with your doctor first before adding iron supplements to your daily regimen. Also, iron supplements can be deadly to young children, especially those under the age of 6. Be sure to safely store these products so that they are out of reach for children.
Top 15 iron products
Dose: 1 per day
Price: $44.99 for 30 tablets
Even though iron is found in many different foods, it's still possible to be deficient. With Elm & Rye Iron, you can have peace of mind that your iron levels are in a healthy range. This supplement boosts hemoglobin, improves concentration, and reduces fatigue so that you can feel your best every day.
Elm & Rye Iron is developed by a world-class team of researchers. The supplement contains ferrous fumarate iron, which is a well-absorbed form of the nutrient.
Elm & Rye Iron is available in capsules and gummies! Both products are gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free. Elm & Rye products are made with pure ingredients, which means that this supplement doesn't contain any GMOs or preservatives.
2. Nature Made Iron with Vitamin C Gummies
Dose: 18 mg
Price: $13.69 for 60 gummies
Taking your daily supplements should be an enjoyable experience. With Nature Made Iron with Vitamin C Gummies, you can chew your way to healthy iron levels. Nature Made is a well-known name in the supplement industry, which means you can buy with total confidence.
These raspberry flavored gummies are specially formulated to support red blood cell formulation. Each gummy provides 18 mg of iron, which accounts for most people’s 100% daily value.
Because Nature Made Iron with Vitamin C Gummies are made with vitamin C, your body is able to absorb iron even better.
3. Nature's Bounty Gentle Iron
Dose: 28 mg
Price: $8.29 for 90 capsules
Want to support healthy iron levels without the risk of digestive issues or other side effects? Nature's Bounty Gentle Iron is formulated to be gentle on the stomach. Each serving provides 28 mg of iron glycinate.
This supplement also contains folic acid and vitamin B12. Together these nutrients support hemoglobin and cellular energy utilization. It also supports women’s nutritional health, including those who are pregnant or menstruating.
4. Natalist Iron
Dose: 54 mg
Price: $18.00 for 90 capsules
Did you know that over 40% of pregnant women are anemic? Did you know that 25% of them are iron deficient? If left untreated, low iron levels can be extremely dangerous. Support healthy iron levels during your pregnancy with Natalist Iron.
A two-tablet serving provides 54 mg of iron carbonyl. These time release tablets are gentle and won’t cause digestive problems or other unwanted side effects. Natalist Iron is vegan and is formulated to meet APA and WHO guidelines.
This iron supplement doesn't contain any wheat, gluten, soy, dairy, corn, or other common allergens.
5. JSHealth Iron+
Dose: 24 mg
Price: $14.99 for 30 tablets
Say goodbye to fatigue and tiredness with JSHealth Iron+. With this supplement, you can effortlessly increase your iron intake so that you feel your best. The non-constipating formula offers high absorption so that your body gets the iron it needs.
JSHealth Iron+is also formulated with vitamin B12 and vitamin C. Vitamin B12 supports healthy energy levels while vitamin C increases iron absorption. JSHealth Iron+ is gluten-free, GMO-free, and is 100% vegan.
When taken as directed, you'll notice an increase in your energy levels along with improved vitality and immune function.
6. Life Extension Iron Protein Plus
Dose: 15 mg
Price: $21.00 for 100 capsules
Effortlessly boost your iron levels with Life Extension Iron Protein Plus. This supplement promotes healthy red blood cell formation while also supporting the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity and immune health.
This supplement is unique in that it contains succinylate, an iron protein. This form of iron is well-tolerated, especially in those with sensitive stomachs. It’s also highly absorbable, which means you get the most benefit from a single daily capsule.
At 15 mg per capsule, Life Extension Iron Protein Plus provides just the right amount of iron without the risk of digestive upset.
7. Nature's Truth Ferrous Sulfate Iron
Dose: 65 mg
Price: $8.25 for 120 tablets
Support your health goals with Nature's Truth Ferrous Sulfate Iron. These vegetarian coated tablets offer 65 mg of iron per serving, which is more than enough to keep your body fueled and working as it should. One tablet a day promotes red blood cell production while also maintaining healthy energy utilization.
Nature's Truth Ferrous Sulfate Iron doesn't contain any gluten, wheat, milk, yeast, or soy. It's also formulated without any artificial flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives.
8. New Chapter Fermented Iron Complex
Dose: 9 mg
Price: $27.00 for 60 tablets
Looking for an iron complex supplement to provide whole-body support? New Chapter Fermented Iron Complex is sure to fit the bill. This supplement is formulated with whole-food fermented iron, along with other vitamins and minerals that provide blood health support along with superfoods like ginger and turmeric.
