Best Iron Supplements

There are multiple reasons why it makes sense to take an iron supplement.

Some people are at specific moments in their lives that make it more likely to have a deficiency, such as when women go through pregnancy. Other people are just more susceptible to developing a deficiency (also known as anemia) than others for a variety of reasons.

If your doctor has told you that you have an iron deficiency or you suspect you have one, you may be wondering what’s the best iron supplement for you and your specific health condition.

So in this article, we lay out the best iron supplements for various situations and health conditions.

 

Why Take an Iron Supplement?

Iron is absolutely essential to your health—you wouldn’t be able to live without it.

The majority of iron found in the human body is in red blood cells. Iron is so important because the iron in red blood cells attaches to oxygen and carries it from the lungs to tissues, organs, and all throughout the body.

Iron plays a large role in the transmission of nerve impulses, which is what allows your brain to tell different body parts to move when and how you want them to.

Iron also makes up part of the process of converting the nutrients that your body absorbs into energy.

The majority of people get enough iron from their diet, but if you don’t, it can cause serious health problems. However, on the other hand, excess iron gets stored in the body, and getting too much can have negative side effects as well, so it’s important to get a reasonable balance of iron.

Some of the reasons you may find yourself with an iron deficiency include:

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is the result of not having enough iron in your system and your red blood cells can’t efficiently provide oxygen throughout your body.

Some causes of iron deficiency anemia include blood loss, gastrointestinal bleeding (which can occur from taking medicines such as ibuprofen and aspirin), menstruation, cancer, and peptic ulcers.

If you have iron deficiency anemia, some symptoms of it may be feeling tired, weak, dizzy, or having difficulty concentrating.

 

Menstruation

Menstruation is the most common cause of iron deficiency anemia due to the loss of blood. It’s a very common issue among women, even in Western countries. (1)

 

Blood Loss

Blood loss can obviously happen in a number of ways. Whether it’s from an injury or donating blood, losing too much blood can result in an iron deficiency. If you’re a regular blood donor and you become iron deficient, you may want to consider talking with your doctor about supplementation or reducing the frequency with which you give blood.

 

If You Exercise

Exercise is a necessary component of living a healthy lifestyle. However, that doesn’t mean exercising is without its downsides here and there.

Taking an iron supplement may be a good idea if you exercise a lot because this study found three separate cases in which iron deficiency anemia was induced in women who engaged in intensive physical activity.

 

If You’re Pregnant or Are Nursing a Baby

According to the National Institutes of Health, adult women need 18 mg of iron daily. But for pregnant women that number jumps pretty significantly to 27 mg. The reason being is that red blood cells expand during pregnancy and need additional iron to assist in transporting them throughout the body.

Therefore, it’s easier to develop an iron deficiency during pregnancy. It’s something that should be avoided because being deficient in iron throughout pregnancy can result in an increased risk of “maternal and infant mortality, premature birth, and low birthweight”. (2) (3)

 

If You’re on Dialysis

People on dialysis are at higher risk of having an iron deficiency because of the diet required for dialysis, loss of blood due to hemodialysis, and the medications you have to take. (4)

 

#1) Best Overall Iron Supplement: Zahlers Iron Complex

Image of a bottle of Zahler Iron Complex, the best iron supplement for general use

If you’re looking into taking an iron supplement, it’s a good idea to consider an iron complex. An iron complex supplement consists of iron, vitamin C, and B vitamins. Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron while B vitamins work with iron to support the health of red blood cells.

Zahlers Iron Complex contains 25 mg of iron (139% of the daily value), 60 mg of vitamin C (100% DV), 80 mc of vitamin B12 (1333% DV), 400 mcg of folic acid (100% DV), and 100 mg of L-Histidine, which supports blood production and joint function.

This supplement uses high-quality ingredients that don’t upset your stomach. This company uses pure ingredients and manufactures their products in a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) facility.

One important thing to note with this supplement is that it contains significantly more iron than is necessary for men (who require just 8 mg of iron per day) and more than necessary for non-pregnant women (who require 18 mg). You don’t want to overdo it with iron supplementation, so for men, we recommend taking this supplement around every four days and for non-pregnant women every other day.

Pros:

  • Contains a potent dose of iron
  • Addresses anemias due to iron, folic acid, and B12
  • Easy on the stomach
  • Made in a certified GMP facility

Cons:

  • Contains a filler (rice flour)
  • Can cause nausea

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#2) Best Iron Supplement for Anemia: Pharmics – Ferretts Iron Supplement, High Potency 106 mg Elemental Iron

Image of a bottle of Ferretts Iron Supplement, the best iron supplement for anemia

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “100 to 200 mg of elemental iron per day has been recommended” for the treatment of iron deficiency in adults. That’s why we’ve chosen Pharmics – Ferretts Iron Supplement, High Potency 106 mg Elemental Iron as the best iron supplement for anemia.

