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Iron

Medically reviewed

Iron is an essential mineral that has several important roles in the body. For example, it helps make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. A lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.

Good sources of iron

Good sources of iron include:

  • liver
  • meat
  • beans
  • nuts
  • dried fruit, such as dried apricots
  • wholegrains, such as brown rice
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • soybean flour
  • most dark-green leafy vegetables, such as watercress and curly kale

Although liver is a good source of iron, do not eat it if you are pregnant. This is because it is also rich in vitamin A, which can damage your unborn baby in large amounts.

How much iron do I need?

The amount of iron you need is:

  • 8.7mg a day for men
  • 14.8mg a day for women

You should be able to get all the iron you need from your daily diet. Women who lose a lot of blood during their monthly period (heavy periods) may need to take iron supplements. Speak to your doctor or a dietitian for more advice.

What happens if I take too much iron?

The side effects of taking high doses (over 20mg) of iron include:

  • constipation
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach pain

Very high doses of iron can be fatal, particularly if taken by children, so always keep iron supplements out of the reach of children. Most people should be able to get all the iron they need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you take iron supplements, do not take too much because this could be harmful. Taking 20mg or less a day of iron supplements is unlikely to cause any harm. However, continue taking a higher dose if advised to by your doctor.

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

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