Hemoglobin is a protein that helps transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Myoglobin is another protein that stores oxygen for your muscles when you exercise. It's also important for brain cell development, body growth, and hormone production, and it supports muscle function. (1).
Heme iron and non-heme iron are both sources of iron. Plants and iron-fortified foods contain only non-heme iron, while animal food contains both types. Iron comes from animal food sources like red meat, organ meats (such as liver), seafood, nuts, beans (like kidney and pinto beans), and leafy greens.
Some people may not have a balanced diet to be able to get enough iron. Therefore, they may be at increased risk for iron deficiency, leading to tiredness, dizziness, and muscle weakness. (2).
These populations typically include children, athletes, people with frequent heavy menstrual bleeding, those pregnant, those with gastrointestinal diseases or cancer, and those who are frequent blood donors. It's always best to fulfill iron needs through diet, but supplemental iron may sometimes be necessary.
Here is a comprehensive list of the 11 most effective iron supplements for 2022.
- Best overall iron supplement: Thorne Iron Bisglycinate
- Best affordable iron supplement: Iron 65 mg
- Best iron supplement with vitamin C: Pure Encapsulations OptiFerin-C
- Best vegan iron supplement with vitamin C: Garden of Life Iron Supplement
- Best fermented iron supplements:New Chapter Fermented Iron
- Best multivitamins with iron: Thorne Research - Basic Prenatal, Ritual Multi Vitamins for Women 18+
- Best vegetarian iron supplement: NOW Supplements, Iron 18 mg
- Best vegan iron supplement: MegaFood Blood Builder
- Best chewable iron supplement: Klaire Labs Chewable Iron Chelate
Are iron supplements the right choice for you?
If you're treating an existing iron deficiency or low iron stores, you may need an iron supplement. If you don't need iron supplementation, you shouldn't take it. Don't give your child iron supplements unless a doctor has recommended them. Children are more likely to develop iron toxicity than adults. (3).
If you have iron-deficiency anemia, you may need intravenous iron if you don’t respond well to oral iron, or if your iron losses are too high to be treated with oral iron. Talk with a doctor to see if you need an iron supplement.
What Kind of Iron Do You Need?
When deciding which iron supplement to use, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of options available. Iron supplements come in various forms including ferrous and ferric iron salts. They include ferric sulfate (FeSO4). ferric citrate, and ferrous gluconate (Fe2+).
Ferrous iron has a higher solubility than ferric iron, meaning it's easier for your body to digest. You may also find different types of iron, including heme iron polypeptides (HIP), carbonyl iron, iron amino acids chelates, and polysaccharide-iron complexes.
Iron Supplements Are Used to Treat Anemia.
Iron deficiency anemia can be treated with daily oral iron supplements for at least three months to replenish iron levels. For some people, doctors may recommend taking iron supplements even when their blood counts are back to normal.
For people with iron deficiency, taking a single iron supplement is a good idea because other nutrients commonly found in multivitamins, such as Calcium, may inhibit iron absorption.
You should also take iron supplements between meals, but don't drink any other foods or beverages that might inhibit iron absorption. (6). Instead, it can help improve iron absorption by taking iron with a source of Vitamin C, such as orange Juice or Bell Peppers. (6)
Look for high-quality supplements that have been tested for quality and purity by reputable organizations such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), United States Pharmacopeia (U.S.P.), and NSF International.
Talk with a healthcare provider about proper dosing. If you're low on iron, you'll need more iron than most other people need on a daily bases.
Iron dosing varies depending on the type of iron you're taking. Experts typically recommend taking iron in daily doses of between 100–200 mg of iron to reach a total of 200–400 mg of elemental iron per week. (6)
However, recent research has shown that taking smaller doses of Iron once daily and taking Iron every other day may help increase absorption and tolerability. (6). Those who need extra daily iron for maintaining healthy iron levels usually require smaller doses of iron. A healthcare professional can help determine if you have low iron stores or a deficiency, and then recommend the right dosage for your needs.
How We Choose
This article examines iron supplementation based on these criteria:
- Iron supplements are tested for quality, and ideally by a third party.