As you can see, this supplement contains 106 mg of elemental iron, which is 589% of the daily value. That’s clearly more than you want to be taking on a regular basis, but if your doctor has determined that you have anemia, then you need more for a period of time as your body is depleted of the nutrient.

This supplement comes in tablet form and is vegan/vegetarian-friendly. This product is free of yeast, soy, lactose, fish, dyes, and preservatives.

Do keep in mind that if you’ve been diagnosed with anemia, you need to coordinate with your doctor as to what iron supplement you’re taking (whether it’s this one or another product) and how long you need to take it for.

Pros:

  • Contains a potent dose of iron for regenerating depleted iron stores from anemia
  • Suitable for vegans and vegetarians
  • Free of allergens
  • Comes in tablets that are small and easy to swallow

Cons:

  • Contains too high a dosage to take regularly (i.e. if you don’t have anemia) and some consumers may not notice that
  • Has caused constipation in some
  • Can cause stomach pain

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#3) Best Iron Supplement for Women: NOW Iron

Image of a bottle of the best iron supplement for women, Now Iron 18 mg

In our opinion, the best everyday iron supplement for women is NOW Iron. We like this supplement because of its high-quality ingredients and simplicity.

This supplement has 18 mg of iron (as Ferrochel® Iron Chelate). Considering the daily recommended value of iron for (non-pregnant) adult women is 18 mg, you get 100% of the daily value with NOW Iron. You don’t want excess iron being built up in the body, so it’s probably a good idea to take this just 5 or 6 days a week because you’ll get iron from your diet as well.

This supplement comes in vegetable-based capsules that are free of wheat, gluten, soy, milk, egg, fish, shellfish or tree nuts. So they’re safe for vegans and vegetarians and are free of allergens. We always like to see supplements such as this that don’t contain unnecessary additives or colors that can be harmful.

A good thing about this supplement is that it’s non-constipating (most likely due to the form of iron being iron bisglycinate chelate). They’re also easy on the stomach/easy to digest.

NOW is a brand known for their quality, testing their products for quality control, and having environmentally sustainable business practices.

Pros:

  • Has 100% of the daily recommended value of iron for women
  • Free of allergens
  • Vegan/vegetarian-friendly
  • Non-GMO
  • Doesn’t leave you constipated as some iron supplements do
  • Easy on the stomach

Cons:

  • Made in a GMP facility that manufactures other products that do contain allergens
  • Contains a filler (rice flour)

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#4) Best Iron Supplement for Men: Centrum Men (250 Count) Multivitamin

Image of the best iron supplement for men, Centrum Men's Multivitamin

After scouring the market for the best iron supplement for men, we’ve come to the conclusion that Centrum Men (250 Count) Multivitamin is it.

We wanted to find and test a standalone iron supplement suitable for men, but that was surprisingly difficult to find and it’s important for men to get all the right vitamins anyway.

According to the National Institutes of Health, adult men need 8 mg of iron per day. Unfortunately, the vast majority of supplement manufacturers go well beyond that with their supplements that contain only iron as an active ingredient.

Not so with this multivitamin supplement—it contains 8 mg of iron—just the right amount. It also has a robust blend of all the other vitamins necessary for men, without going overboard on the quantities.

Centrum markets their product as being formulated to help “support muscle function, energy, immunity, and metabolism”, as any good multivitamin should do.

This supplement is GMO-free, gluten-free, and vegetarian/vegan-friendly. Unfortunately, though, it does contain soy.

A bottle contains 250 servings and is very reasonably priced.

Pros:

  • Contains 8 mg of iron, which is the daily recommended value
  • Has all the other vitamins you need for men’s health
  • GMO-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Vegetarian/vegan-friendly
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Contains soy
  • Can cause upset stomach

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Alternative Option: NOW Iron is a valid choice as well, with a caveat.

This supplement is not perfect for men because it contains 18 mg of iron—a little more than double the recommended daily value for adult men. This isn’t a dangerous amount, but if you remember from previously in the article, too much iron can build up in the body and have its own negative consequences. In order to avoid that, we recommend taking this supplement every other day or once every three days (there just aren’t many strictly iron supplements on the market that don’t go past the recommended daily value).

 

#5) Best Iron Supplement for Pregnancy: Mama Bird Prenatal Multivitamin

Image of a bottle of the best iron supplement for women, Mama Bird Prenatal Vitamins

We featured this product in our article on prenatal vitamins as the number one supplement in that category. As you’ll notice, this isn’t just an iron supplement, it’s much more than that—it’s a complete multivitamin for pregnant mothers.

If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, you likely already know that while pregnant you’re not just feeding yourself anymore—there’s two of you to feed. That means you need to increase the amount of vitamins you take.

This prenatal multivitamin by Mama Bird ensures that you not only get enough iron while pregnant but that you get all of the other essential vitamins you and your baby need as well.

