Iron is important in making 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 (but avoid this during pregnancy)
- red meat
- beans, such as red kidney beans, edamame beans and chickpeas
- dried fruit – such as dried apricots
- fortified breakfast cereals
- soy bean flour
Department of Health and Social Care advice is to limit the amount of red and processed meat you eat. This is due to the probable link with bowel cancer.
Read more about red meat and the risk of bowel cancer.
How much iron do I need?
The amount of iron you need is:
- 8.7mg a day for men aged 19 and over
- 14.8mg a day for women aged 19 to 49
- 8.7mg a day for women aged 50 and over
Women having periods after the age of 50 may need the same amount of iron as women aged 19 to 49.
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) are at higher risk of iron deficiency anaemia and may need to take iron supplements.
Speak to a GP or a registered dietitian for more advice.
What happens if I take too much iron?
Side effects of taking high doses (over 20mg) of iron include:
- feeling sick
- being sick
- 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 and Social Care 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 as this could be harmful.
Taking 17mg or less a day of iron supplements is unlikely to cause any harm. But continue taking a higher dose if advised to by a GP.
Page last reviewed: 1 August 2019
Next review due: 1 August 2019