Potassium Food Sources: A Dietary Challenge

getting more potassium: a dietary challengeIf you are concerned about healthy eating, you might want to ask yourself if you are eating enough potassium rich food sources. As both a dietitian counseling private patients and former college level nutrition instructor, I have observed the difficulty that people of all ages have in getting adequate dietary potassium. Given that the daily dietary recommendation for North Americans is about 3500 to 4700 mg, it’s not that surprising that people fall short of meeting their requirements. Having an understanding of high potassium food sources can improve your diet immediately.

Why it’s important

potassium and health

Why is potassium so important for our health and well-being? First and foremost, it’s inside every cell. It’s a key factor in maintaining our fluid and electrolyte balance. And, it’s critical for maintaining a normal heartbeat. Sudden deaths that occur during fasting and the severe food restriction seen in anorexia are usually due to heart failure caused by inadequate intake. It’s also a key player in maintaining healthy nerve functioning and muscle contraction.

Even if the diet is very low in potassium, the body can usually handle maintaining blood potassium levels in order to maintain heart stability and nerve function. Although the body is able to maintain blood potassium levels despite eating less than the recommended amount, there are still health concerns tied to chronic low potassium diets. Low potassium diets are a trigger for hypertension. Research also suggests that diets low in potassium promote blood sugar problems, kidney stones, and increase calcium loss from bones. Calcium lost from bones can lead to osteoporosis.

Unprocessed foods are the best potassium food sources

Knowing how important this nutrient is to overall health, a healthy diet should be packed with potassium rich foods. Since potassium is found in all plant cells, just like it’s in our own cells, all plant foods that are unprocessed will yield plenty of this nutrient! Need “unprocessed food” defined before reading on? It’s a food that has not been altered in terms of chemical treatment in order to preserve it, improve the taste, or alter the appearance of the food.

Examples of unprocessed foods

potassium food sources

Think of the potato as an unprocessed food, but potato chips are processed. Corn is an unprocessed food, but caramel corn is a processed food. If it looks like it did as grown in the ground, then it’s unprocessed! Unprocessed fruits and vegetables will have the potassium left intact, and upon eating that food, we are able to benefit nutritionally. That’s why many excellent sources of potassium in the following list are whole fruits and vegetables that have not lost their potassium content from any processing. Some animal protein and whole grains also provide this nutrient.

Stumbling blocks to getting enough potassium

Although many health care providers think it’s an easy process to eat this much potassium on a daily basis, Americans usually eat too few servings of unprocessed foods to get the job done. As unprocessed foods are the leading dietary source of potassium, therein lies the problem. Additionally, as chronic dieters edit out calories to lose weight, they may also be editing out potassium rich foods in the process. Popular diets such as the keto diet also put the dieter at risk for a low potassium intake. With that stated, consuming enough does not have to be as difficult as one would think. The key is knowing the best food sources, and making sure these foods are consumed on a regular basis.

Target unprocessed foods as top potassium food sources

  • 1/2 cup baked beans have 285 mg
  • 1/2 cup lima beans have 476 mg
  • 1 cup cooked spinach has 466 mg
  • 1/2 cup soybeans have 476 mg
  • A large can low sodium V-8 juice has 1180 mg
  • 1 small can low sodium V-8 juice has 700 mg
  • 6 prunes have about 290 mg
  • 1/2 cup navy beans have 376 mg
  • 1 cup orange juice has about 500 mg
  • 11.2 fluid ounce box Naked brand coconut water, about 530 mg
  • 1 cup of skim milk has about 400 mg
  • 1 banana has 420 mg
  • 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal has about 335 mg
  • 3 oz. salmon has about 380 mg
  • 3 oz. chicken or beef has about 290 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked carrots has about 185 mg
  • 1 cup of honeydew melon has about 400 mg
  • 1 cup cantaloupe has about 417 mg
  • 1/3 avocado has about 360 mg
  • 6-oz. baked potato has about 850 mg
  • 1/2 cup sweet potato has about 400 mg
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries have about 250 mg
  • 1 cup unsweetened cranberry juice has about 200 mg

Other benefits of potassium rich foods

The beauty of this list? Adding more of the above foods will not only increase your potassium, but also add other valuable nutrients to your diet such as fiber, and vitamins A and C. Potassium rich fruits and vegetables are also the foods with high levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants. In one large study, women who ate over five servings of fruits and vegetables had a lower risk of aggressive tumors in comparison to those who ate only two servings.

