How to Increase Your Blood Iron Level

How to Increase Your Blood Iron Level

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common vitamin or mineral deficiency in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can increase your iron levels by eating more iron-rich foods, taking steps to increase the absorption of the iron you already consume and taking iron supplements. However, you shouldn't take iron supplements without talking to your doctor first, as getting too much iron can be dangerous.

Increase Iron Intake
Women aged 50 and under need about 18 milligrams of iron per day, and men and older women need about 8 milligrams of iron per day. Pregnant women have even greater iron needs and should consume at least 27 milligrams per day. Good dietary sources of iron include fortified breakfast cereals, oysters, beef, cashews, baked potatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans, white beans, lentils, tofu, cooked spinach and stewed tomatoes. Other types of meat, poultry, seafood, beans, fortified baked goods and green leafy vegetables also provide iron.

Improve Iron Absorption
Iron from animal-based sources, called heme iron, is much better absorbed than iron from plant-based sources, called nonheme iron. You absorb between 14 and 35 percent of heme iron, but only about 3 to 12 percent of the nonheme iron you consume.

Eating plant foods rich in iron along with an animal-based, iron-rich food or a food containing vitamin C can help you increase the overall amount of iron you absorb. Some foods and beverages can, however, decrease the absorption of iron. Avoid drinking coffee or tea when you eat iron-rich foods. Foods rich in fiber and calcium may also reduce iron absorption, as can the phytates found in grains and beans and the phosphates found in colas.

Supplement if Necessary
While it's safe to take a multivitamin containing iron, stand-alone iron supplements should be taken only on the advice of your doctor. When choosing supplements, those containing ferrous iron, such as ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate or ferrous fumarate, are better absorbed than those containing ferric iron, such as ferric ammonium citrate.

Safety Considerations
Consuming more than 45 milligrams per day of iron may cause constipation, nausea or other gastrointestinal side effects. Polysaccharide-iron complexes, iron amino-acid chelates, carbonyl iron and heme iron polypeptides are other types of iron supplements that may have fewer side effects. Keep iron supplements away from children because just 20 to 60 milligrams of iron could cause death in a small child.