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Iron is a trace mineral needed for the body to make hemoglobin — a protein that picks up oxygen in your lungs and busts a move to get it to the rest of your body. Iron is also needed to make myoglobin, which provides oxygen for the muscles when blood oxygen runs low.
In short, it’s important.
Most people get the iron they need from their diet. However, some people are iron deficient, which leads to a condition called anemia. Iron supplements keep your iron levels up so that blood and oxygen can get where it needs to go. However, you can get too much iron, which can cause problems, too.
Here, we take a look at some of the best iron supplements available and how to use them.
7 best iron supplements
- Best overall: Thorne Research Iron Bisglycinate
- Best liquid: MaryRuth Organics Liquid Iron Vitamin
- Best with vitamin C: NATURELO Vegan Iron Supplement with Vitamin C
- Best organic: Garden of Life mykind Organics Organic Plant-Sourced Iron+Herbs
- Best vegan: Garden of Life Vitamin Code Iron Supplement
- Best for kids: Renzo’s Iron Supplements for Kids
- Best budget: Amazon Elements Iron
We considered the following when selecting our top picks:
- Third-party certifications. We looked for iron supplements that are part of the NSF Certified for Sport program. Another certification we looked for is good manufacturing processes (GMP) certified or registered. This ensures a third party has inspected the facilities for safe manufacturing practices.
- Form of iron. Just any old iron isn’t good enough. We looked for the types that the body can most easily absorb and how much elemental iron came with each iron type, along with source and price. For example, chelated iron that’s more bioavailable for raising iron levels, and ferrous iron is more affordable than chelated or carbonyl iron.
- Dosage. The National Institute of Health recommends 8 milligrams (mg) of iron for men and postmenopausal women, and 18 mg of iron per day for premenopausal women.
Prices are per capsule/tablet or liquid serving.
- $ = under $0.25
- $$ = $0.25–$0.40
- $$$ = over $0.49
Here’s a closer look at the iron supplements we selected, including pros, cons, and what users are saying about them.
|Thorne Research Iron Bisglycinate||$||25 mg||capsule||ferrous bisglycinate chelate||NSF Certified for Sport|
|MaryRuth Organics Liquid Iron Vitamin||$$$||18 mg||liquid||ferrous bisglycinate chelate||GMP certified|
|NATURELO Vegan Iron Supplement with Vitamin C||$||25 mg||capsule||ferrous bisglycinate chelate||GMP certified, FDA-registered facility|
|Garden of Life mykind Organics Organic Plant-Sourced Iron+Herbs||$$$||10 mg||liquid||organic food blend||USDA-certified organic, non-GMO verified, gluten-free certified, vegan certified|
|Garden of Life Vitamin Code Iron Supplement||$$||28 mg||capsule||brown rice chelate||NSF certified gluten-free, certified vegan, non-GMO verified|
|Renzo’s Iron Supplement for Kids||$||9 mg||dissolvable tablet||carbonyl iron||FDA-registered facility, NSF certified|
|Amazon Elements Iron||$||18 mg||capsule||ferrous bisglycinate||GMP certified|
Best overall iron supplement
- Price: $
- Dosage: 25 mg elemental iron
- Type: capsule
- Key ingredients: iron as ferrous bisglycinate chelate
- Notable features: NSF Certified for Sport
- contains chelated iron that’s easier for the body to absorb
- NSF Certified for Sport
- reduced gastrointestinal distress
- affordable price
- may cause stomach upset in some users
Thorne Research Iron Bisglycinate comes in as best overall for the 25 mg of iron chelate’s easy digestibility and the certifications. This supplement is NSF Certified for Sport, so the facilities have been evaluated and follow best practices, and the supplement does not contain ingredients banned by the major sports associations.
Most people find this Thorne supplement goes gentle on their stomach and successfully raises their iron levels. However, it’s all based on how your body interacts with the supplement, as there are a few users who report stomach upset.
Best liquid iron supplement
- Price: $$$
- Dosage: 18 mg
- Type: liquid
- Key ingredients: ferrous bisglycinate chelate from ferrochel
- Notable features: GMP certified, vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free
- easy to take
- chelated form of iron absorbs well
- GMP certified
- metallic taste
If liquids are the easiest for you to take, the MaryRuth Organics Liquid Iron Vitamin is a great choice. Each 1-tablespoon dose provides 18 mg of chelated iron.
MaryRuth’s is a vegan supplement. It’s also non-GMO and free of sugar, gluten, and soy. Manufacturing takes place in a GMP-certified facility.
However, this supplement has a strong metallic taste (many iron supplements do), and it’s on the pricey side. Be aware that plant-based sources of iron can be harder for the body to absorb.
