Alternatives to Iron Supplements

Iron supplements can cause a number of side effects, including nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea. Typically, these side effects occur if you take therapeutic doses of iron supplements. Luckily, your iron levels can be regulated through other sources besides dietary supplements. Speak with your doctor about whether iron supplement alternatives are suitable for you.


Iron-Fortified Cereal

A number of breakfast cereals are iron-fortified and provide up to 18 mg of iron per serving, which is a full day's worth of needed iron. Eighteen mg is approximately 3/4 cup of cereal. Most cereal packaging is clearly labeled as to whether the cereal is iron-fortified. The packaging also provides information on how much iron is contained. Cereal is a source of nonheme iron -- iron from plant foods -- as opposed to heme iron, which is derived from animals.

Animal Foods

Heme iron is considered to be the healthier of the two iron types because it is absorbed better by your body. Chicken liver contains nearly 13 mg per 3.5 oz. and provides 70 percent of your daily value for iron. Other animal foods rich in iron include breaded or fried oysters and clams, braised lean chuck beef, roasted beef tenderloin and roasted dark turkey meat. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, healthy adults absorb between 10 and 15 percent of the iron they consume from food, so it's important to eat a diet rich in these types of foods to fulfill your daily requirement.


Herbs are commonly used to help treat iron-deficiency anemia. This blood condition reduces the amount of red blood cells in your system required to carry oxygen to tissue and organs. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 1 heaping tsp. per day of blue-green algae has been known to treat some anemias. Alfalfa, dandelion, burdock and yellowdock have also been used in traditional herbal remedies to help cure mild anemia cases. One tbsp. of these herbs' simmered roots and leaves in 1 cup of water reportedly helps stabilize hemoglobin levels in your body.

Leaf Concentrate

Leaf concentrate has proven to be an effective alternative to iron supplements. A study conducted by the Department of Food and Nutrition at the International College for Girls in Jaipur, India, found that severe anemia can be effectively treated with leaf concentrate administered daily. More than 100 adolescent girls with anemia ranging from mild to severe showed improved iron levels after taking leaf concentrate. The researchers concluded that leaf concentrate is as effective as traditional iron dietary supplements in regulating iron levels.


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