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Iron is a mineral that is essential for many bodily processes. Some people may decide to take iron supplements to ensure that they get an adequate intake of iron.

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The human body cannot make iron on its own. For this reason, people must obtain the mineral through their diet. When iron makes its way into the body through a person’s diet, it is known as dietary iron.

Research has identified two primary forms of dietary iron. The first is known as nonheme iron, which is present in plant- and animal-derived foods. The second form is heme iron, which is only present in foods derived from animals.

Heme iron has a higher bioavailability, and the body can absorb it more easily. Nonheme iron is the most important dietary source of iron for vegans and vegetarians. However, it has a lower bioavailability, and there are more factors affecting its absorption.

Learn more about iron here.

Around 65% of the iron in a person’s body becomes a part of hemoglobin molecules. These molecules are present in the red blood cells, which carry oxygen from a person’s lungs toward other organs.

Iron also plays a role in energy production in the body. It carries oxygen to the muscles and brain and is important for both mental and physical performance. Low iron levels may result in a lack of focus, increased irritability, and reduced stamina.

Additionally, iron is an essential element of various metabolic processes in the human body, including electron transport and DNA synthesis.

Learn more about iron here.

A person should follow a doctor’s instructions or the product label for when and how often to take iron supplements. Typically, it is best to take them on an empty stomach and with water, around 1–2 hours before a meal.

The body can absorb iron more easily when it has enough vitamin C. Therefore, some people may wish to take vitamin C supplements or consume orange juice alongside their iron supplements.

Generally, however, people should avoid taking iron supplements with beverages such as coffee, tea, or milk, as they may interfere with iron absorption.

People should also avoid taking calcium supplements and antacids with iron supplements, as they too can inhibit the body’s absorption of the mineral.

Iron supplements are often available in the form of a tablet or capsule. Some individuals may prefer to use liquid or gummy supplements. People should consider which form would suit their needs best.

Look for reputable brands with third-party certification or testing. Choose products from companies that are transparent about their ingredients and product dosages.

Some iron supplements include other vitamins and minerals, which may suit people who do not take many other supplements. For example, iron supplements that contain vitamin C may enable better absorption.

Some people may experience digestive discomfort when taking iron supplements. Choosing iron supplements that are fermented or designed to aid digestion may help ease or prevent this discomfort.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All product information is purely research-based.

Care/of iron capsules

Care/of is a monthly subscription service that provides personalized nutritional supplements based on a customer’s unique health needs and goals.

The company offers an iron supplement in capsule form that contains vitamin C to support iron absorption and that is fermented to prevent digestive discomfort.

The supplement is gluten free and vegan and does not contain GMOs.

The company recommends taking its iron supplement between meals. People should not take it alongside the Calcium Plus supplement.

Care/of is available for order online with home delivery. The brand has a small range of multivitamins available exclusively in Target stores, including a prenatal supplement that contains iron, available for purchase here.

Learn more about the Care/of brand here.

Persona iron capsules

Persona is a nutritional supplement subscription service. It requires customers to complete an online assessment to generate personalized supplement recommendations based on the person’s health needs and goals.

Persona provides a range of supplements, including iron capsules with vitamin C.

The vegan iron supplements are suitable for a wide range of food intolerances and allergies and are free from:

Learn more about the Persona brand here.

New Chapter Fermented Iron Complex tablet

This supplement is organic, vegetarian, and kosher. It is free from gluten, dairy, sugar, GMOs, artificial flavors and colors, and synthetic fillers.

It has fermented ingredients, which may help support digestion and improve absorption.

The product has also undergone third-party testing, and New Chapter claims it is FDA and GMP compliant.

The company recommends taking 1 tablet per day.

Floradix Iron + Herbs liquid iron supplement

This liquid supplement has naturally added vitamins. This includes vitamin B12, which some research suggests may help improve the production of healthy red blood cells.

This iron supplement is vegetarian and free from dairy, lactose, alcohol, GMOs, preservatives, colorings, and artificial flavorings.

Other vitamins and minerals this supplement contains include:

The company recommends that adults take 10 milliliters twice daily, ideally 30 minutes before a meal.

Vitamin Friends Adult Vegan Iron Gummies

This supplement comes in gummy form, which may be better for people who find it difficult to swallow tablet supplements or who need motivation to take supplements.

These gummies are vegan, organic, and kosher.

