Iron: An essential mineral. Iron is necessary for the transport of oxygen (via hemoglobin in red blood cells) and for oxidation by cells (via cytochrome). Deficiency of iron is a common cause of anemia. Food sources of iron include meat, poultry, eggs, vegetables and cereals (especially those fortified with iron). According to the National Academy of Sciences, the Recommended Dietary Allowances of iron for women ages 19 to 50 is 18 milligrams per day and for men ages 19+, 8 milligrams per day. Iron overload can damage the heart, liver, gonads and other organs. Iron overload is a particular risk in people who may have certain genetic conditions (hemochromatosis) sometimes without knowing it and also in people receiving recurrent blood transfusions. Iron supplements meant for adults (such as pregnant women) are a major cause of poisoning in children.