How do you manage to get your fruits and veggies into your diet? Do you add any toppings to certain recipes or use in smoothies? I know making smoothies is my easy way of getting my own potassium requirements met! Please share your ideas.

Does Your Cereal Have Too Much Iron? Check the Label and Know Your Needs

cereal with too much iron

This is an update to a popular blog written years ago. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem much has changed with regard to the iron fortification in cereal. Iron requirements for humans have not changed, and many cereals still have way too much iron for certain people. Many people do not need a lot of iron. Those people include all adult males and women who are menopausal. Women of childbearing age require the most iron and iron fortification mandates that this be taken into consideration when setting the amount of iron added to a food in the fortification process. So, some people win on this matter (women that need iron) but, other people are eating cereal and inadvertently eating way too much iron!

Excess iron from cereal and foods in general

Iron is toxic in large amounts. Once absorbed inside the body, it’s difficult to excrete. A healthy person will be able to defend against too much iron absorption in numerous ways. Typically, the body can prevent too much iron from being absorbed by trapping in intestinal cells and then shedding it through digestion. The iron exposure to the intestinal cells can, however, pose a risk for colon and rectal cancer. In healthy people, the hormone hepcidin also swings into action to prevent too much iron from being absorbed. For some with a genetic condition, these safety measures to prevent iron absorption do not happen. Iron overload (technically called Hemochromatosis) then occurs with symptoms of fatigue, abdominal pain, depression, and eventual liver failure, diabetes, and bone damage if left untreated.

For those healthy people that can defend against too much iron, even they can experience the downside of too much iron. Excessive iron is constipating. That constipation can prevent food from moving through the digestive tract efficiently. Food moving through the digestive tract too slowly poses a risk of increased exposure to food borne pathogens and toxins that are present in our foods. As those not so nice things in our food supply linger too long in our gut, we can get sick. It’s so much better for our food to move nicely through our digestive tract rather than taking days to move along!

Gender and age will determine your iron requirements

  • Adult males aged 19 to >70 need only 8 mg/day
  • Adult females aged 19 to 50 need 18 mg/day
  • Once an adult women reaches 51 years of age and older, requirements decrease to 8 mg/day
  • Children aged 1-3 need only 7 mg/day
  • Children aged 4-8 need 10 mg/day
  • Growing adolescent males aged 9-13 need only 8 mg/day
  • Growing adolescent males aged 14-18 need 11 mg/day
  • Females aged 9-13 need only 8 mg/day
  • Females aged 14-18 need 15 mg/day to accommodate growth and menstruation

Avoiding cereal with too much iron

Nutrition Fact LabelCereals with too much iron can be avoided by first checking the Nutrition Fact Label. If you walk down the cereal aisle and start looking at the Nutrition Fact Label on cereal boxes, you will see that some of the most popular cereals are often packed with 50 to nearly 100% of “the requirement”. Remember, iron requirements vary by gender and age. So, the Nutrition Fact Label must select only the iron requirement of the part of the population needing the most iron. Therefore, all the iron percentages on the label are based off the 18 mg recommended for 19-50 year old females as their requirements are the highest!

So, what about a man or older woman who chooses to eat multiple servings of a these cereals in a given day? They would be ingesting much more iron than they need, potentially placing themselves at medical risk over the long run. The solution to this dietary dilemma is to simply know your requirements and choose the cereal that matches your needs. The Nutrition Fact Label reading can get complicated, so I’ve gone ahead and looked up popular cereals and done the calculation to note the iron content per serving so it is easier to review what can work best into your own diet.

