Iron is an essential nutrient, as it is needed for blood health. Your body uses iron to make the protein hemoglobin, which carries oxygen through your red blood cells. Your body requires different amounts of iron depending on your age and sex, with women needing more iron than men beginning in adolescence. Adolescent females require more iron in their diets because of puberty, menstrual periods and hormonal changes.
Iron helps make up many proteins and enzymes in your body, helps transport oxygen through your body and is used for regulating cell growth and differentiation. Without enough iron, you may feel tired, breathless, dizzy, weak and irritable. Teen girls ages 14 to 18 need 15 mg of iron a day, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements 3. Forty percent of adolescent girls do not get the amount of iron they need from their diets, according to NHS Choices, a UK health information site 3.
While teen girls need 15 mg of iron a day, teen boys need 11 mg per day, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements 3. Teen girls need more iron than teen boys because adolescent girls usually hit puberty during adolescence, and begin menstruating 3. The blood that is lost includes iron, so teen girls need to consume more iron to make up for the loss 3. Heavy menstruation and strenuous activities such as sports can make teen girls lose even more iron 3.
Iron Supplements for Teens
You can get iron from a variety of the foods you eat, including enriched cereals, dried peaches and apricots, lentils, raisins, sardines, kale, baked beans, chick peas, beef liver, eggs, pork, salmon, red beans, turkey, veal, sirloin steak, white beans, almonds, prune juice, sesame seeds and spinach. Teen girls who do not get enough iron from their diets can take iron supplements, and should speak to a doctor to determine how much to take 3.
Your body's absorption of iron can be affected by the foods you eat. Vitamin C can help your body absorb iron, according to the Center for Young Women's Health 1. Cow's milk, on the other hand, can decrease your body's absorption of iron, according to KidsHealth.org. Only a blood test can diagnose iron deficiency. If you are low in iron -- a condition called anemia -- you may be prone to fatigue, weakness, paleness and difficulty focusing, which can affect your performance at school and in sports. If you are anemic, talk to your doctor about how to get more iron in your diet without overdoing it. Too much iron can build up over time in your body and lead to organ damage, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.
- Your body's absorption of iron can be affected by the foods you eat.
- Cow's milk, on the other hand, can decrease your body's absorption of iron, according to KidsHealth.org.
Iron Supplements for Teens
Nutrition for Teen Girls
Low Ferritin in Children
Signs & Symptoms of Iron Deficiency for Male Teenagers
Signs & Symptoms of Iron Deficiency in Teens
Side Effects of Eating Too Much Iron
How Long Does Iron Stay in Your System?
Most Recommended Food for Anemic Children
Low Iron in Toddlers
Eating Plan for a 15-Year-Old Girl
- Center for Young Women's Health: Iron; January 2009
- KidsHealth: Iron and Your Child; Mary L. Gavin, MD; February 2009
- NHS Choices: Teen Girls and Iron
- Abbaspour N, Hurrell R, Kelishadi R. Review on iron and its importance for human health. J Res Med Sci. 2014;19(2):164–174.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Iron-Deficiency Anemia.
- Vaucher P, Druais PL, Waldvogel S, Favrat B. Effect of iron supplementation on fatigue in nonanemic menstruating women with low ferritin: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 2012;184(11):1247-54. doi:10.1503/cmaj.110950
- Stugiewicz M, Tkaczyszyn M, Kasztura M, Banasiak W, Ponikowski P, Jankowska EA. The influence of iron deficiency on the functioning of skeletal muscles: experimental evidence and clinical implications. Eur J Heart Fail. 2016;18(7):762-73. doi:10.1002/ejhf.467
- Cherayil BJ. The role of iron in the immune response to bacterial infection. Immunol Res. 2011;50(1):1–9. doi:10.1007/s12026-010-8199-1
- Jáuregui-lobera I. Iron deficiency and cognitive functions. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2014;10:2087-95. doi:10.2147/NDT.S72491
- Cleveland Clinic. How to Tell If You Have Iron Deficiency Anemia. Updated October 30, 2017.
- Murat S, Ali U, Serdal K, et al. Assessment of subjective sleep quality in iron deficiency anaemia. Afr Health Sci. 2015;15(2):621–627. doi:10.4314/ahs.v15i2.40
- Dosman CF, Brian JA, Drmic IE, et al. Children with autism: effect of iron supplementation on sleep and ferritin. Pediatr Neurol. 2007;36(3):152-8. doi:10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2006.11.004
- Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Updated October 16, 2019.
Marnie Kunz has been an award-winning writer covering fitness, pets, lifestyle, entertainment and health since 2003. Her articles have been published in "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Alive," "The Marietta Daily Journal" and other publications. Kunz holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Knox College and is a Road Runners Club of America-certified running coach and a certified pole dance instructor.