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Iron is an essential mineral that plays a myriad crucial roles, including helping our muscles store and use oxygen. It distributes oxygen – as part of the protein, haemaglobin, which is found in red blood cells – from our lungs throughout our bodies.

What are its health benefits?

Iron is also necessary for the proper functioning of your immune system and is a part of many enzymes, including digestive enzymes, which helps our bodies digest food.

If you’re pregnant or planning a family know that growing embryos need iron for brain development.

Do you have a deficiency?

An iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world and the leading cause of anaemia (a condition where your blood doesn't contain enough healthy red blood cells or haemoglobin, impairing the distribution of oxygen in your body). You may not display any symptoms of a deficiency unless it progresses to iron-deficiency anaemia. Don’t try treat anaemia on your own – rather consult your doctor or Clicks pharmacist.

Iron-deficiency anaemia symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Difficulty maintaining a stable body temperature
  • Decreased immune function leading to increased susceptibility to infection
  • An inflamed tongue (glossitis)

If you have very heavy periods, you might need to take an iron supplement, and during pregnancy, your iron levels may deplete. Young children are also at higher risk of a deficiency because they grow so quickly and thus need more iron. Vegetarians may struggle to get enough iron from their diets alone too.

Kidney disease and chemotherapy can also trigger anaemia.

Find it in these foods

There are two types of dietary iron: heme iron is found in animal foods such as red meats, poultry and fish, while nonheme iron is from plant sources. Heme iron is the most effective.

Iron can be found in the following food sources:

  • Red meat
  • Liver
  • Turkey
  • Mussels and oysters
  • Sardines, haddock, salmon and tuna
  • Molasses
  • Dark-green leafy vegetables (for example, spinach and broccoli)
  • Beans, lentils and peas
  • Dried fruit and nuts

Recommended daily allowance (RDA)

It is recommended that women supplement with approximately 20mg per day during their childbearing years.

However, always discuss the correct dosage for supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist or your doctor first, as you don’t want to experience iron toxicity.

Know the overdose risks

Excessive intake of it can be seriously toxic and may cause these side effects:

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

Shop online at Clicks.co.za for iron supplements

Clicks pharmacists have selected the most trustworthy and affordable iron supplements for you.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in February 2015