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Iron Requirements and Dietary Sources

Mineral Guide

By

Updated February 04, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

A trace mineral your body uses for transporting oxygen to cells. It also is essential for cell growth and differentiation. Most iron is found in red blood cells with a small amount in muscle cells and some enzymes.

Daily Requirements

Males

1 to 3 years: 7 milligrams per day
4 to 8 years: 10 milligrams per day
9 to 13 years: 8 milligrams per day
14 to 18 years: 11 milligrams per day
19 to 50 years: 8 milligrams per day
51+ years: 8 milligrams per day

Females

1 to 3 years: 7 milligrams per day
4 to 8 years: 10 milligrams per day
9 to 13 years: 8 milligrams per day
14 to 18 years: 15 milligrams per day
19 to 50 years: 18 milligrams per day
51+ years: 8 milligrams per day

Iron deficiency results in a reduced amount of oxygen being delivered to the cells and leads to fatigue and anemia. Not getting enough iron can also negatively affect your immune system. Deficiency can occur from lack of iron in the diet, difficulty absorbing enough iron from the foods you eat, or from chronic blood loss during menstrual periods or some digestive system disorders.

Iron-rich foods include meat, fish, poultry, oats, legumes and spinach. There are two forms: the form found in animal tissue is called heme iron (from hemoglobin) and non-heme iron is the form found in plants. While both forms are acceptable, the heme iron is more easily absorbed. You can increase the availability of non-heme iron by combining the plant sources with foods rich in vitamin C.

Iron is available in supplements, but it's toxic in large amounts (over 45 mg/day). Iron supplements must be sold in child-proof bottles to reduce the risk of accidental iron poisoning. Supplements should only be used with the supervision of a health care professional to avoid iron toxicity.

Also Known As: ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate

Other Trace Minerals

Sources:

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron. Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed February 17, 2010. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/iron/.

 

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