Best iron supplement with vitamin C
- Price: $
- Dosage: 25 mg
- Type: capsule
- Key ingredients: iron as ferrous bisglycinate chelate, vitamin C
- Notable features: GMP certified, made in FDA registered facility
- chelated iron is easier on the stomach
- vegan, plant-sourced iron
- GMP certified facilities
- not certified organic
For years, doctors have recommended taking iron with vitamin C to aid absorption. However, there’s conflicting evidence surrounding whether or not vitamin C actually helps iron absorption. The good news is until there’s more scientific evidence, a little extra vitamin C won’t hurt and can boost your immune system. The NATURELO Vegan Iron Supplement with Vitamin C provides 25 mg of vegan iron in the form of ferrous bisglycinate chelate.
The list of nutrients includes beets, spinach, kale, swiss chard, and pumpkin, all high sources of plant-based iron. This supplement gets the best with vitamin C because it provides a good dose of iron and vitamin C, plus it’s made in FDA-registered facilities that are also GMP certified. (The FDA does not regulate supplements. FDA registered does not mean FDA approved, only that the facilities have passed FDA specifications.)
While many of the ingredients are said to be organic, this supplement isn’t certified organic by an independent third party.
Best organic iron supplement
- Price: $$$
- Dosage: 10 mg
- Type: liquid
- Key ingredients: iron from organic food blend, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B12
- Notable features: USDA-certified organic, non-GMO verified, certified gluten-free, certified vegan
- certified USDA organic
- added vitamins
- easy to take
- low iron dose
The Garden of Life iron supplement includes a long list of third-party certifications that assure it’s USDA certified organic, as well as non-GMO verified, certified gluten-free, and certified vegan by regulating organizations. This supplement is easy to take in the liquid form, too.
However, this supplement doesn’t pack a huge dose of iron. If you get most of your iron from your diet, a 10 mg dose might be all that’s needed to bump your levels into the safe zone. But for those with severe anemia, it might not be enough. This Garden of Life supplement is also expensive.
Best vegan iron supplement
- Price: $$
- Dosage: 28 mg
- Type: capsule
- Key ingredients: iron from brown rice chelate, vitamin B, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, probiotic and enzyme blend
- Notable features: NSF certified gluten-free, certified vegan, non-GMO verified
- contains a chelated vegan iron source
- certified vegan
- includes added vitamins and nutrients
- plant forms of iron have lower absorbency
- large capsules
Garden of Life Vitamin Code Iron Supplement is certified vegan by Vegan.org. It’s also NSF certified and non-GMO verified, offering some peace of mind as to the ingredients and manufacturing processes.
A brown rice chelate puts 28 mg of iron into this supplement. Keep in mind that plant-based iron sources are more difficult to absorb than animal-based sources. Consequently, some users report that their iron levels do not improve even though they take the supplement regularly for several weeks.
Best iron supplement for kids
- Price: $
- Dosage: 9 mg
- Type: dissolvable tablet
- Key ingredients: carbonyl iron, vitamin C
- Notable features: FDA-registered facility, NSF certified, no artificial flavors, gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, no sugar
- easy to take
- NSF certified
- free of gluten, sugar artificial flavors
- may need more than the recommended dose to meet iron needs
Picky eaters and the demands of a growing body can cause kids’ iron levels to drop. A children’s supplement like Renzo’s Iron Supplement for Kids offers a safe dose for children in a form kids are more likely to take without a fuss.
It has a lower, 9 mg dose, that’s designed for the smaller body and developing system of a child. This formula contains carbonyl iron, which consists only of elemental iron, the type the body more readily absorbs.
Children can easily overdose on iron, so be careful and only use an iron supplement if recommended by your child’s doctor. Also, consult a doctor to get recommendations on how much iron your child may need to supplement.
Best budget iron supplement
- Price: $
- Dosage: 18 mg
- Type: capsule
- Key ingredients: iron as ferrous bisglycinate
- Notable features: GMP certified
- affordable 6-month supply per bottle
- ferrous bisglycinate goes easier on the digestive system
- made in GMP-certified facility
- can cause an unpleasant aftertaste
Amazon Element Iron is perfect for those on a budget. It comes in an affordable 6-month supply and contains 18 mg of iron per serving. Then there’s the convenience of ordering (or reordering) using Alexa. The formula contains ferrous bisglycinate, a form of iron that generally reduces stomach upset.
It also contains no binders, chemical preservatives, or artificial colors and flavors. The formula is also gluten-free and vegan, though they’re not verified or certified as either.