Updated iron content of popular cereals

Cereals with less than 3 mg of iron per serving

  • Puffins have < 1mg
  • Kind Healthy Grains (all varieties) have <1 mg
  • Erewhon Brown Rice Cereal has <1 mg
  • Cascadian Farm Cereal Berry Vanilla Puffs Organic have <1 mg
  • Nature’s Path EnviroKidz Panda Puffs Cereal Peanut Butter Organic has <1 mg
  • Nature’s Path Sunrise Cereal Crunchy Vanilla Gluten Free Organic has <1 mg
  • Raisin Bran Crunch has 1 mg
  • Shredded Wheat has 2 mg
  • Kashi Whole Wheat Cereal Berry Fruitful has 2 mg
  • Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes have 2 mg
  • Kashi Golean has 2 mg
  • Nature’s Path Flax Plus has 2 mg

Cereals with 5-9 mg of iron per serving

  • Cracklin Oat Bran has 5 mg
  • Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal has 5 mg
  • Fiber One has 5 mg
  • Frosted Flakes have 5 mg
  • Golden Grahams have 5 mg
  • Honey Nut Cheerios have 5 mg
  • Life Cereal has 7 mg
  • Cornflakes have 8 mg
  • Smart Start has 8 mg
  • Regular Cheerios have 8 mg
  • Kix has 8 mg
  • Wheaties has 8 mg
  • Great Grains Cereal Raisins, Dates, & Pecans have 9 mg

Cereals with greater than 10 mg of iron per serving

  • Corn Chex has 11 mg
  • Special K has 11 mg
  • Rice Krispies have 11mg
  • Cheerios Oat Crunch has 14 mg
  • Grape Nuts have 16 mg
  • Frosted Mini Wheats have 16 mg
  • Quaker Oatmeal Squares Cereal with Hint of Brown Sugar have 16 mg
  • Total Cereal has 18 mg

Serving sizes and cereal with too much iron

It’s important to take note that the serving sizes of most cereals are only 1/2 to one cup. If someone eats, say double, the above iron numbers double as well. Another little known fact is that if iron rich foods are eaten with a source of vitamin C, the absorption rate of the iron is tripled! Think orange juice with breakfast cereal. And, note that all fruit has vitamin C, so eating berries or melon with your cereal will also triple the iron absorption. This is great for those that have iron deficiencies, but not so great for those that need less iron. And remember, other popular foods are also either fortified with iron or are natural sources of iron. Pasta, bread, lentils, dried fruits, beef, and fish all contain iron. And, the more calories consumed, the greater the dietary iron consumed.

Key points on cereal with too much iron

Know your individual iron requirements. If you are male or an older female, you need much less iron than a younger woman. If you like large amounts of cereal (like me), then make sure you are eating within your recommended limits by picking a lower iron cereal. Cereal is really a healthy breakfast (and can be a creative good dinner, if I’m honest). It can be a great source of fiber and B vitamins, but also a source of too much iron for many except the anemic. Besides the iron content of a cereal, fiber and sugar content should be evaluated when you buy cereal.

If you want to see how your favorite popular cereal stacks up for sugar, click here.

Do you have any favorite low iron cereals you enjoy? If you found this blog post helpful, please share comments and the post itself!

How to Buy Vitamin Supplements: Be a Savvy Consumer

We are a pill popping society, and we know it. It is what Americans seem to love to do. But, do you really know how to buy vitamin supplements? It’s best to be a savvy shopper, as there’s no sense in making poor supplement choices that may hurt you and your wallet. There is such a thing as too much of certain nutrients. Understanding some key points on how to buy supplements will make you a savvy and healthier consumer.

supplement fact label

Supplement Fact Label

Who might benefit from supplement use?

People that would benefit from supplements include: those with nutrient deficiencies, women of childbearing years, or the elderly on certain medications. People with low calorie intakes and those that skip entire food groups might also benefit. While it is always best to have your nutritional requirements met through a healthy food selection, appropriate dosages of supplements can “supplement” your diet by filling in the gaps.

