The Best Iron Supplements

The best iron supplement should contain a form of iron that’s easy to absorb and doesn’t cause unpleasant side effects, like nausea or stomach pain. After consulting with doctors and nutritionists, we learned that there’s no “one size fits all” solution for iron intake — your individual needs depend heavily on factors like gender, diet, and lifestyle. So we set out to find high-quality iron supplements that met the most common dosage needs as defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The 4 Best Iron Supplements

Bariatric Advantage Chewable Iron 18 mg

Best for
Women
Bariatric Advantage Chewable Iron 18 mg
A day's worth of iron with a slight fruity flavor.
Pros
Easy to take
Pleasant taste
Cons
Contains animal products
Pricier than others

Why we chose it

Easy to take

Based on recommendations from the NIH and our own experts, we looked at iron supplements with 18 mg to 20 mg of iron to find our top pick for women. Our favorite was Bariatric Advantage Chewable Iron 18 mg, which stood out from the other finalists by, impressively, making 18 mg of iron pleasant to consume. The lightly-scented purple tablet was one of the smallest and thinnest that we tested and, unlike some others, didn’t engulf our faces in cough-inducing scented powder upon opening the bottle.

Pleasant taste

While some tablets required lots of chewing, leaving residue on our teeth, the Bariatric Advantage Chewable dissolved quickly, leaving behind a slight fruity buzz. Though the label states they’re infused with natural and artificial strawberry flavor, the taste is more of a generic artificial fruit flavor — while pleasant compared to the taste of most iron supplements, those with a strong aversion to artificial fruit flavoring may prefer a neutral-flavored supplement.

Points to consider

Contains animal products

Though this supplement performed well, it’s not suitable for vegetarians and people who don’t consume animal products: One of the ingredients is carmine, a pigment made from the shells of small red insects.

Pricier than others

While we found Bariatric Advantage Chewables to be a convenient, relatively pleasant way to get your daily value of iron, they’re also the most expensive tablets we tested. Each dose costs around $0.38, nearly four times the price of our least expensive pick, Zahler’s Iron Complex.

DaVinci Laboratories Iron Bis-Glycinate

Best for
Vegetarian Women
DaVinci Laboratories Iron Bis-Glycinate
Extra iron with some added B12 vitamins.
Pros
No animal products
Tasteless and easy to swallow
High dosage
Cons
On the pricey side

Why we chose it

No animal products

In our search for the best iron supplement for vegetarian women, we kept an eye out for formulas that contained 30 mg to 35 mg of iron as well as generous amounts of vitamin B12 (a nutrient often lacking in vegetarian diets), without any ingredients derived from animal byproducts. We were impressed byDaVinci Laboratories Iron Bis-Glycinate, which offers a no-frills, easily digestible 30 mg of iron with 100 mg of absorption-enhancing vitamin C, as well as a generous 400-mcg serving of vitamin B12.

Tasteless and easy to swallow

DaVinci’s smooth and simple pill went down without any particular taste, unlike a few other options that left a light dusting of metallic powder in the back of our throats. Taking a DaVinci capsule also required less effort than certain chewables we tested which, though tasty, stuck to our teeth and had such candy-like accessible packaging we were concerned children might easily mistake it for a treat.

High dosage

DaVinci Laboratories Iron Bis-Glycinate comes in bottles of 60 capsules, each of which packs a hefty 30 mg of iron — the highest dosage of any of our top picks.

Points to consider

On the pricey side

While there’s a lot to like about DaVinci, it’s also among the more expensive options on the market. A bottle of 60 capsules retails for roughly $18, or about $0.31 per dose.

Zahler’s Iron Complex

Best for
Pregnant Women
Zahler's Iron Complex
Enough iron for you and your baby, plus B12 and folic acid.
Pros
Promotes prenatal health
No animal products
Inexpensive
Cons
Some women may require more

Why we chose it

Promotes prenatal health

We knew it wouldn’t be easy to find an easily digestible iron supplement that provided 25 mg to 27 mg of iron along with the folic acid and vitamin B12 essential for a healthy pregnancy. But during testing, we were impressed by Zahler’s Iron Complex. While many of the supplements at the recommended iron dosages for pregnant women tasted extremely bitter or herbal, Zahler’s stood out for its minimal flavoring and powerful nutrients. Each powderless, odorless capsule contains 25 mg of easily-digestible ferrous bisglycinate chelate iron as well as 80 mcg of vitamin B12 and 400 mcg of folic acid, critical nutrients for fetal health.

No animal products

Each bottle of Zahler’s contains 100 easy-to-swallow capsules and is certified as kosher pareve — meaning it contains no meat, dairy, or derivative products.

Inexpensive

On top of all its other benefits, Zahler’s is easy on the wallet too. A bottle of 100 capsules retails for around $11, making Zahler’s the least expensive option among our top picks (roughly $0.11 per dose).

Points to consider

Some women may require more

If you’re pregnant and follow a vegetarian diet, your iron needs may vary widely depending on your diet, and may also require much higher dosages than the supplements in our top picks. We strongly recommend talking to your doctor about what supplement plan is right for you.

Pure Encapsulations Iron-C

Best for
Men
Pure Encapsulations Iron-C
A low dose of iron that's flavorless and easy to take.
Pros
Convenient
Tasteless
No animal products
Cons
Low dose

Why we chose it

Convenient

While most men don’t need iron supplements, we found Pure Encapsulations Iron-C to be a great option for those with vegetarian diets or minor iron deficiencies, offering an easy-to-swallow low dose of iron without any strong flavoring. Each capsule delivers a 15 mg dose of digestible iron glycinate and iron aspartate, as well as 175 mg of vitamin C to aid absorption. Taking one Iron-C capsule is also more convenient than the multiple pills or large gummies required by other brands to get the same amount of iron.

