Iron supplements and exercise

Reviewed by our expert panel
Iron supplements and exercise

Active females who regularly play sport can be at risk of iron deficiency.

However, it’s possible to get all the iron you need from everyday foods without needing supplements.

Excellent sources of iron include red meat, liver, seafood and poultry. These foods contain haem iron, which is easily absorbed by the body.

Other sources of iron include grains, pulses, vegetables, fruits, eggs and iron-fortified breakfast cereal. These foods contain non-haem iron.

To enhance the absorption of non-haem iron, try eating vitamin C-rich foods at the same time such as kiwifruit, oranges and berries.

Avoid drinking tea at the same time as a meal as it reduces the absorption of iron.

Iron supplements should only be used to treat iron deficiency and shouldn’t be used to make up for shortfalls in the diet. Iron absorption can also be reduced when taking large doses of supplements and there is a risk of iron overload, which can result in abdominal pain and nausea.

If you think you might be deficient in iron, it’s best to contact your GP or dietitian for further advice.

First published: Oct 2007

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