- The supplements contain easily absorbed forms.
- Iron supplements are usually made from iron compounds that don't interfere with the absorption of other nutrients.
- The supplements contain an effective dose.
- We included products to suit a wide range of budgets.
- We vet all the products to ensure that they meet medical standards.
Best overall iron supplement
Thorne Iron Bis-Glycinate is one of the most reputable supplement brands. Each capsule contains 25 milligrams of iron bisglycine chelate, which is a bioavailable iron that‘s less likely to cause stomach upset than other forms of iron.
It’s also NSF certified, which means it’s free from substances that have been banned in most sports organizations and are thus safe for athletes. Furthermore, Thorne’s facilities are verified by multiple independent third-party organizations.
Best affordable iron supplement
Nature Made has 65 mg of iron per serving, which is 361% of the DV for iron. Or, it’s equivalent to 325 mg of ferrous sulfate. Ferrous sulfate has a high solubility, which means that it releases iron ions quickly and is, therefore, easier to digest.
However, this type of iron is more likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects like constipation. The product has been tested by an independent third party, which verifies its quality, including its purity, potency, and effectiveness.
Best iron supplement with vitamin C
Pure Encapsulations' OptiFerin-c contains 28 mg of iron (iron bisglycinate) plus 100 mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C is often included in iron supplements because it may improve the absorption of iron. It's kosher, vegan-friendly, and free of gluten, soy, and dairy. (7)
It’s produced in a GMP-certified facility, which means that the facilities abide by Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines set up by the US FDA.
Pure Encapsulations' products exceed the standards set by USP - an organization that sets strict guidelines for the quality and purity standards of dietary supplements.(8).
Best vegan iron supplement with vitamin C
Garden of Life VitaminCode Raw Iron provides 22 mg of whole food iron and 24 mg of vitamin C. Whole food iron means that the iron comes directly from foods created by nature.
It also means that the supplement was not made using high heat, synthetic binders or fillers, artificial flavors, sweeteners or colors, or additives.
It also contains an organic fruit and vegetable blend, as well as probiotics and enzymes to support digestion. All Garden of Life supplements are manufactured in an FDA-certified facility. This supplement is also vegan, non-GMP, kosher, raw, gluten-free, and soy-free.
Best fermented iron supplements
This whole-food iron supplement gives you non-constipating, fatigue-fighting iron that can be easily absorbed by your body.
Builds blood and supports natural energy production with Iron plus 5 essential minerals: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Folate, B12, and Zinc supplement.
Helps improve the risks of iron deficiency and is an excellent iron supplement for women's needs during pregnancy and during menstrual periods or times of loss of blood.
Best multivitamins with iron
It's not just for breastfeeding and pregnant women—it can also be used as an extra vitamin for those who want a multivitamin that has more than 100% of your daily dietary iron intake.
This prenatal supplement provides 167% of the DV of iron in the highly bioavailable form of Ferrochel. It also contains many nutrients important for women‘s health, including vitamin C, zinc, folate, iodine, selenium, vitamins B6, B 12, and D.
Thorne Basic Pregnancy is a well-rounded prenatal vitamin that’s appropriate to women of child-bearing age.
Designed for people who want to help fill gaps in dietary needs, or who have symptoms of iron deficiency. Specifically, the minty-smelling capsules contain iron bisglycinatte, which may be easier for your body to absorb and cause less gastrointestinal distress than other types of Iron.
The supplement contains several nutrients that you may not be able to get enough of from food alone. These include vitamin D, DHA, and folate (folic acid). Unlike most other multivitamin supplements, it contains no calcium, so it won't interfere with iron absorption.
Keep in mind that although the multivitamin is vegetarian-friendly, it lacks certain nutrients that might cause vegans to have inadequate iron intake, iodine and zinc defiency. (9) It’s low in magnesium and doesn't contain vitamin C or many other B vitamins besides folate and B12, but it's still a good source of protein.
Best vegan iron supplement
Now offers high-quality products at affordable pricing. Each bottle contains 120 capsules, which provide 18 mg of iron per serving.
