The 8 Best Iron Supplements to Help With an Iron Deficiency (2023)

EVEN IF you’re not super into nutrition, you’ve probably heard about the importance of iron.

In its most famous role, iron is a key component of your hemoglobin, a protein that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of your body.

But that’s not all iron is good for. The mineral also plays a role in energy production, growth, brain development, cellular functioning, and the synthesis of certain hormones.

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The 8 Best Iron Supplements to Help With an Iron Deficiency (1)

By some estimates, almost one-third of American women and children don’t have enough iron in their bodies—men have lower iron needs, so deficiency is less common.

Chronically low iron levels lead to iron-deficiency anemia. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this can cause a number of signs and symptoms: pale skin, cracked lips, brittle nails, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, irritability, headaches, trouble concentrating, and more.

If you worry that you’re iron deficient, it’s best to get a blood test to confirm or deny your suspicions. A doctor might test your hemoglobin levels to test for iron-deficiency anemia; for men, anything below 13 g/dL could be a sign of anemia. Or, the doctor might test your iron levels directly—for adults, 10-30 mmol/L is normal, whereas anything below 10 mmol/L is low.

The only way to increase your iron levels is to actually consume the stuff. Adult men need 8 milligrams (mg) per day. The best food sources of iron are fortified cereals (which provide 100 percent of your daily value), oysters, beef, beans, lentils, and spinach. That said, plant-based sources contain non-heme iron, which isn’t as bioavailable (meaning your body doesn’t absorb as much) as the heme iron found in animal sources.

Not sure you’re getting enough iron from your diet? An iron supplement could help. If you follow a vegan diet or donate blood often, it’s possible that you may need a supplement to meet your iron needs.

Ashley Harpst, R.D., a sports dietitian and owner of Go For the Gold Nutrition, recommends talking with your doctor to figure out exactly how much iron to take. She also warns that there are potential side effects of supplementation, including constipation, diarrhea, nausea, bloating, and heartburn. To avoid all this, it’s best to take your supplement with food.

Some supplement makers sell themselves with a workout angle: Good blood flow means bigger gym gains. While consuming iron can prevent and treat iron-deficiency anemia—and doctors may recommend iron supplements to increase your level. Your body may use more iron during vigorous aerobic training, especially if you train on most days of the week for 60 minutes or more, says Diane M. DellaValle, Ph.D., R.D.N., an associate professor and research nutritionist at King’s College.

Look, iron supplements won’t enhance your muscles or improve workouts. Most men get the recommended eight milligrams of iron daily, says Della-Valle. (Fortified breakfast cereals have about 20 per one-cup serving.)

So the megadoses in iron supplements are kind of useless.Y our body has a natural iron shutoff that stops you from overloading, unless you have a disorder like hemochromatosis.

That said, if you’re a hardcore athlete or experiencing dizziness or extreme fatigue, have your doctor run that blood test for low iron. If you do have iron-deficiency anemia, your doc may prescribe an iron supplement, but ask how you can change your diet, too. It’s not like the food prescription is bad—beef, oysters, dark chocolate, chickpeas, potatoes, and cashews are all good (andtasty) sources of iron.

So if you’re looking to supplement, what should you take?

The National Institutes of Health recommends only buying products that have been tested by third-party laboratories like United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) or NSF International.

(Video) Low Iron Levels? You Need to Watch This

Supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the way drugs are, so there’s no guarantee that you’re actually getting what’s on the label, but third-party verification is a good insurance policy. Keep in mind that consuming more than 45mg of iron per day may be harmful, so it’s best to choose supplements that contain 30mg or less.

To save yourself some time scanning the store shelves, we’ve handled the research to determine the best picks for reducing your risk of iron deficiency.

MegaFood Blood Builder is a vegan iron supplement with whole food ingredients that support healthy red blood cell production. Verified by six third-party organizations, MegaFood boasts that it provides 26mg of iron per serving without the gastrointestinal side effects. And if you’re not a fan of the tablet size, they also have a mini version of the same product.