The bad news on supplements

The bad news about supplements is that overdoing dosages can be harmful to your health. Many people have the “if some is good, more is better” mentality. The truth is that scientists have documented upper limits of safety, and beyond those limits you are putting your health at risk. Mega doses of supplements are actually categorized as drugs, and excessive amounts of supplements can cause symptoms ranging from nerve damage to liver failure.

Another little known fact is that just because you can purchase a supplement at a store, doesn’t mean it is safe. Supplements sold in this country have virtually no regulation in terms of safety. Under current law, the FDA is responsible for taking action on unsafe supplements already on the market. But, it does not need to screen or pre-approve a supplement before it gets to the store shelves. This means you need to be a savvy supplement shopper if you decide to take supplements.

Here are 5 tips to help you buy vitamin supplements:

  1. Look at the Supplement Fact label (example in above photo); choose a multi-nutrient supplement that does not have very high percentages of nutrients (around 100% Daily Value (DV) would be safe). If many nutrients are 200% or higher, consider selecting a different supplement.
  2. Look for the USP symbol or text on a label.usp logo on a supplement lable
    The USP symbol or text means that the supplement will dissolve in your digestive system, and the ingredients are guaranteed.
  3. Supplements with added ingredients such as parsley, alfalfa, and herbs offer no added health benefit to the consumer. There would be too little added to the supplement-best to just eat the parsley!
  4. Don’t let terms such as “stress relief”, “time release”, or “natural” drive your brand selection. These are only marketing terms!
  5. Because there is no regulation on supplements prior to arriving on the store shelves, consider purchasing supplements that are name brands. These companies are more likely to have their own internal high quality control standards, as they have a reputation to be protected, which can also ultimately protect the consumer.

If in doubt about whether to supplement or not, a registered/licensed dietitian can assist you! And remember, you are still getting nutrients from foods that are fortified, like cereals.

For additional safety guidelines on supplement use, click here.

What are your thoughts about supplement use and safety?

 

 

Should You Take Supplements: Facts to Consider

Nutritional supplements

News coverage over the last few days seems to be revolving around the weather, the holidays, and of all things nutritional supplements!  While I can’t comment about most of the current media topics, I do have a few words to say on the topic of supplements! If you listen to the media hype over the last few days, there are some recurring statements from the so-called experts. This begs the question of whether we should be taking supplements.

Expert comments

Some “experts” note our nutrients should come only from food. Others suggest  “natural” whole foods be put into pill form. The truth and correct answers are most likely somewhere in between the black and white statements made by these so-called experts. Unfortunately, not one “expert” ever suggested that each person should be evaluated on a case by case basis. To determine if supplements are right for you, consider these tips:

Supplements fill in dietary gaps

If you eat a healthy diet, there is a fairly good chance you can skip taking pills! If you are lactose intolerant, don’t eat any foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, or are vegan, then you may need a supplement. Consulting a licensed/registered dietitian can help you sort out what you may need to be doing with supplements.

Supplements are of benefit to your health if you have a documented deficiency 

Wondering if you should really be taking vitamin D supplements? You should have a blood test to determine if you need to be taking a supplement. Once blood work is done on my clients, most have turned out to be deficient. Correction of a deficiency is usually easy to do with diet or supplements. For a vitamin D deficiency, sunshine may be the prescription!

Be aware of upper limits of safety 

Many people taking multiple supplements forget they may be doubling or tripling their intake of a nutrient because they are taking multiple pills. Beyond a certain limit, it can be dangerous to ingest too much of a single nutrient. Some nutrients can even be toxic if taken in excess. Your favorite dietitian can be your best resource for this information!

Food is your best source of nutrients 

Mother nature packages foods perfectly with the best combination of nutrients. The mixture of nutrients designed by mother nature work effectively together. With that stated, those people who eat a lot of processed foods and a limited diet may indeed benefit from specific supplements. An evaluation of your diet and eating habits is the best way to move forward with accurate supplement recommendations.