Furthermore, the product has been tested by UL, an independent third-party certification organization.
While it's made without gluten or major allergies, NOW supplements are produced at facilities where cross-contamination may happen.
Best vegan iron supplement
MegaFood Blood Builder contains 26 mg of iron per capsule in its iron bisglycinate form, as well as 15mg of vitamin C for improved absorption.
The product contains folic acid and vitamin B12, both of them essential for maintaining healthy blood cells, so it’s definitely worth trying.
All MegaFood products are verified by six third-party testing organizations. The company has certifications including B Corporation, NSF Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Kosher, Vegan, and Glyphosate-Residue Free.
Best chewable iron supplement
Like liquid supplements, chewable vitamin supplements are a convenient and delicious way to take your daily iron supplements. Klaire Labs' Chewable Iron Chelates provides 30 mg of elemental iron in an easily digestible liquid supplement form.
The tablets have a cherry flavor and contain less sugar than most other chewable supplements on sale.
This product is free of common allergens, including dairy products, eggs, fish, shrimp, tree nuts, peanuts (except for peanut butter), wheat, gluten, and soybeans. It’s free from artificial colors, flavorings, and preservatives.
Common Side Effects of Iron Supplements
Some forms of iron are more prone to causing gastrointestinal issues such as constipation than others. Taking iron supplements may also interact with some medications.
Iron supplements may decrease the absorption of certain medications used to treat Parkinson's disease and may lower the efficacy of levothyroxine (T4), a commonly prescribed medication for treating hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goiter, and thyroid cancer.
Some medications, including proton pump inhibitors, can reduce iron absorption by lowering the secretion of stomach acid. Too much iron can cause side effects, some of them potentially dangerous.
For example, 9 mg/lb (20 mg/kg) amounts of iron are usually well-tolerated, whereas doses of 9–27mg/lb (20–60 mg/kg) can be mild to severely toxic. Taking doses higher than 60 mg per kg (27 mg per pound) can cause dangerous symptoms. It’s important to talk to a doctor before taking iron supplements.
It’s also important to keep iron supplements away from children because they are more likely to be poisoned by them than adults.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do iron pills really work?
For most people, yes. Oral iron supplements are often the first choice for treating anemia.
However, some people who have iron-deficiency anemia may require intravenous iron infusions if they cannot properly absorb iron from oral supplements or if their iron losses exceed the amount that can be treated with oral iron.
Which is the best type of iron supplement to take?
Iron supplements come in many different forms. Ferrous and ferric iron supplements are the most commonly used. They include ferric sulfate (FeSO4), ferrous sulfate (Fe2O3), ferrous gluconates (Fe2(C6H8O7)3
Ferrous bisglycinate is less likely to cause gastrointestinal issues such as constipation than ferrous sulfate.
How can I boost iron levels quickly?
It takes time to raise your iron levels, especially when your blood levels are low If you have low Iron, a healthcare professional can help you develop a personalized treatment plan.
Iron deficiency anemia is usually treated by taking daily oral iron supplements for 3 months to replenish tissue iron levels.
Do I need to take iron supplements?
Iron supplements are only recommended when needed either to treat an existing condition or to maintain healthy iron stores.
If you don't have an iron-deficient, taking iron supplements isn't usually necessary.
If you want to get your iron levels checked, contact a healthcare professional for blood tests.
How much iron should you take in supplement form?
The amount of iron that you can safely take will depend on your iron levels.
Iron deficiency is typically treated by taking iron in divided daily doses of 100–200 mg of iron per day.
However, studies suggest taking smaller doses of iron every other day may be better than taking larger doses once daily. Don't take high doses of iron supplements without first consulting a doctor.
Iron is an important nutrient that helps oxygen get from your lungs into your bloodstream. Iron deficiency is usually treated by eating iron-rich foods, but if you need extra iron, then taking an iron supplement may be helpful.
There are many different types of iron supplements available, each containing varying amounts of the mineral. Remember to consult a doctor before taking any new supplements and consider the factors mentioned here to help you choose a good one.