The Ultimate Guide To Iron

Vitabiotics | Published: 07/05/2021

The Ultimate Guide To Iron

Getting enough of the mineral iron is important for a number of reasons, but typically iron is known for the part it plays in reducing tiredness and fatigue.

To get enough iron, we need to ensure our diet is filled with iron rich foods. A supplement can also safeguard our intake of iron and ensure we have normal iron levels.

There is research to suggest that several population groups are deficient in iron or at risk of deficiency, so it’s important to keep healthy levels of iron.

But what does iron actually do for the body? And which are the best foods high in iron to ensure we’re getting enough of this vital mineral?

What is iron (in the body)?

Iron is a mineral which the body needs to help it develop[1]. This is because iron is needed to make haemoglobin for red blood cells. These red blood cells carry oxygen around the body.  

Different types of iron

There are in fact two different types of iron, both of which can be found in food. Haem iron, found in animal foods, is more easily absorbed by the body, whereas non-haem iron is found in plant foods[2] which also includes fortified foods such as fortified milks, cereals and spreads.

Is iron a vitamin?

Many people might wonder whether iron is a vitamin, however, iron is in fact a mineral. Minerals are elements found in soil and water which are consumed by animals or absorbed by plants[3].

It’s also worth mentioning ferritin, which is a blood protein that contains iron. Ferritin can indicate iron levels in the body.

What does iron do for the body?

If you’re feeling tired or simply don’t have much energy, then it could be down to a lack of iron.

Iron plays a big role in helping to reduce tiredness and fatigue. It also plays a role in making red blood cells and haemoglobin, helping to carry oxygen around the body. Ensuring the organs and tissues in our body have enough oxygen is important so that they can make energy, to keep functioning properly.

Iron also contributes to the normal functioning of our immune system, as well as normal cognitive function. Plus, iron has a role in the process of cell division.

How much Iron per day?

The amount of iron needed for adults varies depending on age and gender. However, the UK Department of Health and Social Care recommends that men over the age of 18 need 8.7mg of iron each day, as do women aged 50 and over. Women aged 19 to 50 should consume 14.8mg of iron a day.

For babies and children, the amount of iron needed does depend on age. The NHS recommends that babies aged 0 to 3 months need 1.7mg of iron per day, babies aged 4 to 6 months should get 4.3mg of iron per day and babies aged 7 to 12 months should get 7.8mg of iron per day.

After turning 1, the recommended amount of iron a baby needs does decrease slightly. Children aged 1 to 3 years old should have 6.9mg a day whilst children aged 4 to 6 years should have 6.1mg a day. Children 7 to 10 years need 8.7mg a day.

During the teenage years, girls aged 11 to 18 are recommended to get 14.8mg a day, whereas boys aged 11 to 18 years old should have 11.3mg a day.

Athletes may benefit from taking an iron supplement, as could women during menstruation and pregnancy, and the over 50s.

This iron levels chart is an easy way to see how much iron you may need for your age and gender.

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Signs of low iron levels

Some population groups are more likely to be low in iron. This includes women of reproductive age, pregnant women, young children, vegetarians, women with heavy periods, endurance athletes and those who regularly donate blood.

What causes low iron levels?

When looking at what causes low iron levels, there are in fact several reasons as to why someone may be lacking in this mineral. Not getting enough iron in your diet, through food or supplementation is a big reason behind low iron levels.

Blood loss can also trigger low iron levels, so females with heavy periods may be at risk. Pregnancy is another time to check on your iron levels because when a baby is growing, the amount of blood in the body increases, however the number of red blood cells stays the same, so there is less oxygen being carried around the body.

Heavy exercise can also cause low iron levels as the body loses iron through sweating. Plus, those who exercise heavily may have a higher red blood cell count, but there may not be enough iron for these red blood cells.

What causes high iron levels in females & males?

Whilst there are factors causing iron levels to be too low, you can also have too much of a good thing. This certainly applies to iron as too much iron can in fact be harmful to the body.

Taking too many iron supplements or eating too many iron-rich foods can also cause high levels in males and females, as can blood transfusions and blood disorders.

High iron can also be an inherited condition known as haemochromatosis, where iron levels in the body slowly build up over many years, which can lead to unwanted symptoms[10].

What foods are high in iron?

There are many foods high in iron which can help maintain normal iron levels. Below is a list of iron rich foods which can easily be incorporated into your diet.