Regulation of supplements

If a supplement is reported as unsafe, the stores are required to pull the product. Until then, it’s buyer beware as the supplement industry is strictly self-regulating. With that stated, the savvy consumer choosing to take supplements should consider well-known brands. Well known brands want to protect their reputation. They  will have high quality control standards. Using lesser known brands may result in lower quality control. Even arsenic and lead have tainted some supplements in the past few decades.

Not all supplements are good or bad. Not all people need them. Consulting a professional to evaluate your diet prior to making recommendations both improves your health and saves you money.

Lower Blood Pressure Naturally: Eat This Nutrient!

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), having high blood pressure (hypertension) puts you at risk for both heart disease and stroke. These conditions are leading causes of death in the United States. About 78 million Americans (32%) have high blood pressure. This contributes to about one million heart attacks and 800,000 strokes each year. The higher your pressure reading, the greater your health risk. Only about half (54%) the people have the condition under control. 

People are frequently unaware they have hypertension as there are no obvious symptoms. For that reason, an elevated blood pressure reading during a doctor of clinic visit might be your first sign of a problem. As pressure readings change frequently, it’s important to keep a regular eye on your blood pressure. In addition to regular blood pressure checks, try to address diet and lifestyle modifications if necessary.

Decreasing stress and lowering weight are two important and effective strategies for addressing this problem. But, there is another little known diet strategy to decrease your blood pressure. That strategy is decreasing your sodium along with increasing your dietary potassium. It’s an easy first step to controlling what is called the “silent killer.”  

Potassium rich foods to lower blood pressure naturally

lower blood pressure with potassium rich foods

Fruits and vegetables are a source of nutrients important in lowering your blood pressure.

We’ve all heard that reducing sodium intake can help lower blood pressure. What consumers are less aware of is that decreasing the salt in your diet may be only 50% of what you need to do to prevent high blood pressure and stroke risk. The rest of the story has to do with eating enough potassium rich foods. Potassium is found primarily in unprocessed whole foods. Consequently, it’s easy to get to the 4700 mg recommended potassium intake when eating lots of calories and unprocessed foods.

However, if you limit your calories and eat a lot of junky processed food, it’s much harder to reach your potassium recommendations. In order to get the most potassium for the least amount of sodium, consider eating the listed foods. In addition to being loaded with nutrients to lessen stroke and heart attack risk, these foods are high in fiber to fill you up. It’s noteworthy, that all that extra fiber is a great way to control appetite and shed a few pounds as well. Finally, weight loss can be very important in decreasing blood pressure.

  Potassium rich foods that are also low in sodium

Potassium (mgs)                    Sodium (mgs)

One medium potato                                       926                                            17

One cup winter squash                                  896                                             2

One cup low sodium V-8 juice                       820                                          140

½ cup pitted dates                                         584                                              2

One cup low sodium tomato juice                 556                                             24

½ cup spinach                                                510                                            25

3.5 oz. sweet potato                                       398                                             68

½ cup kidney beans                                       370                                              1

One small banana                                          362                                              0

1/3 avocado                                                    356                                              2

½ cup prune juice                                           353                                              5

½ cup uncooked oatmeal                               335                                              2

1.5 oz. box raisins                                           322                                             5

3 oz. cooked beef or chicken                          290                                           47

½ cup cooked broccoli                                    278                                           29

One cup raw sliced mangos                           257                                            3

¼ cup wheat germ                                           256                                           3

½ cup any melon                                              242                                          27

4 ounces orange juice                                      240                                           1

½ cup cooked carrots                                      183                                           45

One oz. walnuts (14 halves)                            125                                            1

One tablespoon ground flaxseed                       82                                            4

                                                  

By choosing more of these foods, you will slash your sodium while boosting your potassium. This boosts your chances of steering clear of stroke and heart attacks by normalizing your blood pressure! And, you may be able to eliminate or decrease your use of medication.

 

Are Your Dietary Supplements Dangerous?

