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

does your cereal have too much ironUpdated December, 2019

Do your regularly eat cereal? Did you ever stop to think that the cereals you choose may be loaded with too much iron? While cereal can be a great source of nutrients such as fiber, many cereals have too much iron for certain people. Clearly, adequate iron consumption is critical for the health of all-especially women of childbearing age, infants, and children. And, iron deficiency can cause a wide range of symptoms from energy draining anemia to disruptive behavior in children. Because adequate dietary iron is so critical to health, many 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 needs are based on age and gender

pregnancy iron needsBut, 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. This condition is called hemochromatosis.

Use labels to avoid cereals with too much iron

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
  • Wheaties have 8 mg
  • Corn Chex has 9 mg
  • Corn Flakes have 9 mg
  • Raisin Bran has 6.3-10.8 mg (depends on the brand)
  • Corn Chex has 11 mg
  • Special K has 11 mg
  • Rice Krispies have 11 mg
  • Wheat Chex has 14.4 mg
  • Cheerios Oat Crunch has 14 mg
  • Grape Nuts have 16 mg
  • Frosted Mini Wheats have 16.2 mg
  • Multi-Bran Chex has 16.2 mg
  • Total has 18 mg

For cereal lovers needing less iron

  • Kashi cereals range from virtually no iron up to 2 mg depending on the variety selected
  • Puffins have less than 1 mg
  • Kind Healthy Grains (all varieties) have less than 1 mg
  • Cascadian Farm Cereal Berry Vanilla Puffs Organic have less than 1 mg
  • Raisin Bran Crunch has 1 mg
  • Cooked oatmeal has less than 2 mg (more updated oatmeal information)
  • Flax Plus Multibran Flakes has less than 2 mg
  • Shredded Wheat has 2 mg
  • Nature’s Path Flax Plus has 2 mg
  • Fiber One has 4.5 mg
  • Frosted Cheerios have 4.5 mg
  • Basic 4 has 4.5 mg
  • Fiber One has 5 mg
  • Frosted Flakes have 5 mg
  • Honey Nut Cheerios have 5 mg

Tactics for cereals with too much iron

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. The vitamin C from the orange juice keeps the iron in a readily absorbed form as the iron travels through the small intestine during digestion. The orange juice with vitamin C should clearly be avoided as a breakfast beverage with cereal if iron overload is a concern. Best tactics for those needing less iron are to read labels, watch your portions, and avoid fruit juice with vitamin C. Then, enjoy your cereal!

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.

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Sue Rose

40 thoughts on “Cereals With Too Much Iron? Pick These, Not Those!

  1. Given the fact that I get 8% of my so-called daily requirement for every two slices of bread I eat, and more iron still in various green veggies and fortified dairy products that I consume, I opt for only the very lowest iron cereals, i.e. those under 10%. I have been convinced by things I read online that excess iron may accumulate in the body and damage some of the body’s systems.

    I believe the daily requirement needs to be revisited and the requirements set up in tiers (based primarily on age) by the appropriate governing bodies. This is one area where one size definitely does not fit all. If we fortify cereal with iron for the benefit of kids and pre-menopausal women, then why is a 3/4 cup serving of a kid’s cereal, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, only 2% the daily requirement, while 1/3 cup Kellogg’s Brand Buds — long favored by elders who are likely to eat more than 1/3 cup a day — is a whopping 25%? This makes no logical sense, and when I asked them about it in a letter, they couldn’t really defend it. But of course once a company has wrapped the R&D on a product and have it out there, it takes the proverbial act of congress to get them to change it.

    • I agree with what you are saying here, I am trying to find a zero iron Cereal as I have far too much Iron in my blood that has accumulated over time. They should definitely make Cereal for the older people as well.

  2. I buy or will not buy cereals based on how much iron it contains. If a cereal contains more than 25% of the RDA of iron, I won’t buy that cereal. There are many cereals I would buy, but the iron content is too high.

    • Yes, I agree that is a good rule. We have indeed gone overboard with iron fortification, and it would be nice if the major cereal companies would offer a wider range of low iron cereal for those people who do not need the iron!

  3. I have recently been diagnosed with a genetic blood disorder (hemochromatosis) that has never been detected in my family. I have severe organ damage. It is hard to find cereals that are not fortified with iron. I wish one of the cereal producers would start manufacturing cereals and foods for my needs, and the vast majority of hemochromatosis patients.

