What You Need to Know About Iron

Your body needs iron, a crucial mineral, to produce haemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells. Your body uses red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout it.

Iron is found in some meals, such as red meat and dark green leafy vegetables, as well as nutritional supplements.

Anaemia, a disorder marked by low iron levels, can cause symptoms like exhaustion, breathing difficulties, and pale complexion. Conversely, excessive iron levels can harm your organs and result in diabetes, heart issues, and liver illness.

This page discusses the advantages of iron, foods high in iron, and ways to ensure you're getting the recommended dosage of this essential mineral.

What are the benefits of iron?

Iron is necessary for the body to transport oxygen throughout the body. Having enough iron in your blood promotes several healthy body processes.


Iron's primary function is to transport oxygen from red blood cells' haemoglobin to the rest of the body, enabling your cells to make energy. In actuality, iron deficiency anaemia's primary symptom is lethargy.

Physical performance and endurance

For the body to provide oxygen to the muscles, iron is necessary. Athletes who are iron deficient perform less physically in terms of strength, endurance, power, speed, coordination, and recuperation.

Healthy immune system

An immune system that is working properly requires iron. Your risk of infection may increase if you have insufficient iron.

In pregnancy

Your body needs more iron during pregnancy because it stores more blood. Iron is used by your body to produce blood, which carries oxygen and promotes your baby's growth.

Daily iron requirement by age and sex

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that your age and sex determine how much iron is advised daily. Iron needs vary amongst vegans, vegetarians, and expectant or nursing mothers.

The values listed below apply to those who do not practise veganism or vegetarianism.


  • 9–13 years: 8 milligrams (mg)
  • 19 years and older: 8 mg
  • 14–18 years: 11 mg


  • 9–13 years: 8 mg
  • 51 years and older: 8 mg
  • while pregnant: 27 mg
  • 14–18 years: 15 mg
  • 19–50 years: 18 mg
  • while under the age of eighteen and nursing: 10 mg
  • if nursing and over the age of 19: 9 mg


  • 1–3 years: 7 mg
  • 4–8 years: 10 mg


  • 0–6 months: 0.27 mg
  • 7–12 months: 11 mg

Iron in the diet

Many foods contain iron by nature, and some food makers also include iron in some fortified goods. Eating a variety of foods will normally provide you with enough iron in your diet, however, some people may find it difficult to obtain enough iron from their diet.

Factors that affect absorption

Iron's bioavailability is poor. This indicates that consuming significant amounts of food prevents the small intestine from absorbing iron.

You absorb iron to varying degrees depending on several circumstances.
  • the source of the iron
  • other foods you’re eating
  • your overall iron status
  • both the state of your digestive system and general health
  • vitamins or prescription drugs you take
Consuming vitamin C-rich foods increases nonheme iron's bioavailability (see below). However, some ingredients, such as the tannins found in wine, tea, and coffee, may prevent the absorption of iron.

Heme iron vs. nonheme iron

Heme iron and nonheme iron are the two types of iron found in food.

Meat, seafood, poultry, and plant foods all naturally contain nonheme iron. Heme iron, on the other hand, is found only in meat, poultry, and shellfish.

The bioavailability of heme iron is higher than that of nonheme iron.

Iron-fortified foods

To increase intake, several foods, such as rice, bread goods, orange juice, and cereals, are fortified with iron.

What foods are high in iron?

Iron-rich foods that are found in nature include:
  • fish
  • red meat
  • legumes
  • pumpkin seeds
  • spinach
  • organ meats
  • broccoli
  • tofu
  • dark chocolate

Iron supplements

Numerous kinds of multivitamins and supplements contain iron. Ferrous fumarate, ferrous gluconate, and ferrous sulphate are the common forms of iron found in supplements.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not closely monitor supplements, so keep that in mind. This implies that components in supplements may be present in different levels or may not be specified on the label.

Before using supplements, it's advisable to see a doctor, and you should always check the label for the proper amount.

Who needs iron supplements?

Some individuals struggle to consume enough iron through food.

See a doctor about getting your iron levels evaluated before beginning any supplements. It could be detrimental to your health to take iron supplements when you don't need them.

Consult a physician about having your iron levels examined if you:
  • are a female of childbearing age
  • have heavy periods
  • are an endurance athlete
  • are over 65 years old
  • are pregnant
  • donate blood frequently
  • are vegan or vegetarian and don't use other foods high in iron to substitute for meat.
  • suffer from heart failure, gastrointestinal issues, or cancer.
Iron levels in babies may also need to be monitored, particularly in those who are experiencing a growth spurt or were delivered prematurely.

Who should avoid iron supplements?

If you are not iron deficient or do not have a high risk of becoming iron deficient, doctors do not advise taking iron supplements.

Risks associated with iron

Problems might arise from having too much or too little iron.

Risks of too little iron (deficiency)

Anaemia is a disorder that can result from insufficient iron intake. Anaemia frequently manifests as fatigue, pale skin, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath.

Risks of too much iron (toxicity)

Iron overload can be harmful. When you don't have a confirmed iron deficiency or a high risk of becoming one, doctors don't advise taking iron supplements.

You run a higher risk of iron overload if you have hemochromatosis, a genetic disorder. Compared to people without the disease, those with it absorb considerably more iron from their diet.

These problems can arise from having too much iron.

Organ damage

Consuming excessive amounts of iron can cause iron accumulation in the liver and other organs, which can harm the body's tissues and cells.

Stomach issues

When taking iron supplements without food, you may experience nausea, vomiting, constipation, and stomach pain. It's also common for iron supplements to turn your stool a dark green or black colour.

Interactions with medications

The following drugs may become less effective when taken with iron supplements:
  • Carbidopa with Levodopa (Sinemet)
  • Descend Titratabs and Cuprimine contain penicillamine.
  • Tirosint, Levoxyl, Unithroid, Synthroid, and Levothyroxine
Proton pump inhibitors are also known to reduce the absorption of iron.

How to tell if you’re getting the right amount of iron

It is recommended to get your iron levels examined by a doctor if you are suffering any symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia, such as weariness, pale complexion, or shortness of breath. This is particularly valid if you have an increased risk of iron deficiency, such as if you:
  • are pregnant
  • consume a vegan or vegetarian diet.
  • are a sportsperson with endurance


The vital mineral iron aids in the oxygenation of your body's red blood cells. Eating a variety of foods will normally provide you with adequate iron in your diet, but some people may require supplements if their diet isn't high enough.

Before using supplements, make sure to talk to your doctor about them.


Is iron important for life?

Iron is crucial for every kind of living organism

Can we live without iron?

You can't survive without it

How much iron per day?

8.7mg a day for men aged 19 and over

Are eggs high in iron?

One chicken egg contains 0.9 mg of non-heme iron

Post a Comment