The downside is that some users find they have a lingering aftertaste.
Our process and why you should trust us
We consulted Daniel Powers, MSc and CEO of the Botanical Institute, and Heather Hanks MS CAM, a nutritionist and medical advisor for Medical Solutions BCN, for expert advice on selecting the best iron supplements.
Before writing about the products, we put them all through a thorough vetting process that checks for unsupported health claims (like “This iron supplement works with just one use!”), shady business practices, and lawsuits concerning a company’s products. We also checked that the main ingredients in each product are evidence-based and actually do what the company says they do.
After wrapping up our recommendations and tips, we sent this entire article to a third medical professional specializing in nutrition (in this case, Kim Chin, RD) for review.
A simple blood test can determine if you could benefit from an over-the-counter iron supplement. Your doctor can then determine if and how much iron supplement you need.
Here’s more about what you should consider when selecting the iron supplement for you:
- Ferrous iron. Ferrous gluconate, ferrous fumarate, and ferrous sulfate fall into this category. They contain high levels of elemental iron (absorbable iron) at a reasonable price. However, their rapid absorption is more likely to cause stomach or intestinal upset. Some manufacturers make slow-release ferrous iron supplements to combat stomach upset, but the absorption rate of these formulas tends to go down.
- Ferric iron. Ferric iron and ferric iron salts are gentler on the digestive system than ferrous iron. However, it does not absorb into the body as well, so most people try other sources before relying on ferric iron.
- Chelated iron. Both of our experts, Powers and Hanks, recommend chelated forms of iron. Chelated iron is bound to amino acids, mimicking natural forms of iron, which the body more readily absorbs. Chelated iron’s bioavailability level rivals that of ferrous iron without some of the more unpleasant side effects.
- Carbonyl iron. This latest form of iron consists of microparticles of elemental iron in a highly purified state. It dissolves slowly in the stomach, reducing the chances of stomach or intestinal upset. The absorption rate isn’t as high as ferrous or chelated iron, so it’s not quite as effective at treating iron deficiency.
The FDA doesn’t regulate supplements. Consequently, the only way to gauge the quality of the supplement is through third-party certifications. The two most important to consider are:
- NSF and NSF Certified for Sports. The NSF is a third-party certification given by an organization that audits manufacturing facilities for sanitation best practices. Powers also recommends looking for “the NSF® Certified for Sport certification because it goes a bit further than simply following good manufacturing practices. It also means that the product does not contain any of the 280 substances banned by major athletic organizations.”
- GMP certified. Good manufacturing practices (GMP) means the company follows current best practices in the manufacturing industry.
You may also see supplements made in FDA-registered facilities. That means they meet FDA guidelines, not that the FDA approves the supplement.
Iron supplements come in several types, including:
- chewable tablets
- soft chews
- dissolvable tablets
The type of iron in the supplement makes more of a difference to the absorption rate than the type of supplement. However, if you have trouble swallowing pills, there are plenty of liquid, dissolvable, or chewable options.
While the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements, there are Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) for iron. The RDA for men and postmenopausal women is 8 mg/day and 18 mg/day for premenopausal women.
“The standard dietary intake of iron is approximately 16 to 18 mg/day for men and 12 mg/day for women. The upper limit for most adults is around 45 mg/day of iron, at which point most individuals experience gastrointestinal distress,” says Powers.
“Iron supplements are generally sold in 25 mg per capsule dosages,” says Powers. If you’re wondering why you need to take 25 mg when your body only needs 8 or 18 mg, that’s because, as Powers says, “your body may not be able to utilize 100 percent of the iron in each capsule.
Talk with your doctor before starting an iron supplement. Only those who are iron deficient need a supplement, and your doctor may recommend taking more than 25 mg based on your health history. Hanks suggests starting with a low dose at first to see how it affects you or if it causes constipation or GI issues. Then work your way up to the level you need to treat anemia.
Doctors and nutritionists used to recommend taking vitamin C with iron, and some still do. However, a 2020 study found no greater absorption rate in an iron supplement administered with vitamin C when compared to one taken without vitamin C. So, the jury is still out on the connection between iron and vitamin C.
You can also find iron supplements with additional vitamins. These aren’t necessary for iron absorption but can offer added health benefits in addition to iron.
If you eat a healthy diet that consists of a variety of foods, chances are your iron levels are right where they should be. If you show signs of iron deficiency, talk with your doctor and get a blood test.
If it’s recommended that you choose an iron supplement, look for one that’s been third-party tested, and remember that chelate and ferrous iron offer the best absorption. However, try taking a low dose at first to see how your system reacts to the supplement.