Next time you're tempted to rush out the door without eating breakfast, think of this -- people who eat breakfast tend to be able to concentrate better, have lower cholesterol levels, get more vitamins and minerals in their diet and weigh less than people who don't eat breakfast. Iron-fortified breakfast cereal can be a nutritious way to fuel up for the day, especially if you choose one that isn't filled with added sugars.
Women's Iron Needs
Women need more iron than men -- with a recommended dietary allowance of 18 milligrams per day compared to 8 -- making it more likely they'll become iron deficient, especially if they experience heavy periods. These needs increase even more during pregnancy to 27 milligrams per day. Eating an iron-fortified cereal for breakfast is an easy way to increase your iron intake, even if you're vegetarian, since some cereals are fortified with 100 percent of the iron you need for the day.
Fortified Cereal vs. Supplements
Iron-fortified cereal is a much more pleasant way to increase the amount of iron in your diet than supplements. It tastes good and meets other nutrient needs as well as those for iron. Iron supplements, on the other hand, tend to be rather unpleasant and can cause side effects including an upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and constipation because of the high amount of iron they contain. If you regularly eat iron-fortified breakfast cereals, you're less likely to become so deficient in iron that you need supplements, especially if you choose one of the cereals with 100 percent of the daily value for iron and eat other iron-rich foods.
Increasing Iron Absorption
Iron-fortified cereals contain non-heme iron, which isn't as well absorbed as the type of iron found in meats. To get the most benefits from your iron-fortified cereal, you should eat it along with something that contains vitamin C. A study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" in 2011 found that people who ate iron-fortified cereal along with kiwi fruits, which are high in vitamin C, were able to increase their iron stores more than people who ate their cereal with bananas.
Choosing the Right Cereal
MayoClinic.com recommends you choose a cereal that contains less than 120 calories, less than 5 grams of sugar and at least 3 grams of fiber, preferably 5 grams or more, per serving. Make sure to check the serving size, since this can vary a lot depending on the cereal, ranging from 1/2 cup to 1 cup or more. Limiting yourself to one serving will help you stay within your daily calorie goals.
- British Journal of Nutrition: Gold Kiwifruit Consumed With an Iron-fortified Breakfast Cereal Meal Improves Iron Status in Women With Low Iron Stores: A 16-week rRandomised Controlled Trial
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- Nutrition Research Reviews: Ready-to-eat Cereals and the Burden of Obesity in the Context of Their Nutritional Contribution: Are All Ready-to-eat Cereals Equally Healthy? A Systematic Review
- MayoClinic.com: Healthy Breakfast: Quick, Flexible Options to Grab at Home
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.