How To Take Iron Supplements For Best Absorption

Why Is Iron Intake Important?

Iron is an important mineral for the proper functioning of your body. It is required in an adequate amount but most of the people are iron deficient and they do not know. It depends on the amount of iron consumption as well as its absorption.

The absorption of iron is necessary to build a protein called hemoglobin in the body that is a constituent of red blood cells. It helps the oxygen to bind with it and then be supplied to the body. Iron is also present in the myoglobin of the muscles. The average amount of iron required by the body ranges from 7g to 18g while 27g in the pregnant woman.

Iron Containing Foods

Foods contain two types of iron which are:

  • Heme Iron

Heme iron is the finest form of iron found in animal food such as poultry, red meat, fish, etc. The good thing about heme iron is; the body readily absorbs it by 40%.


  • Veal
  • Beef
  • Fish such as haddock, perch, halibut, salmon, or tuna
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Non-Heme Iron

The plant-based source of iron is the non-heme. Its origin is vegetables and grains. According to research, about 80% to 85% intake of iron is of non-heme and the rest is the heme.


  • Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and Rapini
  • Dried fruits like raisins ad dates
  • Beans like Peas and Soybeans
  • Fortified cereals, rice, wheat, and oats

Health Hazards Of Iron Deficiency

The deficiency of iron causes anemia along with other health issues such as

  • Memory loss
  • Lack of concentration
  • Impaired learning
  • Ineffective immune system
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Complicated pregnancy
  • Increased transfusion risk

Intake Of Iron Supplement With Food

Iron deficiency is a common problem nowadays especially in children and elder people. For fulfilling this deficiency, several iron supplements are present that you can have daily. Supplements can be in pill form or any drink maybe. The standard size of the tablet is about 325g. Ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, and ferrous fumarate are the widely used chemical forms of it. Medically, it is considered wrong to take iron supplements with any food item or even any other supplement. 

It is preferred to take the supplement with an empty stomach because the acidity in it helps to absorb the iron properly. But if you feel nausea while having it, as many people do, you can take it with any food item of your choice. Nutritionists recommend taking iron supplements along with any source of Vitamin C to enhance the chances of absorption.

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Maximum Absorption Of Iron Supplements

Effective absorption of iron is as necessary as its intake. Following are the tips and ways to maximize iron absorption:

  • Foods That Help In Maximum Absorption

Certain foods play a great role in the maximum absorption of iron supplements such as

  • Vitamins Rich Foods

As discussed earlier, Vitamin C significantly increases iron absorption by binding the non-heme and converting it to an easily absorbed form. According to a study, if you take only 100g of Vitamin C with any meal, it will increase its absorption by 67%. Foods containing high amounts of Vitamin C are:

  • citrus fruit, such as oranges and apples
  • peppers
  • strawberries
  • blackcurrants.
  • broccoli
  • brussels sprouts
  • Potatoes, etc
  • Foods Having Vitamin A and Beta Carotene

Beta Carotene, a red-orange pigment, can be found in certain fruits and plants. It is important because it can be converted to Vitamin A which has prime importance in maintaining healthy bones, joints, vision, and immunity of the body. Research says if 100 people are given cereal-based meals, the Vitamin A in it maximizes iron absorption by 200% for rice, 140% for corn, and 80% for wheat. Foods rich in Vitamin A include:

  • cheese
  • eggs
  • oily fish
  • fortified low-fat spreads
  • milk and yogurt
  • Animal-Based Foods

Foods obtained from animals like meat (red meat), poultry, and fish not only optimizes the absorption of heme iron but also helps in non-heme. According to studies, adding the foods mentioned above with cereal-based meals increases the iron absorption up to 2-3 times for non-heme. Also, intake of 1g of beef, chickens, and fish can be as effective for absorption of iron as 1mg of Vitamin C.

  • Avoid Coffee and Tea

Avoid having tea, coffee, or any dairy item when having iron-rich foods because excessive intake of iron can also prove detrimental to the health.

  • Iron Supplement With Water

You have always taken iron supplements with water but I am sure you would not have known the fact that taking the supplement with water enhances its absorption to a maximum level if taken emptied stomach. Orange can also be an alternative for water. You can also squeeze half a lemon in water for better results but avoid having coffee, tea, milk, and calcium-rich drinks as mentioned above.

  • Best Time For Taking iron Supplement

There is an optimum time for the maximum absorption of iron supplements. Try to take the supplement 30 minutes before breakfast or any meal. You can also have it after 1-2 hours after the meal. It is preferred because, in this time frame, the body works effectively to absorb iron. There is also a biological clock that works in your body. Try to take the supplement at the same time daily for maximum effects.

Also, avoid the intake of iron supplements before or after any vigorous physical activity and exercise

Consequences Of Excessive Iron

If you are having iron from a natural source i.e. food then there are no possible side effects known but an overdose of iron supplements can be fatal. People with Hemochromatosis can face this issue because of a defective gene that enhances the absorption of iron up to an extreme level. Other causes of iron toxicity can be due to some metabolic disorders and frequent blood transfusions. 

Moreover, intake of these supplements for longer periods can deposit an excessive amount of iron in the body that eventually damages the liver, kidney, and overall health. Therefore, consult any medical health professional for proper dosage and usage.

Bottom Line

Iron is a mineral having prime importance for hemoglobin and subsequently cellular respiration. It is present in two basic forms, heme and non-heme. Taking iron supplements is the best way to prevent and treat iron deficiency. There are multiple ways to maximize the absorption of iron supplements. Having Suitable foods and taking care of the optimum time can help you enhance absorption. Furthermore, excess of everything is bad, so for iron. Excessive intake of iron supplements can result in bad outcomes even death. Use these supplements according to the prescribed dose.

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