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Iron Supplements

Food Sources of Iron

Iron is found in a few types of foods. Good sources include:

  • Red meat, poultry, fish, eggs

  • Dried fruits (especially raisins, prunes, figs)

  • Legumes such as dried beans and lentils

  • Breads and cereals with iron added

  • Blackstrap molasses

  • Spinach

  • Foods cooked in cast-iron pans. This is especially true of acidic foods, such as tomatoes and lemons

Most people think of iron as a metal that is used to make pots, frying pans, and soup kettles. This same metal (or mineral) also plays a vital role in the body. Iron helps the blood cells carry oxygen. When you don’t get enough iron, you may feel tired and lack energy. Anemia (“tired” blood) is a health problem that can occur when the body’s iron levels are very low. Our bodies don’t make iron, so we must get it from foods or supplements.

Why Use a Supplement?

Women tend to need iron because of menstrual blood loss. But even grown men and boys may need a supplement at some point. You may need an iron supplement if you check off one or more of the following:

  • I rarely eat foods that are high in iron (such as red meat, poultry, dried beans, and foods with iron added).

  • I am a vegetarian and I rarely eat legumes (dried beans, peas, lentils).

  • I am a female who has heavy menstrual periods.

  • I am pregnant or breastfeeding.

  • I have been diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia.

Your Specific Iron


Everyone has his or her own iron needs. But taking more than the suggested amount is not always healthy. Your health care provider can help you choose the best amount of iron for you.

If You Take Iron

Here are some tips to help you get the most from an iron supplement:

  • Take it with vitamin C for better absorption. Don’t take an iron supplement with milk. The calcium in milk limits iron absorption.

  • Drink plenty of water, eat high-fiber foods, and exercise often to prevent constipation. Or use an iron supplement with an added stool softener.

  • Eat a healthy diet to provide all the nutrients your body needs.

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.