Iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies among women. Women who diet to lose weight, shy away from red meat and animal food, or engage in heavy exercise are all at risk for missing out on this important mineral. Women need more iron than men because they lose an average of 15 to 20 milligrams each month during their menstrual period. A woman’s iron needs increase during her pregnancy. The consequences of iron deficiency are low energy, fatigue, listlessness, poor motivation to exercise and difficulty concentrating.
IRON FOR WOMEN Photo Gallery
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of
Iron for Females
AGE RDA (MILLIGRAMS)
9-13 years 8 mg
14-18 years 15 mg
19-50 years 18 mg
50+ years 8 mg
Pregnancy 27 mg
Breastfeeding 9 mg
Reprinted with permission from Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc, Copyright © 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences. Courtesy of the National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
Read the section on iron in chapter 3, “Anemia.” You’ll learn that animal foods contain the most absorbable form of the mineral (called heme iron), whereas plant foods contain iron that’s less efficiently absorbed.
Unless you are diagnosed with anemia, there is no need to take single iron supplements. In fact, this can be dangerous, since large amounts of iron can be toxic. In addition to making iron-rich food choices, a multivitamin and mineral supplement should provide 10 to 15 milligrams of the mineral.