    • I agree, many people need to limit their iron, and the fortification process has gone overboard. It is too bad the cereal manufacturers have not picked up on this seemingly obvious need!

    • Yes, Kashi is one of the better low iron cereals. It would be nice if the cereal companies had a greater variety of low iron options. Go luck to you.

    • I also have hemochromotosis…..fortunately, no liver damage…. Unfortunately, the only two packaged cereals that I have found with less than 10% iron are Shredded Wheat and Puffed Wheat. While I can find Shredded Wheat, it is harder to find Puffed Wheat (without added sugar) and I am trying to stay away from the already sweetened stuff. I do like Shredded Wheat….can add dried cranberries (rather than raisins) if I want to….. Also dealing with spaghetti (iron enriched unless it is the whole wheat version – yuck), breads, etc….. As more and more people get diagnosed with Hemochromotosis, it would be nice if we could find more food that isn’t enriched.

    • My husband too has been diagnosed with this, his count extremely high, detected late. He has also just been diagnosed Type 1 Diabetic due to his iron overload and trying to balance both diets is not easy. Struggling to find the low iron cereals that actually taste nice and now obviously low in sugar.

    • I was diagnosed with hemochromatosis about 30 years ago. You can learn a lot by checking out websites devoted to iron overload. I don’t need phlebotomies to reduce my iron, as I used to, because I’ve found certain foods (ie green tea, dairy, etc.) will block iron. Also, I take Metamucil that seems to get rid any iron that is in my food.

    • Hi my husband was diagnosed with the same I’m trying to find a cereal that would be good for him don’t recognise some that have been mentioned on this page not sure if they are Uk cereals do you have any advise please.

    • YES!! I TOO HAVE HEMOCHROMATOSIS. I love rice krispie treats… can’t have them now.. I love Chex mix, can’t have it. They need to leave iron out of cereals and leave it to the vitamin industry.

  4. This really helped me, because I have been striving to find the lowest and highest in iron cereal for a while. Looking around most of the internet didn’t help me, but this article is great information source.

  5. Hear, hear! I am on thyroid replacement medication and thyroid patients are required to NOT consume supplemental iron or calcium within 4 hours of taking the medication. This means that yes, I can have the fortified cereal– but not for breakfast! Arrrghhh. Who wants cold cereal in the middle of the day?

    Bob’s Red Mill has a number of organic (= unfortified, un-messed-with) hot cereal options, but I’m also looking for cold cereal options too. Ironic that cereal WITHOUT added and unnecessary supplements costs a lot more than regular old Corn Flakes, Total, or Cheerios, which I can’t have.

    • I DO! I want cold cereal breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Unfortunately I haven’t been eating cereal in months and I am iron deficient. I’m glad I read this article I’m going right out and getting some raisin bran. I don’t even like raisins, but my Nanny(grandmother) love the stuff and I actually liked. I used to put a heap load of sugar on it though.

  6. I also have Hemochromotosis. The 2 best cereals I’ve found for lack of iron are Kelliggs Honey Smacks (2%) and Whole Foods 365 Organic Peanut Butter Balls (2%).
    And while I’m on here, I highly recommend going on Amazon and buying- The iron disorders guide to Hemochromotosis book. Great book, full of info, explanations, other resources, diet and nutrition info, treatment and personal stories. Well worth the $25!

    • Yes, the book is good and I am reading Living Well with Haemachromatosis by Ralph Catalase. Got it through Amazon too. So much helpful info.

  7. I have severe anemia, and I need a hot cereal fortified with a high amount of iron. It has to be hot, because then I can drink juice with it to get the Vitamin C I need to make the iron work. They are complementary. When you have calcium with iron, less iron is absorbed. The calcium binds with the iron, and they both get flushed out of your system without doing a thing for you. So I have to have no milk at all at breakfast, that’s why Total won’t work for me. Unless I ate it with juice, which I think would be totally gross. Do you know of a hot cereal fortified with 18 mg of iron? Also, I haven’t found any type of milk, be it soy milk, hazelnut milk, what have you that hasn’t been fortified with calcium. Do you know of any product like this without calcium? Because sometimes I would like cold cereal in the morning, but not with calcium. Breakfast is my calcium-free meal, so that I can get my iron.

