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Last Updated on February 23, 2021

8 Benefits of Iron Supplements (With Sources Recommendations)

8 Benefits of Iron Supplements (With Sources Recommendations)

Iron is a mineral that many people hear a lot and plays a critical role in our bodies. A shortage of iron in our blood can lead to serious health problems including anemia. Iron is essentially the vitamin that is used to move oxygen in the blood and perform other processes in the body.

However, it’s also a vitamin that a lot of Americans lack—roughly 10 million have low iron levels, and 5 million of those have been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia.[1]

Fortunately, with iron being such an essential vitamin, there are plenty of foods out there that contain iron. Furthermore, you can look to iron supplements which can provide you with a significant boost in iron as well.

Good Sources of Iron

According to Medical News Today, men only need 8 mg of iron per day while women need between 8 and 18 mg.[2] It doesn’t sound like a lot, especially when you consider the various foods that are available that are high in iron. Some particular foods can even provide you with excess iron you’ll need for the day in one sitting.

Some food options include:

  • Canned clams – 3 ounces provides 26 mg of iron.
  • Fortified cereal oats – 100 grams provides about 25 mg.
  • White beans – one cup gives 21 mg.
  • Dark chocolate (45-69% percent cacao) – a single bar gives 13 mg.
  • Pacific oysters (cooked) – 3 ounces gives roughly 8 mg.
  • Spinach (cooked) – one cup gives 6.5 mg.
  • Others include beef liver, boiled lentils or chickpeas, firm tofu, stewed tomatoes, lean ground beef, baked potato, and roasted cashews.

But while those are some good options, another big consideration is iron supplements. The benefit of consuming iron supplements is that they still provide you with your daily intake of iron while also covering other vitamins as well. Furthermore, it removes a lot of the guesswork of what you need to get your necessary iron intake for the day.

8 Benefits of Iron Supplements

Iron preserves many of our vital functions in our body, including things like general energy, focus, immune system, and body temperature regulation. And one of the best ways to ensure you enjoy these benefits is through the various supplements available.

Here are 8 key benefits of iron supplements and why you should consider taking them.

1. Energy

As mentioned above, iron is a good source of energy. Furthermore, a lack of energy can lead to you losing focus, becoming more irritable, and lacking stamina. You can avoid all of these things by taking iron supplements to boost the amount of iron in your body and consequently, improve your energy levels.

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2. Boost Hemoglobin

The core function of iron is to carry out oxygen through the blood. It does this by forming what’s called hemoglobin—a red blood cell protein.[3] Hemoglobin is crucial because the loss of blood can happen in many ways beyond mere injury. For example, women lose blood every month during menstrual cycles. It’s for this reason that anemia is more prominent in women as they naturally require more iron in their bodies due to the loss of blood.

3. Boost Athletic Performance

Another key role that iron performs is moving oxygen through your blood and keeping everything functional. A lack of iron will cause your muscles to strain and athletic performance to decline. Even if you’re not planning to run marathons or take on physically demanding tasks, iron does improve your endurance and, therefore, your muscles.

This is important because one of the most common links to anemia is muscle weakness.[4] Furthermore, because your muscles will be stronger, this will reduce the risk of having your tissues inflamed and cause pain through your body during exercising.

4. Reduce Bruising

Along the same lines as muscle weakness, people who bruise easily could also be suffering from low iron. Bruising happens when your internal clotting system isn’t working the way it’s intended. How this system works is thanks to the hemoglobin that affects the production and function of platelets—the cells that control blood-clotting in the first place.

If you’re someone that’s bruising often, an iron supplement can help a lot since it’ll give you the necessary iron intake you’ll need to stop it.[5]

5. Boost Concentration

I also mentioned before that iron can also affect cognitive function. A lack of iron can lead to a lack of focus as there is less oxygen that’s moving through your blood system and, therefore, your brain. You will also find a lack of iron affecting your attentiveness, too.