The 8 Best Iron Supplements to Help With an Iron Deficiency (3)

Feosol Complete with Patented Bifera Iron Caplets, 30ct

Now 20% Off

These caplets, which contain 28mg of iron per serving, are Harpst’s top pick. “[This product] contains heme and non-heme iron, which enhances absorption and minimizes gastrointestinal side effects,” she says, adding that it can also be taken with or without food.

(Video) Best Iron Supplement for Anemia: EVERYTHING you need to know about Iron (WATCH THIS before buying)

BeLive is a good option for children or even adults who aren’t crazy about taking pills. The grape gummies don’t include any artificial color or flavoring and include 10mg of iron per serving (2 gummies). The supplements are vegan-friendly, gluten-free, FDA-approved, and provide several other essential micronutrients.

If you’re not interested in taking pills, Floradix is a vegetarian liquid supplement with 10mg of iron and other B-vitamins for healthy red blood cell growth. Because it's a liquid supplement, it can be easily absorbed and is gentle on the digestive tract. It contains a number of fruit juice concentrates for added taste and the brand also offers tablet options.

The 8 Best Iron Supplements to Help With an Iron Deficiency (6)

NewChapter New Chapter Fermented Iron Complex
(Video) Anemia Survivor Reveals the TRUTH About Iron Supplements - Best Iron Supplement for Women

New Chapter Fermented Iron Complex is for those looking for an organic and non-GMO supplement. Although it contains a smaller amount of iron than others, at 9 mg per serving, it also provides 30mg of vitamin C.

NOW iron supplements are a vegan-friendly option providing 18mg of highly absorbable iron per capsule. These supplements are verified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) for safety standards. NOW also offers double-strength, iron complex, and liquid variations.

These Nature Made gummy vitamins deliver 18mg of iron and 40mg of vitamin C (100 percent and 44 percent of your daily needs, respectively). They’re available at most drugstores and supermarkets, and they’re verified by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).

The 8 Best Iron Supplements to Help With an Iron Deficiency (9)

Gnarly Baseline Iron
(Video) Iron Tablets | How To Take Iron Tablets | How To Reduce Iron Supplement Side Effects (2018)

Gnarly, which makes supplements for outdoor enthusiasts and more traditional athletes alike, says this vegan-friendly capsule is especially useful for endurance athletes. Baseline Iron+ uses iron bisglycinate, which the brand claims won't cause your stomach to get upset—an especially valuable quality if you're taking it on the trail.

Vanessa Etienne

Vanessa Etienne is the Editorial Fellow at Men’s Health. She has covered health and entertainment for The New York Times, Everyday Health and BET.

Christine Byrne

Christine Byrne, MPH, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian and the owner of Christine Byrne Nutrition, a private practice serving clients in Raleigh, NC, and virtually across the country. She specializes in eating disorders and disordered eating, and takes a weight-inclusive approach to health. A longtime journalist, she has worked as a food editor at BuzzFeed and Self, and her writing has appeared in dozens of national media outlets, including Outside, HuffPost, EatingWell, Food Network, Glamour, Bon Appetit, Health, and more.

Milan Polk

Milan Polk is an Editorial Assistant for Men's Health who specializes in entertainment and lifestyle reporting, and has worked for New York Magazine's Vulture and Chicago Tribune.

This content is imported from OpenWeb. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

FAQs

What is the best form of iron to take as a supplement? ›

Ferrous salts (ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, and ferrous gluconate) are the best absorbed iron supplements and are often considered the standard compared with other iron salts.

What is the most powerful enhancer of iron absorption? ›

Ascorbic acid (AA), with its reducing and chelating properties, is the most efficient enhancer of non-heme iron absorption when its stability in the food vehicle is ensured.

How can I drastically increase my iron levels quickly? ›

If you have iron-deficiency anemia, taking iron orally or getting iron administered intravenously along with vitamin C is often the fastest way to raise your iron levels. Iron is necessary to produce hemoglobin in red blood cells, which helps the RBCs carry oxygen to organs and other tissues of the body.

Which type of iron is the most absorbable form? ›

Iron is found in the diet in two forms—heme iron, which is well absorbed, and nonheme iron, which is poorly absorbed. The best dietary source of absorbable (heme) iron is lean red meat.

