What Is The Best Type of Iron Supplement?
If you regularly experience fatigue, paleness, headaches and/or dizzy spells then you may be suffering from iron deficiency, in which case you obviously need to increase the amount of iron in your diet. Your first step is likely to be to see if you can increase the amount of iron-rich foods you eat. How easy this will be for you will depend on your overall lifestyle. For example, red meat is very rich in iron but it is also usually high in fat and therefore calories and hence is usually best eaten in moderation and, of course, some people choose to eliminate meat from their diet completely. If you are unable to get the iron you need from your food, then you may wish to look into taking an iron supplement. With so many on the market, the choice can be literally bewildering and so we’ve put together a helpful guide to help you choose the best type of iron supplement for you.
Work out how much iron you, personally, need
When you look at the packaging of iron supplements, you will generally see at least two values. One is the headline quantity of iron and the other is this quantity expressed as a percentage of the recommended dietary allowance for an average adult. You, however, are an individual and not necessarily an average one and possibly you have a need for more iron than the standard RDA. Because the need for iron is so variable, it’s a good idea to look up a reputable source on the net which will look at the various factors involved in determining a person’s need for iron (principally age, gender and lifestyle) and suggest how much iron you should be taking. If you are still unsure, you should consult your doctor.
back to menu ↑
Decide what format of supplement you want
You can buy iron supplements in all kinds of formats, but by far the most common are tablets, capsules and liquids. Before we look at choosing the right format for you, we’d like to dispel a myth about absorption. These days at least, tablets and capsules and deliver their nutrients just as effectively as liquids. That may not always have been the case and in years gone by there may have been an advantage to buying supplements in liquid form but at this point in time tablets and capsules are every bit as effective as liquids. Your decision, therefore, should be guided by your preference as to the best type of iron supplement type.
back to menu ↑
Tablets tend to be the most cost-effective option for the simple reason that they are the easiest option for manufacturers in terms of production, packing in most nutritional value for their mass, ease of packaging and transport and long shelf life. These cost savings are passed onto retailers and hence on to consumers. Some people may find larger tablets difficult to swallow. There is actually a trick with this, which is to put them under the tongue. The body has an instinctive reaction to dislodge them and will actively push them down the throat. High quality tablets have a coating on them, which helps them to slip down fairly easily.
back to menu ↑
Capsules have the advantage of being easier to swallow than tablets, but this advantage comes at a price. In addition to being more expensive than tablets, capsules themselves are not airtight and hence have a shorter shelf life although this will probably be a fairly minor consideration if you’re taking a supplement regularly. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, make sure to look for capsules made without gelatin. Gelatin is also often unsuitable for those on halal or kosher diets.
back to menu ↑
Liquid supplements are usually the most expensive to manufacture, package and transport and hence carry the highest prices. The advantage they offer is that they are very easy to dose, particularly if you are giving supplements to children - at least they are if the person taking the supplement likes the flavour or if it can be cunningly disguised in something they do like. Liquids are, of course, vulnerable to being spilled so do need to be handled with a bit of care. Some of them can stain teeth so ideally you want to put them straight on the tongue.
back to menu ↑
Iron supplements and constipation
We previously mentioned the issue of absorption, this relates to the effectiveness with which the body can make use of the iron in your choice of iron supplement. Obviously the body has to be able to digest the iron supplement in order to absorb its nutrients, so the two topics are linked, but they are different. In short, constipation is what happens when your body struggles to digest the iron in the supplement and hence, when you’re looking for an iron supplement which is unlikely to cause constipation, you’re looking for one which is highly digestible. Here is the point you need to understand. The format in which you take your iron supplement is irrelevant when it comes to its digestibility. A high-quality tablet can be highly digestible and a poor quality liquid can be highly indigestible. You will find some iron supplements advertised as “gentle iron” or “slow release”. These supplements both tackle the issue of digestibility albeit from different angles. When you see “gentle iron” supplements, they tend to contain iron in the form of Ferrous Bis-Glycinate (Chelate), which is a very digestible form of iron. Iron supplements which are advertised as “slow release” tend to be ferrous sulphate, which releases its nutrients over a longer period, the idea being that the body will be able to process a little at a time and hence be put under less pressure.
Suffering from anemia? Read our article "best iron supplement for anemia without constipation" hereback to menu ↑
Iron and vitamins
When you take iron supplements, you will typically have a choice between taking an iron supplement (i.e iron on its own) and taking a multivitamin supplement. Your choice will, of course, depend on your own situation and your own individual needs. A combined iron and multivitamin supplement can be a useful way to ensure that young children and teenagers, both of whom can be very fussy eaters, get a decent level of nutrients, even if their diet leaves a lot to be desired. If, however, you’ve identified that all you need is iron, then it may be best to stick with that, or to look for an iron supplement which has, what might be called, related nutrients such as vitamin C and folic acid. Vitamin C boost iron absorption (as well as having its own range of benefits) and hence it is often advised to take iron in combination with foods which are rich in vitamin C. Having vitamin C included in the supplement just helps to make this a bit easier. From a health perspective, it’s probably better than taking your iron supplement with a glass of orange juice, which is a thought which would, understandably, be likely to occur to many people. The reason for this is that although orange juice is a convenient and tasty way to get vitamin C to help your iron absorption, it is actually high in sugar and also acidic, which means it is best drunk in moderation and used as part of a balanced meal, rather than used as a drink at all let alone one with which to take a pill.
back to menu ↑
Iron and calcium
It’s generally advised to avoid dairy and calcium-rich foods for a couple of hours after taking iron as some studies have suggested that calcium hinders iron absorption.back to menu ↑
Our Favorite Iron Supplements - Best Type of Iron Supplement
- Serving Size - 1 veggie cap
- Does Not Contain: Sugar, salt, starch, corn, yeast, wheat, soy, dairy products, preservatives, artificial flavors or colors.
- Iron is a necessary component of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrier in the blood*
- Iron supports energy utilization and normal red blood cell production*
- This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease
- Ingredients: Dried Ferrous Sulfate 205 mg (equivalent to 325 mg Liquid Ferrous Sulfate which provides 65 mg elemental Iron per tablet), Vegetable Cellulose, Crospovidone. Contains <2% of: Maltodextrin, Silica, triacetin, Vegetable Magnesium Stearate
- High potency iron vitamin for iron deficiency.
- Unique formula, Iron plus vitamin C, helps your body absorb the iron more effectively.
- One tablet per day (65mg elemental Iron)
- Easy on the stomach and less constipating
- Boosts energy
- WELL TOLERATED: Gentle on the stomach and easy to digest
- ONCE A DAY DOSAGE: Dietary supplement for enhanced compliance
- HIGH POTENCY: 106 mg Elemental Iron (from 325 mg Ferrous Fumarate)
- ESSENTIAL BODY MINERAL: Works by replacing iron in the body when the body does not produce enough on its own
- BETTER SUPPLEMENTS: Ferretts tablets are free from soy, fish, lactose and yeast and contain no preservatives or dye.