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Why do we need iron?


Why do we need iron?

Iron is a mineral that plays a crucial role in many different bodily functions. It helps to carry oxygen throughout the body, form red blood cells and fight off infection. If you are iron deficient, you may feel tired and irritable, and it it can affect your ability to concentrate. How much iron do you need? Some groups of people may need more iron than others, such as pregnant women and vegetarians.

Age/Life Stage

Females- mg Iron

Males- mg Iron

1-3 years 7 7
4-8 years 10 10
9-13 8 8
14-18 15 11
19-50 18 8
Over 50 8 8
Pregnancy (all ages) 27 NA


What are some good iron sources?

You can get iron from food and from supplements. There are two types of iron in food: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is absorbed more easily by the body than non-heme iron, and is found in meat, fish and poultry. Non-heme iron is found in enriched and whole grains, nuts, some fruits and vegetables, and beans and legumes. Fun Fact: Eating foods that are high in vitamin C, such as oranges (and other citrus fruits), strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers and kiwis, helps your body absorb iron if eaten during the same meal!  


Serving size

Iron (mg)

Non-Heme Sources

Spinach ½ cup (125 ml) 3.4
Cream of wheat & Oatmeal ¾ cup (175 ml) 5.1-6.3
Pumpkin or squash seeds ¼ cup (60 ml) 8.6
Tofu ¾ cup (175 ml) 7.3-8.0
Beans (white, kidney, navy, pinto, black), cooked ¾ cup (175 ml) 2.6-4.9


Beef 75 grams (2½ ounces) 1.4-3.3
Chicken 75 grams (2½ ounces) 0.4-2.0
Liver 75 grams (2½ ounces) 4.9
Oysters 75 grams (2½ ounces) 3.3-9.0



HealthLink BC HealthLuink Alberta{AC607976-7ACF-477B-90FC-4EC6871926A6} Dietitians of Canada National Institutes of Health