This supplement contains 18 mg of iron, which is about 67% of the recommended daily value during pregnancy. If you’re eating a healthy diet in addition to taking this supplement, it’s very likely that you’re getting the additional iron required to get to the recommended 27 mg of daily iron intake for pregnant mothers.

If for whatever reason you think you need more iron in addition to what this prenatal has or another prenatal you’re taking, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor about it. You don’t want to overload yourself with iron either, because that can be harmful to you and your baby also.

Pros:

  • Contains pretty much all the vitamins your body needs during pregnancy
  • Has enough iron but not too much—the rest should easily come from your diet
  • Reasonable price

Cons:

  • Has less than 100% of the daily value of iron during pregnancy so if you tend to eat an unhealthy diet you may not be making up the rest. This shouldn’t be an issue as long as you eat right while pregnant.
  • Can cause burping with an unpleasant aftertaste

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Alternative Option: If you’re looking for a strictly iron supplement during your pregnancy, we recommend Solgar’s Gentle Iron. At 25 mg of iron, this supplement is just under the 27 mg recommended for pregnant women. This product is free of gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, yeast, sugar, sodium, artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, and colors, so it’s free of allergens. It also comes in a vegetable cellulose capsule, so it’s vegan and vegetarian-friendly.

 

#6) Best Iron Supplement for Runners/Athletes: Pure Encapsulations Iron-C

Image of a bottle of the best iron supplement for runners/athletes, Pure Encapsulations Iron-C

Our pick for the best iron supplement for runners and other athletes is Pure Encapsulations Iron-C.

We chose this supplement because of its combination of iron and vitamin C. Vitamin C helps with iron absorption, which is good considering your body needs more iron to carry oxygen throughout the body when you’re running/exercising.

The supplement has 15 mg of iron, which is 83% of the daily value of iron for non-pregnant women. The daily value for adult males is just 8 mg, so this supplement contains almost twice as much iron as men need daily. For this reason, we recommend that male runners/athletes take this supplement just every other day, although athletes do need more iron on average than other people.

Pure Encapsulations Iron-C has 175 mg of vitamin C, which is 194% of the daily value. It’s a little more than we’d like to see, but it’s far from toxic, as 2,000 mg is the upper limit for daily vitamin C intake.

We like that this supplement comes in vegetarian capsules (there are 60 in a bottle). However, they are a bit on the large size so they may be difficult to swallow for some.

This product is certified gluten-free and is also free of wheat, egg, peanuts, magnesium stearate, hydrogenated fat, artificial sweeteners and colors, and other unnecessary excipients.

Pros:

  • Contains 15 mg of iron
  • Has vitamin C for increased absorption
  • Comes in a veggie capsule
  • Is hypoallergenic so is free of allergens
  • Certified gluten-free

Cons:

  • Contains an unnecessary amount of extra vitamin C
  • Contains more iron than some men need (this issue can easily be mitigated by not taking it every day)
  • Large capsule size may make it difficult to swallow
  • Can cause nausea/upset stomach in some

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#7) Best Iron Supplement for Vegetarians: EZ Melts Dissolvable Vitamins – Iron

Image of a bottle of EZ Melts Iron, the best iron supplement for vegans and vegetarians

Our pick for the best iron supplement for vegetarians and vegans is EZ Melts Dissolvable Vitamins – Iron.

This supplement contains 18 mg of iron (as carbonyl iron), 100% of the daily value of iron for women. The daily value for men is just 8 mg, so if you’re a man and plan on taking this supplement, you should only take it every two or three days so as to not overload your body with it.

It also contains 30 mg of vitamin C, 50% of the recommended daily value. It’s good to combine vitamin C with iron supplements, as it increases their absorption, making them more effective.

This product contains no sugar, is gluten-free, and non-GMO.

As the name suggests, these come in dissolvable tablets that you put on your tongue and allow to dissolve. They actually have a pleasing flavor that EZ Melts calls “zesty orange”.

And of course, this supplement comes in small tablets that are vegan and vegetarian-friendly.

Pros:

  • 18 mg of iron
  • Contains vitamin C for better absorption
  • Gluten-free
  • Non-GMO
  • No sugar
  • Doesn’t cause upset stomach like some pills made for swallowing do

Cons:

  • Has too much iron for men if you take it daily (men should take it one every two or three days as directed by their doctor)
  • Has caused some consumers to break out

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Conclusion

There are a lot of variables to take into consideration when it comes to buying an iron supplement, so the best iron supplement is essentially whichever one best fits you and your specific health situation.

If you’re pregnant or your doctor has diagnosed you with anemia, then it may be best to go with an iron supplement that has a higher dose. If you just need to regularly supplement with iron for whatever reason, you’re much better off taking a lower dose. And so on.

The point is that with iron supplements, you have to strike the right balance because both too little and too much iron can be a bad thing. As with any supplements that you plan on adding to your diet, consult with your doctor first and have your levels checked after you’ve been supplementing.

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