Updated: November, 2019

is your dietary supplement dangerousMany Americans naively pop vitamin and mineral supplements and guzzle various types of protein powders, thinking they are helping with overall health. The reality is that many of these supplements can be downright dangerous! In fact, according to recent newspaper headliner, the 28 billion dollar supplement industry has serious and widespread manufacturing flaws. These flaws are extensive enough have the potential to harm our health. From quality control to formulation issues, the product you are taking may not be what you are thinking it is. There may be much more or too little of a specific nutrient. Even lead, arsenic, and rodent feces have been known to contaminate our supplements. So, being a savvy consumer can indeed protect you from dangerous supplements.

As a potential consumer, it needs to be understood that the supplement industry is a self-regulating industry. That means the government does not directly oversee the quality control of a supplement. Companies are largely left in charge of their own standards. Under current laws, the FDA does not screen supplements for safety before they hit the consumer market. The FDA only takes action regarding supplements on the market once there is a documented issue with the supplement. The FDA relies on manufacturers themselves, as well as consumers, to report any adverse effects.

Proactive steps to take when purchasing supplements

Buy name brand supplements to protect yourself from dangerous supplements

Well-known brands may have better “in-house” quality control standards because the reputation of the company is at stake. Steer clear of companies you have not heard of.

Look for the USP label to avoid dangerous supplements

usp label assuring supplement safety

This label means that the supplement has been at least evaluated for ingredients stated on the label. It also means the product will dissolve in your digestive tract rather than passing straight through your body. The symbol does not guarantee any other health or safety advantages of the supplement. With this symbol present, you at least know that product has what it’s advertising, and the product will dissolve in your digestive tract.

Look at the Nutrition Fact Label on the supplement

Note the percent daily value of the nutrients. If you see values of many nutrients far exceeding 100%, don’t be duped into thinking this is a good thing. Consumers need to understand that too much of a nutrient can be very harmful. We have upper limits of safety for many nutrients, and we should avoid exceeding those upper limits of safety. And, you should be getting a lot of these nutrients from your diet!

Consider using the internet to investigate your supplement before taking it

Consumer Labs is an independent testing lab that evaluates supplemental products and makes the test results available for a small subscription fee. The analyses and data are extensive and informative.

 Consider having a dietitian evaluate your current diet.

A dietitian can evaluate nutrient shortcomings and make appropriate recommendations to meet those dietary deficits with the correct dosages of nutrients. Or better yet, a dietitian can help you find the foods you like to eat to give you the nutrients you need!  After all, mother nature does the best nutrient packaging of all.

Do you ever think about safety issues regarding supplement use?

Hey Seniors, Reach for These 5 Dietary Supplements

Link

Supplements for seniorsWhile daily use of multi-nutrient supplements has fallen out of favor by some health professionals due to some recent studies, there are five supplements many seniors should take. While food is always the best source of nutrients, certain circumstances with aging may warrant adding these supplements to your diet! Here are the 5 recommended supplements for seniors :

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

We have too little of these essential fatty acids in our diet. While fish can be a good contributor of omega-3-fatty acids, eating fish a few times a week is not necessarily going to be insurance requirements are met. Other food sources include walnuts and flaxseed, but consistency is key. If these foods are not eaten regularly, a fish oil supplement a few times per week may be helpful.

CoQ10

We make this nutrient, but we make less of it as we age. If you are taking a statin drug to lower your cholesterol level, the statin drug will limit your body’s ability to make this nutrient. Consider taking CoQ10 if you are aging or on a cholesterol lowering statin!

Magnesium

While distributed in a wide variety of foods, my clients are often consuming too little of this nutrient. Magnesium may be easily washed and peeled away from foods during processing. A decreased calorie consumption also means less is being consumed through food.

Vitamin D

It is best to get your baseline blood vitamin D levels checked, but chances are you will benefit from at least some additional supplemental vitamin D. While we can make this vitamin, we make less as we age. Increased use of sunscreen will further decrease production of vitamin D. With mounting evidence that vitamin D plays roles in promoting strong bones, healthy blood pressure, fighting infection, and decreasing inflammation and cancer risk, supplementation is frequently warranted.  For more information on why it is hard to actually get enough vitamin D from foods, read on.

