How Much Iron A Day Do I Need

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Are you wondering how much iron a day do i need? Here’s a guide to help you find out how much iron you need in your diet and what foods contain it. It’s essential to keep your body healthy and is particularly important for pregnant women as they are at risk of iron deficiency.

Anemia is a common illness which is a deficiency of Iron in the body. Many people are falling prey to this condition today because of an unhealthy lifestyle. So what is the daily requirement of Iron? How much Iron do we need on a day to day basis? Thankfully, I have all the answers for you!

How Much Iron A Day Do I Need

Iron is a mineral that is naturally present in many foods, added to some food products, and available as a dietary supplement. Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, an erythrocyte (red blood cell) protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. As a component of myoglobin, another protein that provides oxygen, iron supports muscle metabolism and healthy connective tissue. Iron is also necessary for physical growth, neurological development, cellular functioning, and synthesis of some hormones .

Dietary iron has two main forms: heme and nonheme. Plants and iron-fortified foods contain nonheme iron only, whereas meat, seafood, and poultry contain both heme and nonheme iron. Heme iron, which is formed when iron combines with protoporphyrin IX, contributes about 10% to 15% of total iron intakes in western populations.

“Iron is required for oxygen transport in hemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells and transports to various organs for use,” said Rachel Harrison, a registered dietitian at Banner Health. “Iron is also incorporated in myoglobin, which is used to hold oxygen in our muscle.”

Without adequate iron, you can develop a condition called iron-deficiency anemia, one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world. Symptoms can include fatigue, dizziness, headache, pale skin, weakness and inflamed tongue.

You can pump iron at the gym all you want, but to boost your iron intake, you’ll need to consider your diet. Iron is found naturally in many different foods and in some fortified foods.

Here are some easy ways to incorporate iron into your diet and how much you need (by age).

How much iron do I need?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the daily recommended amount of iron for adults is:

  • 8 milligrams (mg) a day for men
  • 18 mg a day for premenopausal women
  • 8 mg a day for postmenopausal women
  • 27 mg a day for pregnant women
  • 9 mg for lactating women

In general, women are at higher risk for iron deficiency anemia and may need to take iron supplements. Discuss with your healthcare provider if you believe you have an iron deficiency.

Food or supplements: Which is better?

“The truth is that most of us can get the iron we need from the food we consume, unless a healthcare provider says otherwise,” Harrison said. “For some, a supplement may be necessary, but don’t start taking one without talking to your doctor first.”

If you have concerns with your diet or believe you’re iron deficient, talk to your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian. They can assess your iron levels and determine the exact course of action, which may include changes to your diet or taking supplements.

Sources of Iron

Food

The richest sources of heme iron in the diet include lean meat and seafood [19]. Dietary sources of nonheme iron include nuts, beans, vegetables, and fortified grain products. In the United States, about half of dietary iron comes from bread, cereal, and other grain products [2,3,5]. Breast milk contains highly bioavailable iron but in amounts that are not sufficient to meet the needs of infants older than 4 to 6 months [2,20].

Heme iron has higher bioavailability than nonheme iron, and other dietary components have less effect on the bioavailability of heme than nonheme iron [3,4]. The bioavailability of iron is approximately 14% to 18% from mixed diets that include substantial amounts of meat, seafood, and vitamin C (ascorbic acid, which enhances the bioavailability of nonheme iron) and 5% to 12% from vegetarian diets [2,4]. In addition to ascorbic acid, meat, poultry, and seafood can enhance nonheme iron absorption, whereas phytate (present in grains and beans) and certain polyphenols in some non-animal foods (such as cereals and legumes) have the opposite effect [4]. Unlike other inhibitors of iron absorption, calcium might reduce the bioavailability of both nonheme and heme iron. However, the effects of enhancers and inhibitors of iron absorption are attenuated by a typical mixed western diet, so they have little effect on most people’s iron status.

Several food sources of iron are listed in Table 2. Some plant-based foods that are good sources of iron, such as spinach, have low iron bioavailability because they contain iron-absorption inhibitors, such as polyphenols [23,24].

Table 2: Iron Content of Selected Foods [25]
Food Milligrams
per serving
Percent DV*
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 100% of the DV for iron, 1 serving 18 100
Oysters, eastern, cooked with moist heat, 3 ounces 8 44
White beans, canned, 1 cup 8 44
Chocolate, dark, 45%–69% cacao solids, 3 ounces 7 39
Beef liver, pan fried, 3 ounces 5 28
Lentils, boiled and drained, ½ cup 3 17
Spinach, boiled and drained, ½ cup 3 17
Tofu, firm, ½ cup 3 17
Kidney beans, canned, ½ cup 2 11
Sardines, Atlantic, canned in oil, drained solids with bone, 3 ounces 2 11
Chickpeas, boiled and drained, ½ cup 2 11
Tomatoes, canned, stewed, ½ cup 2 11
Beef, braised bottom round, trimmed to 1/8” fat, 3 ounces 2 11
Potato, baked, flesh and skin, 1 medium potato 2 11
Cashew nuts, oil roasted, 1 ounce (18 nuts) 2 11
Green peas, boiled, ½ cup 1 6
Chicken, roasted, meat and skin, 3 ounces 1 6
Rice, white, long grain, enriched, parboiled, drained, ½ cup 1 6
Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice 1 6
Bread, white, 1 slice 1 6
Raisins, seedless, ¼ cup 1 6
Spaghetti, whole wheat, cooked, 1 cup 1 6
Tuna, light, canned in water, 3 ounces 1 6
Turkey, roasted, breast meat and skin, 3 ounces 1 6
Nuts, pistachio, dry roasted, 1 ounce (49 nuts) 1 6
Broccoli, boiled and drained, ½ cup 1 6
Egg, hard boiled, 1 large 1 6
Rice, brown, long or medium grain, cooked, 1 cup 1 6
Cheese, cheddar, 1.5 ounces 0 0
Cantaloupe, diced, ½ cup 0 0
Mushrooms, white, sliced and stir-fried, ½ cup 0 0
Cheese, cottage, 2% milk fat, ½ cup 0 0
Milk, 1 cup 0 0

* DV = Daily Value. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed DVs to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of foods and dietary supplements within the context of a total diet. The DV for iron is 18 mg for adults and children age 4 years and older [26]. FDA requires food labels to list iron content. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient, but foods providing lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet.

Iron Rich Foods:

Iron is an extremely important mineral, as your body needs it to produce red blood cells and carry oxygen. When your diet lacks iron, it causes anaemia, dizziness, irritability, headaches, and fatigue. On average, you need to consume 18 mg of it every day, but the requirement varies depending on your age and gender.

For example, men need to consume 21 mg. Women who experience menstruation should have 18 mg of iron per day. For pregnant women, this figure reaches 35 mg daily.

The food you consume can provide two types of iron – heme and non-heme. Poultry, fish, and meat are some good sources of heme iron. In this form, your body can absorb the mineral easily, making it easier to increase their levels.

Iron Rich Foods to Include in Your Diet

Add foods that are rich in the mineral to your diet, and improve your overall iron intake. Here’s a list of foods that can help you do the same:

How to Get More Iron From Your Food

Some foods can help your body absorb iron from iron-rich foods; others can hinder it. To absorb the most iron from the foods you eat, avoid drinking coffee or tea or consuming calcium-rich foods or drinks with meals containing iron-rich foods. Calcium itself can interfere.To improve your absorption of iron, eat it along with a good source of vitamin C — such as orange juice, broccoli, or strawberries — or eat nonheme iron foods with a food from the meat, fish, and poultry group.

If you have trouble getting enough iron from food sources, you may need an iron supplement. But speak to your health care provider about the proper dosage first and follow their instructions carefully. Because very little iron is excreted from the body, iron can accumulate in body tissues and organs when the normal storage sites — the liver, spleen, and bone marrow — are full. Although iron toxicity from food sources is rare, deadly overdoses are possible with supplements

Recommended Intakes

Intake recommendations for iron and other nutrients are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies (formerly National Academy of Sciences) [5]. DRI is the general term for a set of reference values used for planning and assessing nutrient intakes of healthy people. These values, which vary by age and gender, include:

  • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): Average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%–98%) healthy individuals; often used to plan nutritionally adequate diets for individuals.
  • Adequate Intake (AI): Intake at this level is assumed to ensure nutritional adequacy; established when evidence is insufficient to develop an RDA.
  • Estimated Average Requirement (EAR): Average daily level of intake estimated to meet the requirements of 50% of healthy individuals; usually used to assess the nutrient intakes of groups of people and to plan nutritionally adequate diets for them; can also be used to assess the nutrient intakes of individuals.
  • Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL): Maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects.

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