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Did you know that iron deficiency anemia can cause you to crave dirt?
In the interest of stopping the train well before that station, we’ve rounded up the five best iron supplements on the market.
“Iron is iron,” you might say, but the type of iron (for example, ferrous sulfate versus heme iron), how it’s manufactured, and any other ingredients included in the supplement can significantly affect how this vital nutrient is absorbed and used by the body (bonus factoid: calcium supplements can inhibit iron absorption!).
This is why we’ve made sure that our top picks—Garden of Life scores yet another #1 The Nutrition Insider ranking with Vitamin Code RAW Iron—are not only meeting RDAs, but demonstrating a foundational understanding of how to get the most out of each milligram.
Without further ado, here’s our list of the five best iron supplements in 2023, including different types of iron supplements (liquid, tablet, etc.) made for every situation.
The 5 Best Iron Supplements
|Best Overall||with Adaptogens||in Liquid Form|
|Product||Garden of Life||Ancient Nutrition||Flora|
|Key Points||Capsule form; multiple supporting ingredient blends (probiotic, organic whole foods, enzymes) totaling 30+ ingredients; low-heat production for nutrient retention; no synthetic additives||Capsule form; Chinese herbs with adaptogenic properties reduce stress; bone broth provides collagen; vitamin C enhances iron absorption||Liquid form; pricier than capsules but generally easier on the digestive system; B-vitamin complex supports iron uptake and energy; clean (but not organic) “other ingredients” list|
Best Iron Supplement: Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW Iron
- Huge supporting (organic) ingredient selection of 30+ foods/probiotics
- Produced under low heat for preservation
- No fillers or synthetic additives
- Pricier than an iron-only supplement
Best for: Anyone who needs an iron supplement that is both easy on the stomach and loaded with organic, whole-food-based ingredients to provide other health benefits.
We can’t help but get strong “But wait, there’s more!” vibes when perusing the ingredient list of Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW Iron, because it just keeps on going. Here’s a summary of the major categories and a few examples of ingredients therein:
Micronutrients: Vitamin C (25mg/serving), Folate (400mcg/serving), Vitamin B12 (500mcg/serving) Iron from Brown Rice Chelate (22mg/serving)
Raw Organic Fruit & Vegetable Blend (All Organic): Apple, Beet, Broccoli, Carrot, Spinach, Tomato, Strawberry, Green Bell Pepper, and more than a dozen others.
Raw Probiotic & Enzyme Blend: Lipase, Protease, Aspergillopepsin, beta-Glucanase, and 9 other “-ases”.
In addition to the distinct health benefits conferred by their phytochemicals, the 23 items in the Raw Organic Fruit & Vegetable Blend kick in plenty of vitamin C to supplement the 25mg per serving already provided. We’re pointing vitamin C out because it has been demonstrated to significantly enhance non-heme iron absorption.
Moreover, the probiotic blend makes this one of the best iron supplements for women who plan on having children, because it can cut down on nausea while addressing pregnancy-related iron deficiency at the same time, as suggested by this UC Davis study.
Taking a broader look at the entire ingredient list and its potential benefits, we’re admittedly throwing our hands up in the air out of a lack of ability to even summarize everything. The organic ginger, garlic, and kale alone promote dozens of health benefits.
Suffice it to say, Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW is the most nutritionally dense and formulaically sound iron supplement we’ve seen.
Best Iron Supplement with Adaptogens: Ancient Nutrition Iron
- A dozen nutritionally dense supporting ingredients (plant extracts and bone broth)
- Meat sources raised without hormones and antibiotics
- Lower iron per serving
Best for: Anyone looking for a nutritionally well-rounded and absorbable iron supplement with the added benefit of adaptogens for increasing the body’s resistance to some forms of stress.
Throwing it back a couple of millennia in deference to the time-tested tradition of Chinese Herbology, Ancient Nutrition Iron sports an “Ancient Nutrients TCM (Traditional Chinese Method) Blend” that features the following ingredients:
Bovine Liver, Beef Bone Broth, Chicken Bone Broth, Organic Chinese Peony Root Extract, Organic Bai-Zhu Atractylodes Root Extract, Organic Codonopsis Root Extract, Organic Astragalus root Extract, Organic Reishi Mushroom Extract, Wild Hake Roe.
Notably, the addition of two forms of bone broth kicks in a healthy portion of collagen, the most structural protein in the body with foundational benefits for skin and connective tissue health. This is in addition to the digestive, immunological, and other benefits of codonopsis root and other extracts included in the blend.
As for the iron, each serving (one capsule) contains 18mg, and like Garden of Life, it is accompanied by 25mg of vitamin C to enhance absorption. This helps the iron do its thing more effectively, which, by the way, involves forming hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells that allows them to effectively transport oxygen.
The astragalus root and reishi mushroom extracts impart adaptogenic effects, meaning they may increase your body’s resistance to stress.
While we’re sticking to Garden of Life as our top pick in a general sense, if you’re looking for collagen, adaptogens, or Chinese herbs in addition to highly absorbable iron, we recommend Ancient Nutrition Iron above all others.
Best Iron Supplement In Liquid Form: Flora Iron
- Readily absorbable
- Easy on the digestive system
- Vitamin B complex bolsters energy-boosting effects
- Significantly pricier than iron capsules
- Added sugar
Best for: Anyone looking to add extra oomph to the energy boost of iron with vitamin B, and/or those who prefer a liquid supplement.
Whether or not liquid iron is more absorbable than iron capsules is highly dependent on the form of iron, which is why the research seems to contradict itself on the surface, but there’s little debate that iron salts like ferrous gluconate are very well absorbed by the body.