It's also made with a digestive support and stress and energy blend, which are loaded with all sorts of natural and botanical ingredients. Not only is New Chapter Fermented Iron Complex convenient to take, it’s easy-to-digest and can be safely taken on an empty stomach.
New Chapter Fermented Iron Complex doesn't contain any gluten, allergens, heavy metals, pesticides, or residual solvents, which means you can take it with total trust and confidence.
9. Doctor's Best High Absorption Iron
Dose: 27 mg
Price: $10.99 for 120 tablets
Give your body the right amount of iron it needs with Doctor's Best High Absorption Iron. This supplement is specially formulated with Ferrochel iron, which is chelated to provide high absorption and increased tolerability. It’s also easy on the stomach, which means little to no side effects.
When taken as directed, Doctor's Best High Absorption Iron supports cell production and immune health. This iron supplement is vegan, non-GMO, soy-free, and gluten-free, making it suitable for all lifestyles.
10. The Vitamin Shoppe Iron Gummies
Dose: 20 mg
Price: $14.99 for 120 gummies
Why suffer through swallowing down pills when you can get the iron you need in a delicious gummy? The Vitamin Shoppe Iron Gummies offer a yummy grape flavor that you’re sure to enjoy. These gummies are formulated to provide immune support while also boosting energy production.
Each two-gummy serving provides 20 mg of iron as well as other health-boosting nutrients like vitamins A, C, B3, B6, and B12 along with biotin, zinc, and folate.
Because The Vitamin Shoppe Iron Gummies are pectin-based, they're 100% vegan. These gummies are also dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free. They're also made without any synthetic colors or other additives.
11. S.S.S. Tonic High Potency Iron/B-Vitamin Supplement
Dose: 3 tablespoons
Price: $8.35 for 10 fl oz
Give your body a healthy dose of iron and other nutrients with S.S.S. Tonic High Potency Iron/B-Vitamin Supplement. This supplement offers your minimum daily iron along with vital B vitamins, including vitamins B1 and B2. Together these nutrients support your body’s metabolism and ensure that enough oxygen is being transported throughout your body.
If you aren’t a fan of taking pills, S.S.S. Tonic High Potency Iron/B-Vitamin Supplement is just what you need. This liquid supplement will boost your energy levels without causing digestive upset. It’s suitable for men, women, and the entire family!
12. Mary Ruth's Prenatal & Postnatal Liquid Iron
Dose: 27 mg
Price: $29.95 for 15.22 fl oz
Looking for a liquid iron supplement? If so, check out Mary Ruth's Prenatal & Postnatal Liquid Iron. This iron supplement is uniquely formulated for expectant women, who require higher amounts of iron for a healthy pregnancy. During pregnancy, extra iron is needed to support the needs of a growing baby as well as a healthy placenta.
Mary Ruth's Prenatal & Postnatal Liquid Iron is made using bioavailable ferrous bisglycinate chelate. This is a unique form of iron that offers high absorption rates and increased tolerability.
The best part is that this liquid iron supplement tastes great. You’re sure to enjoy the delicious berry flavor!
13. Vitron-C Iron Plus Vitamin C
Dose: 65 mg
Price: $12.99 for 60 tablets
Help your body to efficiently absorb diet iron with Vitron-C Iron Plus Vitamin C. This supplement not only supports iron absorption, it also boosts immune function so that you can stay healthy.
Vitron-C Iron Plus Vitamin C was recently reformulated to remove artificial dyes, making it even healthier for everyday use. When taken as directed, this iron increases energy levels and keeps fatigue at bay.
Each tablet offers 65 mg of iron and 125 mg of vitamin C. Vitron-C Iron Plus Vitamin C contains carbonyl iron, which offers gentle and gradual absorption to minimize constipation and other digestive issues.
14. Slow Fe Slow Release Iron Supplement
Dose: 45 mg
Price: $16.39 for 60 tablets
Slow Fe Slow Release Iron Supplement is a doctor-recommended supplement for anyone suffering from iron deficiency. These tablets are formulated with a special controlled release system that delivers high potency iron on a slow-release schedule.
Because it’s a slow release iron supplement, you’re less likely to experience negative side effects. These iron tablets are gentle on your stomach, which means you’ll experience fewer GI side effects.
For best results take one easy-to-swallow 45 mg tablet each day. Slow Fe Slow Release Iron Supplement can be taken with or without food, though the iron is best absorbed when taken on an empty stomach at least one hour before a meal.
15. LifeCentric Health Iron Gummies
Dose: 10 mg
Price: $18.97 for 100 gummies
LifeCentric Health Iron Gummies are a delicious way to boost your iron levels. These gummies are great for women who have been diagnosed with anemia, or anyone who needs to increase their hemoglobin levels. Taking this iron supplement regularly will help to improve concentration, boost immunity, and reduce fatigue. LifeCentric Health Iron Gummies may even help you get better sleep at night!
