Iron is important in making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body.

A lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.

Most people should be able to get all the iron they need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

If you take iron supplements, do not take too much as this could be harmful.

Taking 17mg or less a day of iron supplements is unlikely to cause any harm. But continue taking a higher dose if advised by your GP.

Good sources of iron

Good sources of iron include:

  • liver (but avoid this during pregnancy)
  • red meat
  • beans, such as red kidney beans, edamame beans and chickpeas
  • nuts
  • dried fruit – such as dried apricots
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • soya bean flour

How much iron you need

The amount of iron you need is:

  • 8.7mg a day for men over 18
  • 14.8mg a day for women aged 19 to 50
  • 8.7mg a day for women over 50

You should be able to get all the iron you need from your daily diet.

If you lose a lot of blood during your monthly period (heavy periods), you are at higher risk of iron deficiency anaemia. You may need to take iron supplements.

Speak to your GP or a registered dietitian for more advice.

Effects of taking too much iron

Side effects of taking high doses (over 20mg) of iron include:

  • constipation
  • feeling sick
  • being sick
  • stomach pain

Very high doses of iron can be fatal, particularly if taken by children. Always keep iron supplements out of the reach of children.


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

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