When taking iron supplements, research shows that our overall cognitive performance improves.[6]

6. Brain/Body Detox

Another angle that you can look at is the fact that iron enzymes—found in iron supplements—will allow the brain and body to neutralize potential toxins that our body creates. Furthermore, it can neutralize pollutants and other toxins that enter from outside, too. By taking an iron supplement, you’re essentially flushing your body of various toxins from your body and prevent them from entering.

7. Healthier Sleep

Research that was published in 2015 showed that there is a link between low iron levels and sleep issues like restless sleep, sleep apnea, and insomnia.[7] Of course, keeping your iron levels at a regular level or higher will aid significantly in your ability to sleep and to prevent those sleep conditions from occurring.

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8. Boost Immunity

The final benefit of iron supplements is that they can easily boost one’s immunity. We know already that they can flush out toxins, but iron can inadvertently fight off viruses and bad bacteria in a way.

The hemoglobin that’s formed by iron supplements also plays the role of sending oxygen to necessary parts of the body to fight diseases and infections. Things like damaged cells, tissues, and organs that are needed to fight off problems get a big boost from iron. This allows them to combat and even prevent diseases and infections long-term.[8]

5 Recommendations For Iron Supplements

Now that you know just how helpful iron supplements can be, we’ve made some suggestions for iron supplements that you should try out.

1. Natural Factors Easy Iron

    The first on our list is the Natural Factors Easy Iron. These already provide you with 20 mg of iron per tablet, making it ideal for both men and women to take.

    The selling point of this particular iron though is that it’s manufactured using a unique “Super Dispersion Technology”. What this means is that taking this supplement can mitigate some of the side effects that other iron supplements can cause, such as constipation. Paired up with the fact this is a fruit-flavored chewable tablet, this means you’ll get plenty of nutrient absorption from them.

    Click here to pick up this iron supplement.

    2. Now Foods, Double Strength

      Now Foods is our second option for iron supplements, and they make for a solid option, particularly their double strength iron supplements. There are two selling points for this iron supplement.

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      First, these iron supplements provide 36 mg per capsule which is more than enough for any person. Their regular is 18 mg usually. Second, the iron that’s used is Ferrochel Iron Bisglycinate. According to the company, this means this type of iron is clinically demonstrated as iron that will have superior absorption, and the body will tolerate it better since it’s gentle and non-constipating.

      Pick up Now Food’s Double Strength iron supplements here.

      3. Solgar, Chelated Iron

        Another consideration to get your iron supplements is from Solgar’s Chelated Iron. From the start, the company offers the most tablets at 100 per bottle (Now Foods offers 90 and Natural Factor offers 60). Furthermore, they’ve ensured their supplements are Non-GMO, gluten-free, wheat and dairy-free, and kosher.

        Beyond that, these iron supplements are still easy on the stomach and offer 25 mg per tablet. These are ideal for those looking to have more iron supplements in their medicine cabinet or those who are Vegan.

        Try out Solgar’s Chelated Iron here.

        4. Thorne Research, Iron Bisglycinate

          Thorne Research’s iron supplements are more focused on the athletic types due to the creation of the iron that the company made. Their iron is specifically geared towards athletes as the particular formation of red blood cells allows someone to perform better in sports. It’s for this reason why Thorne Research’s iron supplements are NSF Certified by Sport compared to other iron supplements.

          Beyond that, these supplements provide 25 mg of iron and are made from Iron Bisglycinate, making it easy for absorption, gentler on the stomach, and is non-constipation.

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          Purchase Thorne Research’s iron supplements here.

          5. Nature’s Bounty

            The last recommendation on our list of iron supplements is Nature’s Bounty. Each tablet provides you with 28 mg of iron, and like the others on this list is made of the same gentle iron for great absorption. The unique selling point about these particular tablets goes beyond their slightly higher dosage of iron. They also contain other vitamins such as Folic Acid, Vitamin B-12, and Vitamin C.

            Buy Nature’s Bounty’s iron supplements here.

            Final Thoughts

            Iron is an essential part of our bodies, and while there are many foods out there that provide us with good iron sources, iron supplements can sometimes be the cheaper and better alternative.

            Many iron supplements have various benefits and are a cut above other iron supplements on the market. I hope that you take the recommendations to heart and consider purchasing one of the supplements above as it removes the guesswork of whether you’ve taken in enough iron for the day.

