I often get asked about children and adequate iron. With rapid growth rates, infants, young children, adolescence and pregnant women all have fairly high iron requirements.
Deficiency in childhood can result in;
– lowered immunity (continuous infections),
– chronic tiredness,
– poor growth,
– it is also known to be related to developmental delay
Just as there are many ways to keep your children healthy there are certain ways to ensure they consume adequate amounts of iron. The easiest way is to pre-plan your week with balanced wholesome meals.
Iron is found in dark green, leafy vegetables such as parsley, spinach, asparagus and broccoli. It is also found in carrots, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, dried fruit (particularly apricots, prunes and raisins), most nuts, strawberries, chick peas and adzuki beans and soya beans, raspberry leaf and nettle teas, kelp, seaweeds, molasses, barley, bran and brown rice, and in high-quality fish and lean meat, chicken, salmon and eggs.
There are two types of iron, Haem iron and Non-haem iron. Haem iron is known to be bioavailable, meaning that the iron is readily absorbed from foods such as meat, poultry and fish and can be readily used by the body. Due to its molecule structure, non-haem iron found in cereals, nuts, pulses and vegetables is not as readily bioavailable. We can increase the bioavailability of non-haem iron foods by serving it with haem iron foods or foods rich in Vitamin C. Foods high in Vitamin C are tomatoes, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit and capsicum.
Some examples of this would be;
Serving breakfast rice cereals with small portion of bran, dried fruits (listed above), nuts and fresh fruit.
Iron fortified rice cereals with a selected fruit (as per Chapter 15)
Scrambled eggs or baked beans on toast with a diluted juice.
Miso soup with ½ cup of cooked brown rice (I’m fascinated by Japanese breakfasts at the moment), followed by a little honey and banana on toast with a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds. Followed by a mandarin or a diluted juice.
Snacks and Lunches;
Sliced capsicum and carrot with a few dried apricots and raisins.
Sliced kiwi fruit with a handful of nuts.
Cheese and rice crackers with an orange.
Tinned fish or oysters on crackers and some sliced capsicum and celery.
Scrambled egg sandwiches with a handful of strawberries.
Pasta salad (or lettuce) with diced tomato, spinach and tinned fish.
Adding diced spinach and broccoli ( much more nutritious) to a tomato bolognaise sauce for spaghetti or lasagna
A small portion of organic liver minced and added to any casserole, preferably with a tomato base for vitamin C. Believe me, kids don’t even notice. I’ll buy a whole organic liver, put it through the food processor (raw), then divide it into small portions and freeze.
Fresh Tomato Sauce and finely chopped spinach and pine nuts on penne pasta
The list is endless, all you need do is keep the haem, non-haem and Vitamin C in check throughout the day.
Research indicates a healthy person only absorbs about 10-20% of their iron ingested so it is wise to include iron rich foods with each meal.
There are also some terrific liquid multi-mineral drinks on the market which can help boost your intake of all vitamins and minerals. Two brands we have tried are Floradix (Kindervital for Children) and Neways. There are others available, we also like to keep a range of chewable children’s vitamins on hand.
The Daily Iron Recommended Intake is;
7 – 12 months = 9.0mg
1-11 years = 6-8mg
12-18 years = 10-13mg
Pregnancy = 22- 36mg minimum
Lactating = 12-16mg
To give you an idea, 1 chicken drumstick (weighing 200g) would equal 2mg of iron. Half a cup of dried apricots, 1/2cup of spinach, or 1/3 cup of breakfast cereal (iron fortified) would also all roughly supply 2mg of iron.
Remember that smoking, drinking tea and coffee and consuming excess phosphorus (used in soft-drinks, beer, ice-creams and sweets) will deplete your iron levels.
Pregnancy & Breastfeeding;
Your diet should be rich in iron throughout your pregnancy, particularly in your last trimester.
I would advise that you start taking (or continue with) a liquid iron supplement such as Ferroxin, Flurovital, Fluradix or any quality liquid brand. These are best taken with orange or black current juice for added Vitamin C, which aids iron absorption. Vitamin B12 and zinc supplements are also vital.
During the last six weeks of your pregnancy, the fetus stores enough iron in its liver to supplement his needs for the first 3–6 months of life. This will only partially fulfill the infant’s requirements.
If you are concerned about your Newborn or Infant; You are probably aware that breast milk is generally depleted of sufficient iron by the time your baby reaches six months, hence this is one reason we introduce solids. However the combination of giving your baby solids rich in iron and breast milk, where the mother is focused on her iron intake, I believe can only strengthen your infant. If you are still breastfeeding (in addition to giving your baby solids) consider your own iron intake. It is my opinion that if you are fastidious about keeping your iron levels up – your baby can only benefit. So continue with your iron supplements, ensure that you are eating lots of iron rich foods, not only will this support your babies health but your own.
There are many ways to provide enough iron for infants who are just starting their culinary journey. In Chapter 15 we discuss the principles behind slowly introducing particular foods, allowing time for digestive enzymes to build.
Foods we discuss that are rich in iron are avocado, iron fortified rice, quinoa (which can be ground in your coffee grinder, made into a paste and added to rice cereals from about 10 months, or later added and cooked up with rice), dried apricots, spinach, broccoli, red meat. Rather than starting any of these foods too early, it is important to introduce them at the right age groups, e.g. 6-9months, 9-12months etc.
Hope this helps clarify any iron concerns, happy eating.