This is one reason why we single out Flora Iron as our favorite liquid iron supplement—it contains research-supported ferrous gluconate, a highly absorbable and gentle (on the stomach) form of the nutrient.
Also of note in the ingredient list is a B vitamin complex (B1, B2, B6, and B12) that surpasses the vast majority of iron supplements we’ve reviewed. Both the quantity and variety of B vitamins bodes especially well for people battling fatigue, a common symptom of iron deficiency anemia.
Though we’d like to see organic ingredients and no added sugar (1 g per serving, but still), Flora Iron’s “other ingredients” list is composed almost entirely of fruit and vegetable concentrates/powders with no troublesome preservatives.
Whether it’s an aversion to capsules (gag reflex, it’s a thing) or simply a personal preference that has you leaning towards a liquid iron supplement, Flora Iron is a reliable, soundly formulated option.
Best Iron-Only Supplement: Solaray Iron 50mg
- Highly absorbable form of iron (amino acid chelate)
- Lower side effect incidence in research
- No supporting ingredients
Best for: If iron is all you need, we recommend Solaray Iron because of the highly tolerable and effective form of iron they use, as well as the brand’s reputation for high testing and sourcing standards.
Whether you’re covering all your other nutritional needs through your diet and/or other supplements, if you’re just looking for iron, our top pick for several reasons is Solaray Iron 50mg capsules.
First and foremost, this supplement uses a form of iron called “iron amino acid chelate,” which was demonstrated in this blinded clinical trial to increase ferritin blood concentration almost twice as effectively as ferrous sulfate.
Where ferrous sulfate increased iron concentration in the blood from 18.8 ng/ml to 24.1 ng/ml, iron amino acid chelate increased it from 18.4 ng/ml to 29.7 ng/ml in trial participants.
Iron amino acid chelate seems to hold another advantage—at least over some commonly used forms of iron—in the safety department, causing significantly fewer adverse events than ferrous sulfate in this Biotron Laboratories study (Centerville, UT) that compared the tolerability of each type of iron.
Finally, when it comes to the mystery behind the label (how companies source, test their products, etc.), we have personally investigated Solaray’s parent company, Better Being, learning in the process that they uphold industry-leading standards of sourcing, formulation, testing, and more.
Best Value: Nature Made Iron
- Extremely affordable
- 65mg of iron per tablet
- Synthetic additives
- No supporting ingredients
Best for: Anyone looking for a potent, high-value iron supplement to offset iron deficiency anemia or a related issue.
Packing in 65mg of iron per capsule for 1/25th of a penny per milligram, our first question when approaching this supplement was “alright, what’s the catch?”
Whether or not it merits “catch” status is kind of in the eye of the beholder, as all of the synthetic additives have been declared safe by the FDA and/or research, but yeah—this product has synthetic additives.
Otherwise, the (active) ingredient list simply features iron in the form of ferrous sulfate.
Considering the 35,000+ Amazon reviews (averaging 4.5/5 stars) and Nature Made’s reputation, we’re confident Nature Made Iron is the best high-value choice for anyone who needs a simple iron supplement.
Iron Supplement FAQs
What is the best form of iron supplement to take?
Other than heme iron (derived either directly from food or heme iron supplements), the following iron salts are well tolerated, absorbable, and effective:
● Ferrous sulfate
● Ferrous fumarate
● Ferrous gluconate
Also, ferrous bisglycinate—a compound formed by the reaction between glycine (an amino acid) and ferrous iron—is often used to combat iron deficiency anemia.
Is it OK to take iron supplements every day?
While most people are able to meet their daily iron requirement by following a balanced diet, the ideal frequency and amount for those who do need a supplement will vary based on their unique circumstances (level of deficiency, age/size/gender, etc.). However, most sources agree that taking up to 17g of iron a day is generally not likely to cause any adverse effects.
When should I take iron?
Priority one when considering an iron supplement is to accurately determine your level of deficiency with the appropriate healthcare professional. This breakdown from the Cleveland Clinic offers a comprehensive introduction to all things iron supplementation, including iron deficiency symptoms, how to take iron, and more. In a nutshell, people generally take iron to address deficiencies (a common issue among pregnant women), an insufficient diet, or other causes.
According to Mayo Clinic, taking iron on an empty stomach is best for absorption, but to reduce the chance of upsetting your stomach, it’s best to take it with food.
How do you know your iron is low?
The best way to determine whether you are deficient in iron is to take a blood test. You can order an at-home iron test, or you can have testing done with a doctor. Going solely off of your symptoms without a blood test can be very unreliable, as many of the symptoms of iron deficiency (headache, fatigue, etc.) can also result from a wide range of other issues.
Do I need iron if I take B12?
Even if you are meeting your B12 levels, falling behind on your iron intake can still develop into full-blown iron deficiency, symptoms and all. The reverse is also true; iron without B12 won’t necessarily prevent a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Self-diagnosis (or even evaluation) can be a tricky one in the case of mild or even moderate iron deficiency, the signs of which are often subtle and/or generic (fatigue, headache, etc.).
Hence, confirming your iron deficiency by consulting with your doctor is always a wise practice.
Heme iron (animal sources) absorbs better than non-heme iron (as with iron salts derived from plant foods), but most non-heme-iron supplements accommodate for the gap by simply upping the concentration.
If iron is all you want, there are plenty of one-ingredient supplements to serve your need, but many brands—like several of those mentioned above—offer enhanced iron supplements with ingredients to improve absorption, digestion, and more.