The supplement contains:

The company recommends a serving size of 2 gummy supplements per day. Two gummies contain 30 milligrams (mg) of ferrous fumarate, which is equal to 10 mg of elemental iron.

Thorne Iron Bisglycinate capsules

These capsules may suit athletes, as they have the National Sanitation Foundation International certification for sport. This means that the supplements do not contain substances that sporting organizations ban or disallow.

This supplement is free from soy, gluten, dairy, and artificial flavors. It is formulated to prevent digestive discomfort.

Each capsule contains 25 mg of elemental iron. Users can take 1 capsule per day.

Learn about what vitamins and minerals athletes need here.

It is unlikely that taking iron supplements will lead to any unwanted health effects unless a person is ingesting more than the daily recommended intake of iron.

Some people’s bodies may initially have difficulty dealing with the changes in dietary iron. When this occurs, a person may experience:

It is also possible for an individual to have too much dietary iron in their body. This can lead to conditions such as iron overload disorder and iron poisoning. Anyone who suspects that they may have either condition should seek medical advice.

Some symptoms of iron toxicity include:

Healthcare professionals will only recommend taking supplemental iron if a person has low iron levels. People with normal iron levels should not take supplemental iron.

If a person thinks that they may have iron deficiency or be at risk of developing it, they should contact a doctor.

Healthcare professionals tend to recommend iron supplements to restore healthy iron levels.

They will also recommend that people get extra iron during pregnancy. This is due to increased dietary needs. Most prenatal vitamins contain extra iron.

The body requires large amounts of iron during pregnancy, and deficiencies may increase the risk of maternal and infant mortality, low birth weight, and preterm labor.

One 2015 review found that pregnant people can manage their risk of developing iron deficiency and anemia by taking iron supplements.

Learn about the best prenatal vitamins here.

Supplements may also positively affect athletic performance in those who have iron deficiency.

Specifically, a 2015 study reports that iron supplements can increase the aerobic capacity of endurance athletes whose iron levels are too low.

However, when taking iron supplements, it is important to understand the safe and recommended dosages. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend the following daily amounts of iron:

AgeMaleFemaleDuring pregnancyDuring lactation
0–6 months0.27 mg*0.27 mg*
7–12 months11 mg11 mg
1–3 years7 mg7 mg
4–8 years10 mg10 mg
9–13 years8 mg8 mg
14–18 years11 mg15 mg27 mg10 mg
19–50 years8 mg18 mg27 mg9 mg
51+ years8 mg8 mg

*Adequate intake

Iron deficiency occurs when the body has difficulty absorbing or retaining enough iron.

According to a 2020 article, the rate of iron deficiency in the United States is around 1% in males under 50 years of age, and 10% in women of childbearing age. In children aged 12–36 months, the rate of iron deficiency is around 9%.

Iron deficiency can sometimes cause anemia, which is a condition where the body does not produce enough red blood cells.

Anemia is a common condition, affecting around one-third of the global population. Roughly 50% of these cases are due to iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency can have different causes, such as:

  • Insufficient intake of dietary iron: Some people do not get enough dietary iron. This can happen if they follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and do not take an iron supplement. These diets can be low in heme iron.
  • Blood loss: Since a lot of the body’s iron is present in the red blood cells, blood loss can lead to iron deficiency. Blood loss may occur due to menstruation or conditions such as stomach ulcers and colon cancer.
  • Iron malabsorption: This occurs when the body has difficulty absorbing the dietary iron that it needs. This can result from conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and procedures such as gastrointestinal surgery.
  • Growth: The body needs iron to aid oxygen transportation. For this reason, people in periods of growth will require more iron because their body will require more oxygen. This makes young children and pregnant people more at risk of iron deficiency.
  • Other conditions: Some health conditions, such as obesity, kidney failure, cancer, and congestive heart failure, may also lead to iron deficiency.

Some symptoms of iron deficiency include:

People who suspect they have iron deficiency anemia should contact a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Learn more about iron deficiency here.

Some people may wish to increase their dietary iron intake without taking supplements. They can add a number of iron-rich foods to their diets, such as:

Learn about the best foods and meal plan for iron deficiency anemia here.

Iron is a mineral that is essential for many bodily processes. People who find it difficult to get enough iron from their diet may consider taking iron supplements. This may help prevent iron deficiency anemia.

Anyone who is considering taking iron supplements should seek the advice of a doctor first.