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Can you get iron naturally from foods?

For most people, a good diet provides enough iron. Natural food sources of iron include:

  • Meat, fish, and poultry
  • Vegetables, like spinach, kale, and broccoli
  • Dried fruits and nuts
  • Beans, lentils, and peas

Iron is also added to many fortified foods, such as cereals and enriched breads.

Iron from animal sources is absorbed better by the body. However, you can help your body absorb plant-based iron by eating a fruit or vegetable that is high in vitamin C (for example, red bell peppers, kiwis, oranges).

What are the risks of taking iron?

  • Side effects. Taken at normal doses, iron supplements may cause upset stomach, stool changes, and constipation.
  • Risks. Don't start taking iron supplements unless your health care provider tells you that you need them. That's especially true if you have a chronic health condition. Women who plan to become pregnant should also check with a health care provider before they start daily iron supplements.
  • Interactions. Iron can interact with many different drugs and supplements. They include antacids and proton pump inhibitors, antibiotics, calcium, and others. If you take daily medicine, ask your health care provider if it’s safe for you to take iron supplements.
  • Overdose. Iron overdose is a common cause of poisoning in children. It can be fatal. Signs of an iron overdose include severe vomiting and diarrhea, stomach cramps, pale or bluish skin and fingernails, and weakness. Treat these signs as a medical emergency. Call poison control and get medical help immediately.

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