Calcium

If you skip the dairy group, there is a good chance you may not be meeting your calcium requirements. Calcium is important for more than our bones-it also protects against colon cancer and high blood pressure. If you opt out of drinking regular milk and eating dairy products, choose soy, rice, or almond milk. Just make sure the brand you choose is fortified with calcium. If you avoid these products altogether, consider a supplement. Consume 1000 mg up to 50 years of age; for 50+ the requirements increase to 1200 mg.

While my preference is always going to be to get nutrients through food, eating less as we age, medication, and lifestyle may impact our nutritional status.

Any one have other supplements they think we should be taking as we get older?

Cereals With Too Much Iron? Pick These Cereals, Not Those Cereals!

does your cereal have too much iron

Do your regularly eat cereal? While cereal can be a great source of health enhancing fiber, it can be loaded with too much iron. Iron consumption is critical for the health of all-especially women of childbearing age, infants, and children. Iron deficiency can cause a range of symptoms from energy draining anemia to disruptive behavior in children. Because adequate dietary iron is so critical to health, many of our foods are fortified with iron to lessen the public health risk of too little iron.

Cereals are probably the most widely iron fortified food in this country. For infants, iron fortified baby cereal is an excellent way for babies to get the iron they need to grow. For older children and adults, a single serving of cereal can provide 100% of the recommendation for iron. A complete list of iron requirements across all ages is available on this updated blog on cereal and iron.

Iron requirements vary based on age and gender

But, what happens if a lot of this highly fortified cereal is eaten by men and older women who have significantly lower iron requirements than younger women and children?  Women of childbearing age need 18 mg of iron, but men and  women in menopause need only 8 mg of iron. While a healthy body can actually exert some control over absorbing too much iron, once in the body, it can be problematic to excrete. If too much iron is absorbed on an ongoing basis, it can cause a range of symptoms from increased infection to organ failure in susceptible individuals.

Cereals with too much iron can be avoided by checking the Nutrition Fact Label

cereals with too much iron

How much iron is in your cereal? How much iron do you need?

If you walk down the cereal aisle and start looking at the Nutrition Fact Label on cereal boxes, you will see that some of the most popular cereals-including some of the healthier high fiber whole grain varieties- are often packed with 50 to nearly 100% of the recommended 18 mg suitable for younger women. So, what about a man or older woman who chooses to eat multiple servings of a these cereals in a given day? They would be ingesting much more iron than they need, potentially placing themselves at medical risk over the long run.

Let’s look at how some popular cereals stack up per serving with regard to the 18 mg iron requirement:

  • Cheerios have 6.3 mg
  • Special K has 6.3 mg
  • Corn Chex has 9 mg
  • Corn Flakes have 9 mg
  • Raisin Bran has 6.3-10.8 mg (depends on the brand)
  • Wheat Chex has 14.4 mg
  • Frosted Mini Wheats have 16.2 mg
  • Multi-Bran Chex has 16.2 mg
  • Total has 18 mg

For those who love their cereal, but need less iron, there are some lower iron choices such as:

  • Kashi cereals range from virtually no iron up to 2 mg depending on the variety selected
  • Puffins have less than 1 mg
  • Cooked oatmeal has less than 2 mg (more updated oatmeal information)
  • Fiber One has 4.5 mg
  • Frosted Cheerios have 4.5 mg
  • Basic 4 has 4.5 mg
  • Flax Plus Multibran Flakes has less than 2 mg

Given that many people eat more than the standard  ½-1 cup serving size, there is little doubt that some of you are consuming very large amounts of iron from cereal. Couple large serving sizes of iron fortified cereal with a glass of orange juice, and the iron absorption triples from the vitamin C in that orange juice!

Thinking about the sugar content in your cereal, here’s a list on that as well!

Should you change your cereal choice based on your iron requirements? I hope this gave you something to think about.