            More About Iron Supplement

            Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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            Last Updated on April 19, 2021

            Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

            Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

            Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

            I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

            This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement it into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

            What Is Intermittent Fasting?

            As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

            While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

            The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

            Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

            Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

            The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

            It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

            My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8 PM one evening to 12 PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

            You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

            Intermittent Fasting Schedules

            There are several different fasting schedules you can choose from when you start an intermittent fasting diet. Here are some of the most popular.

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            The 16/8 Method

            This method of fasting involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours and eating during an 8-10 hour window. Many people who are getting started with intermittent fasting will find this the easiest schedule to keep. You can eat your last meal around 8 PM and not eat again until noon the next day, for example. This sounds simple, as you’re really only skipping breakfast, but you’re actually fasting for 16 hours in this case![2]

            16/8 Method of Intermittent Fasting

              The 5:2 Method

              This fasting method involves eating normally five days each week and restricting calorie intake to 500-600 calories for two (non-consecutive) days. On fasting days, women should eat around 500 calories, and men should eat around 600 calories.

              5:2 Diet for Intermittent Fasting

                Alternate-Day Fasting

                As its name suggests, this type of intermittent fasting involves fasting every other day. As with the 5:2 method, some people find it easier to eat 500-600 calories instead of going on a full fast each fasting day.

                Alternate Day Fasting
                  The Warrior Diet

                  This type of fasting is considered by many to be the most difficult and follows a 20/4 eating schedule. For most of the day, you limit your food intake to small amounts of fruits and vegetables (low-calorie foods). For four hours each day, you eat large-portioned meals to get in your day’s calories.

                  Because of the intense nature of this method, it’s only recommended for those who have been on an intermittent fasting diet for a while and feel comfortable with it.

                  The Warrior Diet

                    Tips to Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

                    1. Drink Plenty of Water

                    Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

                    2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

                    The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge, as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

                    3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

                    One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[3] like a drink that contains sugar and causes you to overeat.

                    4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

                    The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

                    To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

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                    5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

                    While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

                    Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

                    You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

                    How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

                    Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. After several hours of not eating, your body will use up its sugar stores, which will cause it to start burning fat for energy, a process known as metabolic switching. 

                    Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins explains this effect in simple terms:

                    “Intermittent fasting contrasts with the normal eating pattern for most Americans, who eat throughout their waking hours…If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores.”[4]

                    Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

                    This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[5].

                    Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

                    Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[6].

                    The influence intermittent fasting has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

                    Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

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                    Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

                    One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[7].

                    This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fat-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

                    Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

                    Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

                    Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

                    Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

                    How Much Weight Will I Lose?

                    The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors.

                    One study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that average weight loss on an intermittent fasting diet was around 9lbs after 12 months, and weight loss was most successful in those who strictly adhered to their chosen diet[8].

                    Can I Work out While Fasting?

                    Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

                    If you are a hardcore athlete who often exercises for an hour or more each day, intermittent fasting may not be the best choice for you as this amount of exercise requires fuel to keep you moving and build muscle. However, light to moderate intensity workouts 2 to 4 times a week should work with intermittent fasting.

                    The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are strength training workouts. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts. Combine these with lighter forms of exercise like walking, jogging, or yoga.

                    You could also try this 30-Day Resistance Band Workout Challenge alongside your intermittent fasting diet. It will help you get into an exercise routine while easing into your new eating routine.

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                    Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

                    Remember, exercising can increase hunger, so try working out in the hour or two right before you are scheduled to break your fast[9]. Your body will be primed for a meal, and your hunger won’t get the best of you.

                    Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

                    First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen.

                    If you’re trying to build muscle while fasting, you’ll need to ensure you’re getting enough calories, especially through protein, at each meal between fasts.

                    Is Fasting Safe?

                    As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting diet.

                    I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when you aren’t able to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

                    Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

                    As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to make sure your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branched-chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

                    For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

                    The Bottom Line

                    Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly and safely. If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with your lifestyle, and give it a go.

                    More About Intermittent Fasting

                    Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

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