Iron is an important nutrient that helps carry oxygen to the cells and  prevents one form of anemia, which can make you feel tired, short of breath, pale and weak.

How much do we need?

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 10 mg for most healthy adult males and 15 mg for healthy females. People who are at risk of low iron intake include:

  • Infants
  • Adolescents
  • Menstruating women
  • Pregnant women

What are the best sources?

Animal sources are usually better absorbed than plant sources. For example, iron in red meat is better absorbed than from cooked dried beans. You can increase your body’s ability to absorb iron by including some vitamin C rich foods with your iron-containing foods at the same meal. For example, eating spaghetti sauce (lots of vitamin C rich tomatoes) with meat in it is a good way to up your intake. Another way  is to choose whole grains and enriched or fortified grains and cereals.

Food SourceIron Content (mg)
1 cup Total cereal (fortified with iron) 18
1 cup Cheerios 4.5
3.5 ounces tenderloin steak3.4
1 broiled hamburger (about 3.5 oz. cooked)2.1
2/3 cup raisins 1.8
3.5 ounces pork loin1
1 slice enriched wheat bread1

Should you take an iron supplement?

A physician may prescribe supplements if they find that you are deficient. Because it can be harmful in high doses, you should not take supplements without a physician’s approval first. You can take a multi-vitamin with iron as long as it provides no more than 100% of the RDA. Ask your doctor and check the label!

Tips for increasing your iron intake

  • Choose foods high in iron
  • Choose whole grains and enriched or fortified cereals and grains
  • Eat foods high in vitamin C
  • Cook in iron pans (the iron actually does get absorbed into the food)