Tasteless

Some of the supplements we tried left a lingering metallic aftertaste, but these tiny, neutrally-flavored capsules ruffled no feathers during testing. The powderless capsules are easy to swallow and their complete tastelessness means you won’t have to bury the capsule in your food just to get it down.

No animal products

Because meat is a prime source of iron, vegetarians often have more of a challenge getting their daily iron intake. For that reason, we like that Pure Encapsulations’ straightforward 15 mg dose comes in a vegetarian-friendly cellulose capsule.

Points to consider

Low dose

Although most men don’t need a higher daily dose than 15 mg, the fact remains that Pure Encapsulations offers the smallest amount of iron of any of our top picks. If you have a significant iron deficiency, you should speak to your doctor about the right supplement for you. You’d have to take two capsules to get the same amount of iron that’s in one DaVinci Laboratories Iron Bis-Glycinate, for instance (although the price is about the same).

Guide to Iron Supplements

How to find the right iron supplement for you

Talk to your doctor

A lot of different factors can affect your daily iron needs besides the ones we’ve covered here. Some people, especially men and post-menopausal women, might get enough iron through their normal diet, but people with anemia or other forms of iron deficiency may have much higher needs. But you should never self-prescribe doses: Dr. Joseph Feuerstein, associate professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University and director of integrative medicine at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut, told us that everyone should speak with a health professional before starting an iron supplement. He explained, “The symptoms of anemia (fatigue, hair loss, pallor, palpitations, and shortness of breath) look and feel a lot like symptoms of other problems and should be checked out by a medical professional.”

Consider other supplements you’re taking

If you’re taking any additional supplements, be careful about how much total iron you’re consuming. Nutritionist Shereen Lehman states that for most people, “taking a multivitamin/mineral that has iron in it should be more than enough.” Many women’s multivitamins contain 18 mg of iron (100% of the recommended daily value), and if you’re interested in a multivitamin, you can find our top picks here. As for taking an iron supplement in conjunction with other medicines, be careful. Dr. Feuerstein recommends asking your pharmacist just to be safe.

Consider food-based sources of iron

The Office of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention advises that iron be consumed from natural dietary sources as much as possible. This is because dietary iron is easier for your body to process and you’re much less likely to overdose on dietary iron than on supplements. The exception, says Lehman, would be if you had “a disorder called hemochromatosis, which means your body stores too much iron.” Hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder that usually expresses itself in middle age, with symptoms similar to many other illnesses and diseases. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect it may run in your family.

Iron Supplements FAQ

What does iron do for my body?

Iron is one of the most important nutrients for your body, helping your blood deliver oxygen to your organs. While many people are able to meet their daily iron requirement through food alone, some — especially vegetarians and pregnant women — may benefit from a daily supplement. Doctors also prescribe iron supplements for people with a wide variety of health concerns, including kidney disease, cancer, and anemia.

How much iron do I need?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends a daily iron intake of at least 8 mg for men and 18 mg for pre-menopausal women. After menopause, the daily requirements are similar to those for men. Pregnant women need at least 27 mg per day, and vegetarians need 1.8x the amount of the recommended daily value for their age group and gender.

Recommended Daily Values (RDV) for Iron:

Non-Vegetarians
Vegetarians
Pregnant
Women
18 mg
32.4 mg
27 mg
Men
8 mg
14.4 mg

Source: NIH

How much iron is too much?

The exact amount varies according to your gender, age, and other factors, but Dr. Feuerstein advises avoiding supplements with higher than 45 mg of iron per day. These high-dosage supplements “can cause side-effects, usually gastro[intestinal]-related.” All of our top picks contain less than 45 mg of iron.

Which foods are iron-rich?

Red meat, shellfish and turkey are all good sources of iron, but there are plenty of plant-based sources as well. In particular, lentils, spinach, apricot, and kidney beans are good sources, as is dark chocolate.

Food
Milligrams per Serving
Percent DV (based on 18 mg/day)
Oysters, 3 oz
8
44%
Dark chocolate (45%-69%), 3 oz
7
39%
Beef liver, pan fried, 3 oz
5
28%
Lentils, boiled and drained, 1/2 cup
3
17%
Spinach, boiled and drained, 1/2 cup
3
17%
Firm tofu, 1/2 cup
3
17%

The Best Iron Supplements: Summed Up

Bariatric Advantage Chewable Iron 18 mg
DaVinci Laboratories Iron Bis-Glycinate
Zahler’s Iron Complex
Pure Encapsulations Iron-C
Best for Women
Best for Vegetarian Women
Best for Pregnant Women
Best for Men
Price
About $34 for 90 tablets (38 cents each)
About $18 for 60 capsules (31 cents each)
About $11 for 100 capsules (11 cents each)
About $10 for 60 capsules (17 cents each)
Iron content
18 mg
30 mg
25 mg
15 mg
Vitamin C content
30 mg
100 mg
60 mg
175 mg
Other nutrients
N/A
Vitamin B12 (400 mcg); Folic acid (400 mcg)
Vitamin B12 (80 mcg); Folic acid (400 mcg)
N/A
Form
Chewable tablet
Capsule
Capsule
Capsule

More Supplement Reviews

Iron isn’t the only thing your body needs to function at its best. Check out our top picks for other ways to maintain a healthy inner balance: