If your body doesn’t have enough iron you simply are NOT healthy. Your body needs it and with spirulina you can at least get some of the RDA for it. Taking spirulina supplements for iron deficiency is a good idea. Iron is one of its more abundant nutrients and vital for good health.
Why is iron important?
Iron takes part in a number of different functions within your body. Probably the most important would be its role in creating new red blood cells. If your body does not have enough iron, it will NOT be able to create the red blood cells it needs.
Iron deficiency makes your body weak overall. You might experience hair loss, brittle nails, pale skin, weakness, fatigue, etc. The symptoms are a result of your body’s lack of oxygen being delivered to its cells.
What is the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for iron and how much is in spirulina?
This should be your next question. There are many foods out there that HAVE iron, but so little that it doesn’t really matter.
First you need to know what your RDA is. Below you can find how much you need depending on your age and sex.
One thing that might stand out to you about the RDAs is that difference between male and female. Especially age 19-50, there is a 10mg difference!
Women need a lot more iron during these times due to losing iron through menstruation. For this reason iron is the most common of nutrient deficiencies in women.
But anyway, lets get back on track. Now you know how much iron you need,
So how much iron can you get from spirulina?
For every 7 grams of spirulina, which is one tablespoon, you will get 2mg of iron. Thats a lot of iron for one tablespoon.
So if you are a male in the 19-50 year old range, you will get 25% of your iron recommended dietary allowance in just one tablespoon. Now if you are a women in this age range you are less fortunate. You need to take in more iron and will only receive a little over 11% of the RDA.
I bet you are wondering how spirulina stacks up to other foods’ iron content. It has the most concentrated iron content out of any natural foods I have found. But that doesn’t necessarily mean its the BEST source.
What I mean is that spirulina isn’t exactly food that you eat with meals. Its more of something that you supplement with your meals.
Beans, on the other hand, you can eat a lot of. Beans are a great source of iron and you can expect to get anywhere from 4-10mg of iron from a cup (170-250g) of cooked beans (varies with type of bean).
If you want iron from meats, chicken liver is one of the best sources. With 1 ounce of chicken liver your will get about 3.7mg of iron.
As you can see, these two iron food souces which are well known for their iron content, do not even come close to having the iron concentration of spirulina. Pound for pound, spirulina has 2.19 times the iron content of chicken liver, and for generally anywhere from 6 to 12 times the iron content of beans (depending on the type of bean).
This all sounds absolutely great, however there is a downside
There are 2 types of iron that your body absorbs, heme and non-heme.
Heme iron is found in animal foods and is better absorbed by your body. According to the American Red Cross, about 30% of the heme iron you consume is actually absorbed.
Non-heme iron is even worse. Only about 2-10% of what you consume is absorbed by your body. And unfortunately spirulina has non-heme iron, along with all other vegetable sources.
One tip to get your body to absorb more iron is to get your vitamin C. The American Red Cross reports that vitamin C helps your body absorb more. Spirulina, with all its nutrients, contains vitamin C as well. But not that much, at only 0.7mg for every tablespoon (7g).
So is spirulina worth it? For getting your iron
I would say it is. It does have a much more concentrated iron content than any food out there, 2mg for every 7 grams of spirulina you consume. But again, its not as easily absorbed as iron from animal sources and you probably aren’t going to eat that much spirulina.
I would recommend consuming spirulina to supplement your iron intake, but you still should be getting iron from other food sources that you could incorporate in “normal” meals throughout the day.
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Very interesting facts here! I’m in the wellness business and I didn’t realize how much iron is needed versus how much we absorb through food. I wasn’t familiar with this supplement either. It’s good information for me to know being the business that I’m in.
You are welcome Ruth. I’m glad you could learn something.
Iron deficiency usually occurs for women, especially pregnant ones, but isn’t so much of a concern for men. It’s good to take a blood test to check your iron levels if you suspect they are too low.
I have heard of iron supplements to make up for it (alongside with increasing meat consumption) but I didn’t know spirulina can also be used for it before.
How much should you take spirulina if you have iron deficiency?
Well it depends on how deficient you are. But for a guy like you the RDA is 8mg a day and a tablespoon (7g) of spirulina can provide you with 2mg.
I’ve heard about spirulina for some time but never really researched it because I assume that people take it for overall well-being. I didn’t know it’s a good source of iron. And I also appreciate your discussion on the two types of iron – heme and non-heme, and that the sources for these are different. Thanks Kyle for this informative article!
Yes it is a very good source of iron. You are welcome. I’m glad you learned something.
I find this article very informative. I’m glad you explained why iron is so important and I appreciate your honest review of spirulina and the sound advice you give. Besides beans and chicken liver, what other foods that are rich in iron would you recommend?
A lot of meats are good for iron such as beef, lamb, chicken, etc. These contain the “heme” type of iron that is more easily absorbed by the body. If you are not a meat eater then try incorporating more dark leafy greens into your diet. Spinach is one that is commonly eaten for its iron. But this is non-heme iron remember.
Hi Kyle, I have been aware of the importance of iron for a number of years, but I never knew that you should take spirulina for iron deficiency. The reason that I know about iron is because my iron count is too high, and it is not so easy to lower that count, unless you donate blood. In my case I cannot donate because I have a heart problem and the blood services will not take responsibility if anything should go wrong, so they just will not do it.
Considering this, it is quite understandable the women would have lower iron counts because they regularly donate blood naturally. I would say that you should first check what your iron count is and the then make the decision to act, either way.
Do you think that if I stopped eating the foods that you recommend to increase iron intake, that my iron count would decrease? The problem that I see here is that I could manage without spinach, but beef, lamb and chicken is another story:-)
Thanks for a great read.
I’m not sure. Do you know if you have hemochromatosis? Its an inherited condition that makes your body absorb too much iron. I don’t know that much about this condition but I would assume that if you lowered the iron rich food you eat that your iron levels would decrease. I hope all goes well for you.
Hi Kyle, you have certainly thrown the cat among the pigeons! I done some research about hemochromatosis and it’s like reading your horoscope, you can make whatever you want of it but, there are some very common point here. I only became aware of this problem after 50 and I am now 60. I will be making a point of finding out more about this in the coming weeks and let you know.
Thank you for pointing this out to me.
I’m glad I could help. Lets hope it is nothing to worry about for you.