Which form of iron is easiest on the stomach? ›

Feosol Natural Release is a great iron alternative for those concerned about upset stomach. Feosol Complete is a great choice for those with a sensitive system as it minimizes side effects such as constipation and nausea.

What blocks the absorption of iron? ›

Animal proteins such as casein, whey, egg whites, and proteins from plants (soy protein) have been shown to inhibit iron absorption in humans. Oxalic acid is found in spinach, chard, beans, and nuts and acts to bind and inhibit iron absorption.

What causes your body to stop absorbing iron? ›

Malabsorption is when your body can't absorb iron from food, and is another possible cause of iron deficiency anaemia. This may happen if you have coeliac disease, a common digestive condition where a person has an adverse reaction to gluten, or surgery to remove all or part of your stomach (gastrectomy).

What foods block iron absorption? ›

The following foods can interfere with iron absorption:
  • tea and coffee.
  • milk and some dairy products.
  • foods that contain tannins, such as grapes, corn, and sorghum.
  • foods that contain phytates or phytic acid, such as brown rice and whole-grain wheat products.

How long does it take to get iron levels up? ›

It may take 6 months to one year for your body to restock its iron stores. Your iron levels will be regularly reviewed with blood tests. If you have an underlying problem that is causing your iron deficiency, it is very important that the cause is investigated.

Is B12 the same as iron pills? ›

As a vitamin, B-12 is distinct from iron, a mineral, in both its composition and function as a nutrient. However, they are interrelated. On the other hand, their relationship with one another is not the extent of their significance.

How much iron should an anemic person take? ›

A common generic approach for iron deficiency in adults consists of a daily dose of 150-200 mg of elemental iron.

How long does it take to recover from iron deficiency? ›

With treatment, most people recover from iron-deficiency anemia in 2 to 3 months. You may need to take iron supplements for several months longer, though, to build up your reserves of iron.

What is a good iron supplement for seniors? ›

In elderly patients with IDA, low doses of iron lead to similar increases in hemoglobin as are achieved with higher doses but cause considerably fewer adverse events in most patients. Options for dosing include half of a 300-mg ferrous gluconate tablet per day or 2.5 mL of ferrous sulfate syrup a day.

Does tea deplete iron? ›

A cup of tea reduces iron absorption by about 75%-80%, and a cup of coffee by about 60%. The stronger you make them, the greater the effect will be. So it's best to avoid tea and coffee while eating and for two hours before and after the meal.

What vegetables are very high in iron? ›

  • Spinach.
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Peas.
  • Broccoli.
  • String beans.
  • Beet greens.
  • Dandelion greens.
  • Collards.

Does iron make you gassy? ›

Constipation is the most common side effect, but iron supplements can also cause nausea, indigestion, gas and bloating.

When should I take iron morning or night? ›

The ideal time to take an iron supplement is in the morning on an empty stomach. Taking iron late at night is not as effective, as digestion slows down during sleep with absorption not as effective.

Is liquid iron better than iron pills? ›

There is no significant difference among the oral iron preparations, but one preparation may be better tolerated than another by an individual patient. Liquid iron drops may be better absorbed, but their side effects are similar to the effects from iron tablets.

What are the 3 main causes of anemia? ›

It carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Anemia has three main causes: blood loss, lack of red blood cell production, and high rates of red blood cell destruction.

Does vitamin D reduce iron absorption? ›

Vitamin D is essential to absorb iron. Therefore an iron deficiency may indicate low vitamin D levels in your body.

What cereal has the most iron? ›

Cornflakes come in as the most iron rich cereal due to fortification techniques to enrich this cereal with vitamins and minerals.

What is severe iron deficiency? ›

As the name implies, iron deficiency anemia is due to insufficient iron. Without enough iron, your body can't produce enough of a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen (hemoglobin). As a result, iron deficiency anemia may leave you tired and short of breath.

What is the difference between anemia and iron deficiency? ›

Anemia is caused by lack of Hemoglobin. Iron Deficiency is caused by lack of Iron. Iron Deficiency with Anemia is caused by both a lack of Iron AND a lack of Hemoglobin.

