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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
  • Many people think spinach is a good source of iron, but spinach also contains a substance that makes it harder for the body to absorb the iron from it. Similarly, tea and coffee contain a substance that can make it harder for the body to absorb iron. Cutting down on tea and coffee could help improve your iron levels. 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 GP or a state-registered 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.

    What does the Department of Health advise?

    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 GP.

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