Everyone knows that eating your spinach is good for you because of its high iron content. But when it comes to vitamin supplements, too much iron can be a bad thing. But why should you opt for multivitamins without iron? What are the dangers of taking multivitamins with iron? And what is the best way to get iron into your diet without supplementation? In this post, we will take you through just why iron multivitamins are not usually recommended.
Why do we need iron?
Iron is good for us because it’s used by the body to produce both hemoglobin and myoglobin. The first of these takes oxygen around your body. The latter, stores oxygen in your muscles. This helps to prevent fatigue after you do exercise and to generally feel more energized. It is also a vital component of a healthy immune system. This is because of its involvement in your white blood cells and T-cells, which are the tools used by the body to fight back against infections.
Insufficient iron in the bloodstream also leads to a condition known as anemia. People who are anemic can suffer from fatigue and shortness of breath. Whilst most people can get all the iron they need from their diet, not everyone can. For example, women who suffer heavier periods are at a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia and may need to take iron supplements. However, you should always speak to a doctor if you think you need to take iron as a vitamin supplement.
Generally speaking, the amount of iron needed daily is:
- 7mg per day if you are a man, aged 18 and over
- 8mg per day for women between the ages of 19-50
- 7mg per day for women who are over 50 year’s old
What are the risks of iron supplementation?
The body is much more efficient at regulating iron consumed in food when compared to supplementation. This is because of the way that iron is broken down in the intestines. With supplements, excess amounts are not blocked. This can lead to a build-up of the mineral to toxic levels. When you have too much iron you can experience:
- Pain in the stomach
- Feeling sick and nauseous
- Being physically sick
In addition, very high doses of iron can even be fatal. This is a particularly high risk for children so keep them out of their reach if you are required to take them. Too much iron can also put you at an increased risk of heart disease, cirrhosis, and scarring of the liver, an aggressive type of liver cancer, and a chronic form of hepatitis. Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, and diabetes have also been linked with chronically elevated levels of iron.
Note: If you have been advised by a doctor to take iron supplements then you should take the dosage they recommend. Be sure to check-in with them regularly regarding when to stop once your deficiency has been alleviated.
What foods are a good source of iron?
It’s important to remember that iron is vital for our health. Fortunately, for most people, it should be possible to get this from our diet. Indeed, getting the iron we need from what we eat is much better for us than taking iron supplements, if possible. You can also get iron from all sorts of foods whether you are vegetarian, pescatarian, or a full-blooded meat eater. Below is a list of some the top foods for iron content no matter what you eat:
- Liver – but not if pregnant.
- Red meat – such as beef, lamb, pork, veal, venison, and goat.
- Beans – including things like red kidney beans, chickpeas, and soy (edamame) beans.
- Nuts – such as pistachios, almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews. Although pistachios are far and away from the richest in iron content with 14mg per 100g.
- Dried fruit – dried apricots are particularly high in iron content.
- Soybean flour – this can be used in place of standard flour.
Iron is vital for a healthy immune system and good health. However, too much iron can be bad for your health and even fatal. The best way to get the iron you need is from food. If advised by your doctor, iron supplementation can be necessary. However, for most people, a balanced diet should suffice. As such, it is not advised to take iron supplements unless advised to do so by your doctor.