    • My daughter couldn’t have much milk because of asthma and the mucous. We found that she could have cold cereal, any that she liked, with apricot nectar. She adored it. Just a suggestion.

    • I used a brand of unfortified unsweetened almond milk that barely had any calcium before I switched. It was called almond breeze, I got it at the Bulk Barn and Sobey’s. I think metro and food land had it too. A health food store definitely would. It’s usually on the shelves with the gluten free stuff.

    • Hi. I just saw your post and was wondering if you ever found solution to your problem. My daughter has the same issue and I am not sure what to do. What should she eat her cereal with in the morning? Please help if you know the answer. Thanks.

  8. Recently I had a weak moment in the grocery and bought a bag of generic cheerios. That night I ate two large bowls of the cereal, probably at least four servings. Within a day I had a gout flare that was as bad as any I’ve ever had. I’m generally pretty careful about my eating habits because of the gout, and have over the past few years identified a number of possible triggers, all of which are on the lists of high foods that gout sufferers should be wary of. However, I wasn’t aware until this recent bout that high levels of iron have been associated with elevated levels of uric acid, and often gout from the resulting crystals gathering in certain joints. I had never noticed the presence of high iron foods on the typical food triggers list, but when I googled cheerios and gout, the high level of iron in such “fortified” cereals was often mentioned as a possible trigger.
    So be forewarned, the heavy levels of iron in many fortified cereals can be a potential trigger of gout, which, for anyone who has gone through it, is about the most painful joint affliction one can have, often immobilizing the sufferer for up to a week.

  9. I have been looking for a low iron cereal because my iron level is a bit high, yesterday I found Nature’s Path Sunrise crunchy cinnamon at the super store it is organic gluten free and has 2% daily value of iron per 30 g .bought it to try and I like it. Also found pc organic whole wheat flour that has 6% daily value of iron per 30 g other flour was 8 to 10 % so I bought some and baked some bread hoping that I can lower my iron intake by adding these to my diet and cutting out other bread and cerals that are fortified with iron.

  10. HI, Just read all your comments and thank you. I have an iron blood level also that is high and get checked for it periodically. If it is too high i get my blood drawn. No fun. I cannot cook in iron pans, trying to stay away from all fortified iron in foods, but it is important to have blood checked. I use to need iron in my system during my childbearing years of 6 children and would get iron shots but now it is different. I am also lactose intolerant and must stay away from dairy. Going food shopping is more like going to the library or google. No fun either. That book that was recommended earlier in the comments is a good idea. Good luck to all you who have to stay away from “iron”. Peace.

  11. I also at the age of 60 have just been diagnosed with Hemochromatosis and now have severe cirrhosis of the liver, so I agree with the other person that cereal manufacturers need to produce NATURAL cereals that are not stripped of nutrients and then iron supplements added along with other chemicals just to improve shelf life and REDUCING OUR LIFE EXPECTANCY BY IRON OVERLOAD IN OUR VITAL ORGANS. I went around all the bakeries in house and a few high st smaller bakers and Shock , horror they were uneducated and didn’t even know if their flour was fortified!!!!

  12. I’m a bit late to this party, my chap has type 1 diabetes and has just been diagnosed with hereditary Haemachromatosis and has very high iron levels. He also has bowel problems so needs quite a fibrous diet –
    fruits and veg are either loaded with iron or vitamin C and cereals too. God knows the trauma we had with the meat and red wine consumption! :))

    What on earth can I cook??? I’m great in the kitchen and have been quite inventive so far but since haemo-whatsit I’m at my wits end wanting to serve him something tasty that’s not going to kill him (no matter what I might threaten occasionally!)

    Does anyone have a sensible website that doesn’t want me to go all ‘cardboard-only’ on him please?

  13. I was actually looking for a cereal other than frosted mini wheats to help increase my iron. I’m pregnant and can’t hold the vitamins down. My iron has started to look great since I’ve been able to keep down the cereal. I was eating spinach salads but would throw it up before it ever had time to be digested.

  14. I was diagnosed with hemochromatosis and porpheria cutaneaus tarda causing blisters on my hands. I loved cereal but too many of them are “fortified” so I thought that I could no longer eat them. This list has given me new joy.

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