What should I eat for breakfast if I am anemic? ›

Breakfast
  • Option 1: Oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts.
  • Option 2: Bran cereal with banana, low-fat milk and flaxseeds.
  • Option 3: Whole grain toast with nut butter and 100% fruit spread.
  • Option 4: Quinoa breakfast bowl with chopped dates and sunflower seeds, and a drizzle of peanut butter.

Does sugar affect iron levels? ›

No one is encouraged to consume sugar to improve iron absorption. Too much sugar can lead to other health problems, such as obesity and diabetes.

Do eggs increase iron levels? ›

Eggs have 1.89 mg of iron, which increases energy and boosts your immune system. Egg yolks are a concentrated source of choline -- a nutrient that helps with brain development. The protein in eggs helps to lower blood pressure, optimize bone health and increase muscle mass.

How can I check my iron levels at home? ›

How do I use an at-home iron test?
  1. Order a kit online or at a local pharmacy.
  2. Use the provided testing materials to perform a finger prick.
  3. Collect a blood sample.
  4. Send the sample to a laboratory.
  5. Wait for the results.
26 Jan 2022

Does peanut butter help with iron? ›

Peanut butter

Peanut butter is a rich source of healthy fats, protein and iron. It can work well in treating anemia.

What does anemia make you feel like? ›

Anemia is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body's tissues. Having anemia, also referred to as low hemoglobin, can make you feel tired and weak. There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause.

Is it OK to take B12 and iron together? ›

B vitamins also help your body turn the food you eat into energy. Iron and B-complex vitamins do not interact negatively with each other, so there are no concerns about taking the two supplements at the same time.

Does vitamin D increase iron levels? ›

Studies have suggested that vitamin D, by down-regulating pro-inflammatory cytokines and hepcidin, may increase iron availability, and there is also evidence that vitamin D may support erythropoiesis (Fig.

Should I take B12 and iron together? ›

No interactions were found between multivitamin with iron and Vitamin B12. However, this does not necessarily mean no interactions exist. Always consult your healthcare provider.

Does iron affect hair? ›

And when it comes to our hair, iron plays a vital role. “Iron is really important for hair growth and hair health,” says dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD. “When we see patients who are experiencing hair loss, we often perform labs to screen for iron deficiency.

Does drinking water increase hemoglobin? ›

A steady intake of water increases hemoglobin indices, such as the MCH and MCHC, and decreases the MPV.

Can you take too much iron if you are anemic? ›

Yes, iron can be harmful if you get too much. In healthy people, taking high doses of iron supplements (especially on an empty stomach) can cause an upset stomach, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Which fruit is high in iron? ›

Prune juice, olives and mulberries are the three types of fruit with the highest iron concentration per portion. These fruit also contain antioxidants and a variety of other nutrients beneficial to health.

Is peanut butter high in iron? ›

The amount of iron in peanut butter varies between brands, but usually contains about 0.56 mg of iron per tablespoon. For extra iron, make a sandwich using a slice of whole wheat bread that can provide around 1 mg of iron.

What foods raise iron quickly? ›

Foods that are rich in heme and non-heme iron include:
  • liver.
  • lean red meat.
  • chicken.
  • seafood, including oysters.
  • lentils and beans.
  • tofu.
  • fortified breakfast cereals.
  • dried fruits, such as prunes, figs, and apricots.

Is Coke good for anemia? ›

Coca-Cola is working with scientists at the University of East Anglia in a bid to prove that Coke can combat anaemia. The soft drink company believes the fizzy drink could encourage the release of greater levels of iron from food, which is then absorbed into the body.

Does coffee lower iron levels? ›

Caffeine has no effect on iron absorption so if someone is concerned about lack of iron there is no point in switching to decaf coffee. For healthy people, there is no issue with iron absorption. But for those who are iron deficient, probably best to skip having coffee or tea with a meal.

How can I absorb iron better? ›

Vitamin C increases absorption of both heme and non-heme iron absorption. Four ounces (1/2 cup) of orange juice is enough to increase iron absorption. Other sources of vitamin C include citrus fruit, fresh bell peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe, and fresh broccoli.

