Iron Supplements: Who Needs Them and Why 
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Spinach and beef: We have been told if we eat a lot of spinach and beef, we will get all the iron we need and won’t become iron deficient.
While this might be true if you’re a man, it’s not necessarily the case for women, who require 18 mg of iron per day. Men, on the other hand, require 8 mg of iron a day. Much of this has to do with the fact that women lose 5 to 6 mg of iron per month each time they menstruate.
Why Spinach isn’t Enough and You Should Take Iron Supplements?
Consider this: 100 grams of spinach has 2.71 mg of iron. This means if you’re eating raw spinach you need to eat 700 g of spinach per day or approximately 24 cups of the leafy green. That’s one giant salad.
As for beef, most cuts have approximately 2.4 mg of iron per 100 grams, meaning you need to consume a 26 oz. steak to meet your iron needs. To put that in perspective, when you order steak in a restaurant, it’s usually between 6 and 9 ounces.
Over time, if you’re not getting and absorbing enough iron, you will become iron deficient. What this means is your red blood cells become low in hemoglobin. Since hemoglobin’s job is to bring oxygen to your cells, your cells won’t get enough oxygen. As a result, you can become very tired. In more serious cases, it can lead to pale skin and heavy menstruation, and even to heart palpitations and immune system problems.
Enter supplementation: For many people, especially women, an iron supplement is a good idea.
5 Groups of People who Are Susceptible to Becoming Anemic
Fatty fish and Omega-3 fortified eggs are at the top of the list for the best food sources to get those all-important Omega-3 fatty acids.
For those who don’t eat much fish, it can be challenging to get enough of them from your food alone, hence why 18 million Americans take fish oil supplements.
But what if you’re plant-based? Is it even possible to get enough Omega 3s, which have been linked to all kinds of health benefits, including reducing inflammation, heart health, and cognitive function?
1. Female Athletes
Female athletes are notoriously known to develop anemia. This 2019 study suggests that 35 percent of female athletes don’t get enough iron.
Digging a bit deeper, the study suggests this doesn’t just apply to high-level athletes. In fact, in general, women who exercise more are prone to iron deficiency. The researchers suggest this is because exercise promotes a hormone that stops the gut’s ability to absorb iron. Further, long-distance runners might be even more susceptible, researchers say, as a lot of running can contribute to the destruction of red blood cells in your body.
Speaking of absorption: A vitamin C supplement can also come in handy, as vitamin C helps your body absorb iron more effectively.
2. The Plant-Based
Those who follow a plant-based diet have an even harder time getting all the iron they need.
This comes down to animal versus plant-based iron and how we absorb the two. Animal iron—also called heme iron—gets absorbed more easily than plant-based iron—non-heme iron. What this means is that if you’re a vegan, you need to multiply the daily requirement by 1.8.
18 mg x 1.8 = A whopping 32.4 mg of iron per day.
Two other great food sources of plant-based iron, other than spinach, include pumpkin seeds and lentils. One-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds has 4.7 mg of iron, while cooked lentils have somewhere between 4.1 and 4.9 mg, depending on the type of lentil.
3. Teenage Girls
Various studies have shown a higher risk for teenage girls to become anemic. While estimates range depending on the source, it seems that at least 20 percent of teenage girls experience some degree of iron deficiency.
Much of this has to do with the fact that most have often just begun menstruation, thus losing iron in their blood each month. This requires a demand for more iron, yet they usually don’t change their diet to meet this demand. On top of this, if they’re still growing, this increases the need for iron even more.
4. Pregnant Women
Pregnant women are almost always advised to take an iron supplement by their doctor. This is because they require 27 mg of iron per day, as opposed to the usual 18 mg, thus making it incredibly difficult to consume enough iron via their diet alone.
Again, taking a vitamin C supplement with the iron supplement helps, as does a vitamin A supplement, as it also helps the body absorb iron.
One more tip for pregnant women: Too much coffee or tea can hinder your ability to absorb iron, as they have tannins in them, substances that bind to iron and stop it from being effectively absorbed. If you’re taking supplements, try not to take them at the same time you’re drinking coffee or tea.
5. Heavy Bleeders
Some sources say losing more than 60 mL of blood is considered heavy bleeding, while others put the number at 80 mL.
Eight out of 10 women who consistently lose 80 ml of blood each month tend to become anemic. Even those who aren’t considered heavy bleeders lose between 5 and 6 mg of iron each month, making all menstruating women more susceptible to iron deficiency.
Good news: There’s evidence that an iron supplement can improve your mood and reduce menstrual cramps. Much of this has to do with the formation of the hormone melatonin, which is known to decrease mood swings, cramping, and even bloating.
Bottom line: If you’re a woman, and especially if you’re a young woman, a frequent exerciser, a heavy bleeder or you follow a plant-based diet, it’s especially important to take iron seriously.