LifeCentric Health Iron Gummies are made with ferrous fumarate and have no metallic after taste. With this supplement you don't have to worry about side effects like upset stomach, nausea, or constipation.
How to choose an iron supplement
There are plenty of iron supplements to choose from. Here are all of the factors you need to consider when choosing an iron supplement to add to your wellness regimen.
1. Don’t take an iron supplement just because
Iron isn’t a nutrient that you want to take just for the heck of it. The fact is that most people get the iron they need from the foods they eat. However, if you experience frequent headaches and fatigue, you may have an iron deficiency.
To determine your iron levels, schedule an appointment with your doctor. In some cases, a severe iron deficiency cannot be treated with a supplement alone. You may need to take additional supplements, such as vitamin A, to help your body better absorb iron.
2. Figure out your preferred form
Iron supplements are available in capsule, tablet, liquid, and even gummy form. There are also slow-release iron supplements that deliver iron over a longer period of time. The type of iron you take is totally dependent on your preferences. Some people like the convenience of a gummy while others prefer liquid supplements.
If you’re taking an iron supplement because of a doctor recommendation, they may recommend a specific type of supplement. Either way, you’re sure to find an iron supplement that’s quick, easy, and convenient to take.
3. Determine your dosage
Too much iron can cause all sorts of side effects and potential health issues. If you’re unsure of what your ideal dose is, the next step is to undergo blood testing. You should always take iron supplements as instructed. As discussed earlier, the average adult male needs 8 mg of iron while adult females need 18 mg a day. Pregnant women should take 27 mg of iron daily.
4. Check type of iron
Iron supplements can contain four different types of iron and they each have varying levels of elemental iron. While all four forms of iron are well-absorbed, some offer more elemental iron than others.
Out of the four, ferrous fumarate contains the largest amount of elemental iron, which may be too strong for some people. Typically, ferrous sulfate is the recommended type of iron. It offers a decent amount of elemental iron while also being quite affordable.
5. Choose between heme and nonheme iron
To recap: There are two types of iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron is found in animal products, including poultry, meat, and seafood. Heme iron is most easily and efficiently absorbed by the body.
On the other hand, nonheme iron is found in plant products, but also found in meat. However, the absorption of nonheme iron can be negatively impacted by phytates and caffeine. If you’re taking a nonheme iron supplement, be sure that it’s formulated with vitamin C or take a vitamin C supplement.
6. Be aware of the side effects
Taking an iron supplement can cause a variety of side effects, including upset stomach, constipation, and dark stools. You may even have a strange taste in your mouth. If you experience severe and unpleasant side effects, you may need to switch to a different supplement.
Other ways to increase iron intake
Supplements are only one way to increase your iron intake. Iron is naturally found in a wide variety of foods. It's also added to many fortified food products, such as cereals. Most people can get their recommended amounts of iron by eating a wholesome diet that includes foods like:
Iron-fortified cereals and breads
White beans, kidney beans, and lentils
Poultry, lean meat, and seafood
Nuts (ie. cashews)
Dried fruits, especially raisins
Eating two or three servings of the foods listed above will provide your body with the iron it needs. This is why it's important to eat a varied diet of whole foods. A balanced wholesome diet typically provides all of the nutrients your body needs, including iron.
Can too much iron be harmful?
Yes, as with any nutrient, too much of a good thing can turn bad. Taking a high dose iron supplement can cause digestive issues like upset stomach, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Continuous large amounts of iron can also cause more serious effects, including ulcers and inflammation of the stomach lining.
High doses of iron may also interfere with zinc absorption. Extremely high doses of iron can be fatal, but this requires hundreds of thousands of mg.
Does iron interact with other supplements and medications?
Yes, iron supplements can interact and/or interfere with other supplements and medications. This is why it's important to consult with your doctor before adding an iron supplement to your daily health regimen.
Here are some interactions to be aware of:
Medications used to treat thyroid cancer, hypothyroidism, and goiter (active ingredient: levothyroxine)
Medications used to treat Parkinson's disease and restless leg syndrome (active ingredient: levodopa)
Proton pump inhibitors (active ingredients lansoprazole and omeprazole)
If you take any of these medications or supplements, be sure to discuss adding an iron supplement to your routine with your doctor first.
An untreated iron deficiency can have short- and long-term impacts on your health. If you suspect that you have iron deficiency anemia, it’s important to undergo blood testing, which is the only way to check your iron levels.
If you’re deficient in iron, taking a high quality iron supplement can have a huge impact. Eating the right foods can also help to increase your iron levels. With these tips and best products, you can boost your iron levels in a healthy range.