Should You Take Iron Pills?

Recently, I have been getting more inquiries about anemia and if you should take iron supplements. We are going to take a look at the big picture before you pop some iron pills.

Iron is an essential mineral, a metal to be exact.

Its functions are to:

  1. To carry oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body.
  2.  Assist with enzyme function in the digestive process.
  3.  Keep red blood cells healthy so they can transport sufficient O2 to support organ function.
  4. Myoglobin (iron found in muscles) accepts, stores, transports and releases oxygen.

Anemia is the most common nutritional deficiency in the US. It can lead to delayed motor and mental functioning in infants, small or preterm babies for pregnant women, and fatigue, lightheadedness, headaches, grumpiness, inability to concentrate, and impaired mental clarity in adults and teens.

Signs of anemia such as pale skin, irregular heartbeat, rapid breathing, and do an exam to check for internal bleeding. But, most commonly, iron deficiency is found by doing a blood test that tests for hemoglobin and hematocrit levels.

Some foods rich in iron include:

Meat and Poultry–Heme Iron Sources

  • Lean Grass-Fed Beef: 3.2 mg in 3 oz.
  • Lamb
  • Dark Meat Poultry
  • Liver: 26 mg in 4 oz


  • Oysters: 7.8 mg in 3 oz.
  • Fish
  • Mussels
  • Shellfish

Vegetables–Non Heme Iron Sources

  • Greens, all kinds: 6 mg in 1 cup of cooked spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Bok Choy
  • Sweet Peas
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Kale
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Tomatoes
  • Lima Beans
  • Green Beans
  • Beets
  • Cabbage

Amounts of iron recommended per day:

Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Iron 
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 6 months 0.27 mg* 0.27 mg*
7–12 months 11 mg 11 mg
1–3 years 7 mg 7 mg
4–8 years 10 mg 10 mg
9–13 years 8 mg 8 mg
14–18 years 11 mg 15 mg 27 mg 10 mg
19–50 years 8 mg 18 mg 27 mg 9 mg
51+ years 8 mg 8 mg

What if you are eating these foods as are still anemic?

Often this is because of a weakened digestive system due to celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or other conditions that cause insufficient stomach acid. Besides working with a practitioner on your digestive support protocol, add in Vitamin C, Folic Acid and B12 for better absorption of iron.

Also, be cautious of Iron Blockers

  • Tannins found in tea leaves, red grapes, chocolate, and coffee block the absorption of iron by about 50%. But, consuming these foods an hour before or an hour after the iron-rich meal has no effect on iron absorption.
  • Phytates are important antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents found in highest quantities in wheat bran, soybeans, pinto beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and peanuts. Phytates bind to non-heme iron and lower its absorption. But soaking, fermenting, sprouting, and cooking all reduce phytate content by 50-75%. So try not combining high phytate foods with high iron foods, separate them throughout your day.
  • Calcium Supplements and Dairy Foods compete with iron for uptake in your intestinal tract
  • Zinc and Manganese supplements
  • Antacids decrease iron absorption because they reduce stomach acid

That all being said, should you take iron supplements? If you need to, try to take for a short time period while you add in the other supported foods and supplements, due that they can cause constipation and nausea.

Eat your greens,

Heather Fleming, C.C.N.


Photo by: Sarah (Rosenau) Korf

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