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What is Chelated Iron?

Chelated iron is a form of iron that's been chemically altered to bond with amino acids or organic molecules, enhancing its absorption in plants and humans. This process prevents iron from reacting with other elements, making it more bioavailable. Intrigued by how chelated iron could benefit your health or your garden's vitality? Discover the myriad of ways it can be integrated into your life.
Koren Allen
Koren Allen

Most living things need iron to survive and thrive. This mineral is vital for healthy red blood cells in people and animals, and plants need iron to produce chlorophyll, which is vital for healthy cell function and gives the plant its green color. When dietary sources don't provide enough iron, a supplement may be needed for optimum health. Chelated iron is simply iron that has undergone chelation, a chemical process that firmly binds the iron molecule to another substance, usually an amino acid.

Chelation forms a more stable ring-shaped molecule that is easier for plants and animals to absorb. Iron from dietary sources is bound to amino acids naturally, and chelation attempts to make supplemental iron more similar to these naturally occurring sources. Cells have membranes that allow some substances to pass through, while blocking others. Chelated iron, disguised as amino acids, is thought to pass through the cell membrane more easily, allowing the iron inside the cell where it is needed.

Chelated iron supplements can invigorate garden plants.
Chelated iron supplements can invigorate garden plants.

The effectiveness of this type of iron supplements is debated. While advertisers tout the benefits of chelated minerals, some skeptics point out that once they enter the digestive tract, the chemical bond is broken down anyway. The minerals are then handled by the body in the same way as their non-chelated counterparts. Skeptics contend that paying more for such supplements is simply a waste of money.

Some people add chelated iron to their soil.
Some people add chelated iron to their soil.

Many plant owners have noticed a dramatic improvement in the health of their plants after adding chelated iron to the soil, however, and for them, the benefits are worth the extra cost. In humans and animals, it is more difficult to determine whether this type of iron is more readily absorbed. Any number of factors can interfere with the body's ability to absorb iron, including the presence of other minerals and certain illnesses. With all these different variables, it is hard to prove that this type is superior to other supplements. Since there doesn't seem to be any harm in taking it, the decision to pay the higher price is a matter of personal choice.

Chelated iron may be included in premixed combination fertilizers.
Chelated iron may be included in premixed combination fertilizers.

As a plant nutrient, chelated iron can be purchased at a local home store or nursery. It is available in liquid form to be added to a gardener's current plant-feeding routine. The iron is also added to many pre-mixed combination fertilizers, which can be purchased in liquid, powder, or granulated form. For people and animals, supplements can be found anywhere people normally purchase vitamins, and shoppers should look for "iron chelates" on the label. As with any supplement, individuals should always read and follow the manufacturer's directions for use, and consult a medical professional if they have any questions or concerns.

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Discussion Comments

ginsberg05

My favorite liquid iron for plants is called Liquid Iron Plus Concentrate. It's easy to use and drastically improved the color and growth of the box shrubs in my front lawn. Liquid Iron Plus is a mid-range priced supplement and has been the most effective stuff I've tried.

rockyraccoon

Chelated iron fertilizer can be purchased online and at stores that feature a garden department. They typically range from about $5 to $15 depending on size and brand.

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    • Chelated iron supplements can invigorate garden plants.
      By: Viktor Pravdica
      Chelated iron supplements can invigorate garden plants.
    • Some people add chelated iron to their soil.
      By: ilposeidone
      Some people add chelated iron to their soil.
    • Chelated iron may be included in premixed combination fertilizers.
      By: Sinisa Botas
      Chelated iron may be included in premixed combination fertilizers.
    • Iron supplements may be needed for optimum health if a diet doesn't produce enough.
      By: alinita
      Iron supplements may be needed for optimum health if a diet doesn't produce enough.
    • Iron is vital for healthy red blood cells.
      By: Dmitry Sunagatov
      Iron is vital for healthy red blood cells.
    • Shoppers who buy supplements should look for "iron chelates" on the label.
      By: charles taylor
      Shoppers who buy supplements should look for "iron chelates" on the label.