Fortified cereals - 19.6mg per ¾ cup

Cocoa powder - 15.5mg per 100g

Chicken liver (avoid if pregnant) - 12.9mg per 100g

Beef steak - 9.3mg per 170g steak

Oysters - 7.8mg per 85g

Dried fruit (apricots) - 7.5mg per cup

Spinach - 6.4mg per cup cooked

Artichokes - 5.1mg per cup

Quinoa - 2.8mg per cup

White button mushrooms - 2.7mg per cup cooked

Fish (Mackerel) - 2.7mg per 170g

Canned tuna - 2.5mg per can drained

Squash and pumpkin seeds - 2.5mg per 28g handful

Green peas - 2.5mg per cup

Tempeh - 2.1mg per 100g

Dried goji berries - 1.9mg per 5 tbsp

Turkey meat (dark) - 1.3mg per 85g

Bass - 1.2mg per fillet

Chicken breast- 1mg per ½ breast

What drinks are high in iron?

To help support healthy levels of iron in the body, there is also the option to incorporate certain iron-rich drinks into your diet.

Prune juice - 1.18mg per 100g

Pea protein shake - 25mg per 100g

Raspberry shake - 0.71mg per 100g

Beetroot juice - 0.57mg per 100g

To make your own iron-containing drink, try blending together various foods into a smoothie such as raspberries, spinach and pea protein.

Best sources of iron

The best sources of iron include animal-based sources as these contain haem iron, which is more easily absorbed by the body. There are a number of foods that can provide good levels of iron and an iron supplement can also safeguard your iron levels.

Taking iron supplements to increase iron levels

A supplement can help to safeguard your levels of iron however there are some things to know about how to take iron supplements correctly to avoid the sometimes negative side effects of iron tablets.

How to take iron tablets correctly

Taking iron supplements correctly is important as it means your body will absorb the iron more efficiently. Ideally, take your iron supplement an hour before food with a drink that contains vitamin C such as orange juice or another fruit or vegetable juice. Vitamin C helps your body to absorb the iron from your supplement.

How long do iron tablets take to work?

It may take two weeks or more to start seeing the results of taking iron supplements, however generally supplementation is recommended for at least three months to replenish stores in the body.

Signs iron supplements are working

Unsure whether your iron supplements are helping to support your iron levels? If you notice that your energy levels have increased and you’re experiencing less fatigue than you were previously, then it’s a sign that your iron supplements are working.

Can iron tablets make you feel sick or cause diarrhoea/digestive issues?

Iron supplements making you feel queasy? Some people experience some side effects from taking iron; these include nausea, constipation, stomach cramps or diarrhoea t. Feroglobin Capsules use a special slow release delivery system which ensures that the release of nutrients is gradual and gentle on the stomach.

Why is my body not absorbing iron supplements?

There are times when the body may not absorb iron supplements properly, so it’s worth making sure you avoid any potential iron inhibitors.

Foods containing phytic acid can actually inhibit iron absorption from supplements and food. These phytic foods include nuts, beans and wholegrains.

Plus, large amounts of dairy foods, milk, tea and coffee can also block or slow down the absorption of iron. It’s best to avoid these iron inhibitors just before or after taking an iron supplement or eating iron-rich foods.

Vitabiotics’ Feroglobin range offers an easy way to help safeguard your intake of iron.

The supplements come in a range of formats including liquids, capsules and effervescent tablets.

These also contain other essential nutrients, such as folic acid and vitamin B12, to contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and vitamin C which increases iron absorption.

Vitabiotics Feroglobin Capsules provide 17mg of gentle iron in a slow-release capsule, with added zinc and B vitamins, which also contribute to normal blood formation.

Feroglobin Fizz provides 17mg of iron per tablet. Plus, each effervescent tablet contains vitamins B6, B12 and vitamin C, which help to reduce tiredness and fatigue and contribute to normal energy release. The vitamin C also helps with the absorption of iron. Simply dissolve a tablet in water to enjoy an iron-rich drink.

Feroglobin Liquid is a honey and orange flavour liquid suitable for children over 3 years as well as adults. Each 10ml of liquid contains around 14mg of an organic form of iron citrate complex for improved absorption. Iron contributes to normal cognitive development of children.

Feroglobin Liquid Plus is an advanced liquid iron formula for adults which contains 14mg of iron per 10ml of liquid. It also contains folate and vitamin D, which contributes to the normal function of the immune system.

Meet the Author

lucy gornall

lucy gornall


lucy gornall


Lucy is an award winning freelance health, fitness and wellbeing journalist and copywriter. She is also a personal trainer, teaching at London based studios. With 10 years of journalistic experience under her belt, Lucy was formerly a health editor across various women’s magazines and also editor for a national women’s glossy title. She now writes for various publications whilst also working on various branded content

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Comments (1)

  • Anna Gwinnett

    Does feroglobin liquid conatin haem iron or non haem iron please


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