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Iron Levels - Maintaining Healthy Iron Levels

How can I maintain healthy iron levels in my body?

There are no official recommendations for treating or preventing high iron levels.
It has not yet been shown that lowering high iron levels will lower your risk for heart attack or dying early. Everyone is encouraged to get enough iron, but to avoid getting too much of it. Your healthcare provider can help you figure out whether you need more iron in your diet. If your healthcare provider has prescribed iron supplements, you should continue taking them. A healthy, balanced diet is the most effective means of getting enough iron and preventing iron deficiency anemia. All nonpregnant women should be screened for anemia every 5 to 10 years beginning in adolescence and continuing throughout the childbearing years. Pregnant women should talk to their doctors about how to ensure that they get enough iron to avoid iron-deficiency anemia.8 If a doctor determines that you have an iron deficiency, you will be given iron supplements and dietary advice.

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Iron

National Academy of Sciences Food & Nutrition Board3 2001 RDAs for Iron for Women

Childbearing age
(19 to 50 years)

18 mg/day

Postmenopausal
(51 years or older)

5 to 8 mg/day

Pregnant

27 mg/day

Breastfeeding

9 to 10 mg/day

mg = milligram

The foods with the highest iron content include 32:

USDA Database for Standard Reference (1999)
Foods With High Iron Content

Food

Serving Size

Iron (in milligrams)

Animal Sources ( heme iron)

Beef liver

3 oz

5.8

Lean beef

3 oz

2.0-2.9

Tuna, canned

3 oz

1.3

Lean chicken and pork

3 oz

1.0

Salmon, canned with bone

3 oz

0.7

Egg, large whole

each

0.7

Plant Sources ( non-heme iron)*

Fortified breakfast cereal

1 c.

4.5 -18

Tofu set with calcium sulfate

½ c.

6.6

Canned soybeans or soybean nuts

½ c.

4.4 - 4.0

Dried beans, cooked

1 c.

3.6 - 5.2

Instant oatmeal

1 c.

8.3

Edible seeds (pumpkin, squash, sesame)

1 oz.

4.1 - 4.2

Spinach, cooked

½ c.

3.2

Figs

5

2.0

Soy milk

1 c.

1.4

Almonds

1 oz.

1.3

Enriched egg noodles

½ c.

1.2

Wheat germ, toasted

1 oz.

1.1

Prunes

5

1.1

Whole-wheat bread

slice

0.9

Enriched rice

½ c.

0.9

Apricot halves

5

0.8

Broccoli or kale chopped, cooked

½ c.

0.6

Raisins

1 oz.

0.6

*The iron from plant foods is less well absorbed than that from animal sources.
c = cup, oz = ounce


Smaller, but still significant amounts of iron are also found in lamb, pork, and shellfish. The iron from vegetables, fruits, grains, and supplements is non-heme iron and is not as easy for the body to absorb.


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