What level of anemia is severe? ›

For all of the tested groups, moderate anemia corresponds to a level of 7.0-9.9 g/dl, while severe anemia corresponds to a level less than 7.0 g/dl.

Can low iron cause anxiety? ›

Iron is essential in the production of hemoglobin, a protein that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues and muscles. So when you have low levels of iron, less oxygen gets to your cells, keeping them from functioning properly and often leading to fatigue, weakness, and even anxiety and depression.

Why do I have anemia all the time? ›

The most common cause of anemia is low levels of iron in the body. This type of anemia is called iron-deficiency anemia. Your body needs a certain amount of iron to make hemoglobin, the substance that moves oxygen throughout your body. However, iron-deficiency anemia is just one type.

Is liquid iron better than pill form? ›

The study reported here reveals that oral ferrous gluconate in liquid form is more effective and above all better tolerated than other solid or liquid formulations containing elementary iron.

Which form of iron is best absorbed ferrous or ferric? ›

In general, ferrous iron, especially the more soluble compounds such as ferrous citrate or ferrous ascorbate, is more easily absorbed than the ferric compounds, which must be reduced from Fe3+ to Fe2+ before they can be absorbed.

What is a good iron supplement for seniors? ›

In elderly patients with IDA, low doses of iron lead to similar increases in hemoglobin as are achieved with higher doses but cause considerably fewer adverse events in most patients. Options for dosing include half of a 300-mg ferrous gluconate tablet per day or 2.5 mL of ferrous sulfate syrup a day.

Is it OK to take an iron supplement every day? ›

Most people should be able to get all the iron they need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you take iron supplements, do not take too much as this could be harmful. Taking 17mg or less a day of iron supplements is unlikely to cause any harm. But continue taking a higher dose if advised to by a GP.

Why is my body not absorbing iron? ›

There are several reasons why your body may not absorb iron, including: You have an intestinal or digestive condition like celiac disease, autoimmune gastritis, or inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis, or Crohn's disease.

When should I take iron morning or night? ›

The ideal time to take an iron supplement is in the morning on an empty stomach. Taking iron late at night is not as effective, as digestion slows down during sleep with absorption not as effective.

Does iron make you gassy? ›

Constipation is the most common side effect, but iron supplements can also cause nausea, indigestion, gas and bloating.

What blocks the absorption of iron? ›

Animal proteins such as casein, whey, egg whites, and proteins from plants (soy protein) have been shown to inhibit iron absorption in humans. Oxalic acid is found in spinach, chard, beans, and nuts and acts to bind and inhibit iron absorption.

What foods are iron blockers? ›

The following foods can interfere with iron absorption:
  • tea and coffee.
  • milk and some dairy products.
  • foods that contain tannins, such as grapes, corn, and sorghum.
  • foods that contain phytates or phytic acid, such as brown rice and whole-grain wheat products.

What interferes with iron absorption? ›

Tea, coffee and wine contain tannins that reduce iron absorption by binding to the iron and carrying it out of the body. Phytates and fibres found in wholegrains such as bran can reduce the absorption of iron and other minerals.

How much iron should a 70 year old take? ›

The recommended daily allowance for iron for adults over age 50 is 8 milligrams per day, regardless of sex.

How much iron does a 70 year old woman need daily? ›

Older women, ages 51 and older, need 8 mg of iron per day.

Is 65 mg of iron a day too much for anemia? ›

According to the Institute of Medicine, most adults can consume up to 45 milligrams of elemental iron daily without toxicity occurring. Your health care provider may recommend a higher dosage, such as 50 to 60 milligrams of iron, to treat iron-deficiency anemia, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.

How much iron should I take if I'm anemic? ›

Treatment of Iron Deficiency Anemia

Most people take 150 to 200 milligrams each day, but your doctor will recommend a dose based on your iron levels. Taking vitamin C helps your body absorb the iron. You might need to take iron supplements for a few months or more to get your levels to normal.

How much iron does an anemic person need? ›

Medicinal Iron

Most people with iron deficiency need 150-200 mg per day of elemental iron (2 to 5 mg of iron per kilogram of body weight per day). Ask your doctor how many milligrams of iron you should be taking per day. If you take vitamins, bring them to your doctor's visit to be sure.

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