Females and Iron

Most people get enough iron by making healthy, balanced food choices and eating iron-rich foods. But some groups of people are at greater risk for low iron levels. Based on blood values, substantial numbers of adolescent females and women of childbearing age are iron deficient.

Iron deficiency anemia can be associated with:

  • Low dietary intake of iron.
  • Inadequate absorption of iron.
  • Excessive blood loss.

Women and teenage girls are at great risk of developing iron deficiency anemia because they have the greatest need for iron:

  • Women of childbearing age.
  • Pregnant women – About half of pregnant women have iron-deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy can increase risk for small or early (preterm) babies. Small or early babies are more likely to have health problems or die in the first year of life than infants who are born full term and are not small.
  • Women with heavy menstrual losses and long periods can lose a significant amount of iron.
  • Women can lose iron and red blood cells from uterine fibroids, which can bleed slowly.
  • Women who have had more than one child.
  • Women who use an intrauterine device (IUD).
  • Women who engage in regular, intense exercise (female athletes).

Iron deficiency is uncommon among adult men and postmenopausal women. Individuals should only take iron supplements when prescribed by a doctor because of their greater risk of iron overload.

Some Food Sources of Iron Include:
Clams, canned, drained 3 ounces – 23.8 mg
Chicken liver, cooked, 3 and 1/2 ounces 12.8 mg
Ready-to-eat cereal, 100 percent iron fortified, 3/4 cup 18 mg
Oysters, eastern, wild, cooked, moist heat 3 ounces – 10.2 mg
Oatmeal, instant, fortified, prepared with water, 1 cup – 10 mg
Soybeans, mature, boiled, 1 cup – 8.8 mg
Lentils, boiled, 1 cup 6.6 mg
Beans, kidney, mature, boiled, 1 cup 5.2 mg
Beans, lima, large, mature, boiled, 1 cup 4.5 mg

Daily Recommended Dietary Allowances for Iron mg = milligrams
7 to 12 months – 11 mg
1 to 3 years – 7 mg
4 to 8 years – 10 mg
9 to 51+ years – 8 mg

14 to 18 years – Males – 11 mg
14 to 18 years – Females – 15 mg
14 to 50 years – Pregnancy – 27 mg
14 to 18 years – Lactation – 10 mg

19 to 50 years – Females – 18 mg
19 to 50 years – Lactation – 9 mg

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