Do you know how much iron supplements you should be taking every day?
If you are vegan, pregnant, lactating, menopausal or have another condition that requires more iron than normal, then you need to be aware of how much iron your body needs. Iron is an important mineral for the body, and it is especially crucial for women.
In this article, we will discuss why women need more iron than men and how much iron supplements different groups of people should be taking.
We will also talk about the benefits of taking iron supplements and how to choose the right supplement for you!
Why some people need more iron
Generally speaking …
Women – Women need more iron than men because they lose iron every month during menstruation.
According to the Australian government, “While men need around 8 mg of iron in their daily diet, women need up to 18 mg (or 27 mg if pregnant).
Women need more iron than men to make up for the amount of iron they lose in their menstrual period. Around 1 mg of iron is lost for every day of bleeding.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in women. Insufficient iron can lead to anemia. Common symptoms of anemia include tiredness and breathlessness.“
Pregnant women – Pregnant women need even more iron because they are growing a baby and iron is essential for the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system.
Lactating women – Lactating women also need more iron because they are losing iron through their breastmilk.
Vegans and vegetarians – Vegans need more additional iron than meat-eaters because vegan diets tend to be lower in iron.
How much iron
General Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) for iron are simple.
As stated above, men should have around 8 milligrams (mg) of iron in their daily diet, while women should have up to 18 mg.
Pregnant and lactating women need 27 mg a day (9 mg a day more than non-pregnant or non-lactating women).
If you are a post-menopausal woman the RDA drops down to 8.
Vegans need almost double the amount of iron as meat-eaters because vegan diets are lower in heme iron which is easier for the body to absorb. The recommended intake for vegans is 14 mg per day.
So how can you make sure you’re getting enough iron?
The best way to get enough iron is by eating a varied and balanced diet that includes food sources of both heme and non -heme iron.
Heme iron is found in animal products and non-heme iron is found in plant foods.
Non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed by the body as heme iron, so vegans need to be especially aware of how much non-heme iron they are consuming.
Some good food sources of heme iron include:
- red meat, poultry, and fish
- liver and other organ meats
Some good food sources of non-heme iron include:
- nuts and seeds
- whole grains
- dried fruit
- fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, soy milk, and pasta.
If you are struggling to get enough iron from your diet, you may need to supplement with iron pills.
However, talk to your doctor about how much iron supplements you should be taking every day. They will be able to prescribe the right amount for you based on your age, health, and lifestyle.
Side effects of too much iron supplementation
Although iron is an essential mineral, it is possible to have too much iron in your body.
While it’s very rare to overload on iron supplementation, if you do overload, it can be just as dangerous as having too little.
Side effects of iron overload include:
- stomach pain
- weight loss or gain
- irregular heartbeat
- joint pain
If you experience any of these side effects, stop taking your supplements and speak to a doctor immediately. Iron toxicity is rare but it can be fatal if not treated quickly.
So, make sure you are aware of the signs and symptoms of taking too much iron!
Iron deficiency anemia
Doctor Killip, M.D., says in 2007 science article “The prevalence of iron deficiency anemia is 2 percent in adult men, 9 to 12 percent in non-Hispanic white women, and nearly 20 percent in black and Mexican-American women”.
However, please remember that correlation does not equal causation.
- Iron deficiency is correlated with fatigue and breathlessness
- But just because you’re tired does not mean you’re iron deficient
If you think you might be iron deficient, it’s important to speak to your doctor. They will be able to test your blood and confirm whether or not you have anemia.
You can also order online a blood test specific for anemia, to see whether or not blood results show that you are iron deficient. Read here for Enlightenment’s review about blood test options.
If you are iron deficient, your doctor will likely prescribe supplements for you to take.
They may also recommend that you make changes to your diet.
If you are vegan, this may mean adding more foods that are high in iron or taking an iron supplement, or taking a specific iron supplement for pregnant women.
Want an easy way to tell if you’re iron deficient (without a blood test)?
Keep a food journal to record if you are eating foods that contain iron.
Remember, foods that contain iron include fish, beans, spinach, tofu, and fortified cereals and breads.
Now just record what you eat for a week to see if you are eating these foods.
If you’re not getting enough iron-rich foods in your diet, and you feel fatigued and breathless, it may be time to speak to your doctor or start taking an iron supplement.
However, if you are eating these foods, then I wouldn’t worry about lacking iron as much.
It’s still possible you’ll want an iron deficiency blood test, but the odds of you having iron deficiency anemia are much lower.
Access free journal template here plus real client example.
Pro tip – Better yet if you write a food journal entry before you eat, you’ll practice a key skill to beat binge eating.
That is – pausing before you eat, and concentrating mindfully on whether or not your body actually needs that extra bite.
Research shows that people who journal before they eat make healthier choices, and also end up eating 20% less than those who don’t.
So not only will you be more likely to get the nutrients you need, but you’ll also save money and calories by automatically eating less!
Iron is an essential mineral for our bodies but it’s important to make sure we’re not taking too much or too little.
If you think you might be iron deficient, speak to your doctor and they will be able to help you get the right amount of this important nutrient!
Want more info on supplements generally speaking? Read our ultimate beginner’s guide here.