Iron is commonly associated with great strength. (Think of spinach-eating Popeye.) Take our quiz to find out how much you know about this mineral’s role in the body.

1. True or False? One of the first symptoms of low iron is weakness, fatigue, or loss of stamina.

2. True or False? There is only one form of dietary iron.

3. True or False? Vitamin C improves iron absorption.

4. True or False? Everyone should take iron supplements.


1. True. Iron—which forms hemoglobin, the essential oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells—gives us strength by assisting with energy production and protein metabolism. Deficiency is most common among children aged 1 to 5, pregnant or lactating women, vegetarians, and premenopausal women.

2. False. The two dietary forms of iron are heme, the more easily absorbed form, and nonheme. Liver, beef, poultry, and shellfish are rich in heme. Beans, spinach, and fortified flours, breads, and cereals contain nonheme.

3. True. Boost your absorption of nonheme iron by adding juice or fruit rich in ascorbic acid (vitamin C), such as a kiwifruit or an orange, to your meal (or take a vitamin C supplement).

4. False. Iron deficiency is uncommon among men and postmenopausal women, who should take iron supplements only when prescribed by their health care provider. Too much iron leads to overload risk, which is associated with several genetic diseases.

—Vonalda Utterback, CN

photos: top left, kareem black/photonica; bottom left and top right, jeff padrick