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Iron Rich Foods For Children & Infants

24th Dec, 2019  |  Claire O'Brien  |  Balanced Diet

Iron is an essential part of haemoglobin which allows oxygen to bind to red blood cells and be carried from the the lungs to the other parts of the body. If your child is  low in iron, his/her body  may not be able to make sufficient amounts of  haemoglobin and may benefit from an increase in iron rich foods in their diet.

Iron scarce diet

Just like adults, children need iron in their diet. They are in their growing stage where their body needs sufficient minerals and vitamins for proper development. Many children are ‘fussy eaters’ and may refuse some iron rich foods such as spinach and red meat.

Although rare, some children may also experience illness such as chronic bowel inflammation, coeliac and Crohns disease or a parasite infection which may lower their iron stores.

Inability to absorb iron

Excess calcium, phytate, and polyphenol compounds in the diet of your children can result in a lowered absorption capability of iron by your child’s body. For example, soaking, ferementing or sprouting plant foods can lower phytate levels, having milk and milk drinks away from iron rich meals can improve absorption, and adding vinegar based salad dressing can increase mineral absorption .

How to know your child is low in iron?

If your child is suffering from low iron, then he/she will show the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Low energy levels
  • Pale appearance
  • Brittle nails
  • Bad appetite
  • Cravings for nonfood items such as paint, dirt, ice – known as pica

A doctor may diagnose anemia if the child has become iron deficient.

How much iron does your child need?

Let’s see exactly how much iron does your child need*:

  • Infants(7-12 months) 11 mg per day.
  • Kids (1-3 years): 7mg per day.
  • Kids(4-8 years): 10mg per day.
  • Kids(9-15 years): 8mg per day.
  • Teenage boys(above 13 years): 11mg per day.
  • Teenage girls(above 13 years): 15mg per day.

*Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/iron-deficiency/art-20045634 

Girls who start menstruating need additional iron due to frequent blood loss. Teens who are involved in athletic activities and play different sports also need additional iron. Children and adolescents who follow a plant based diet may also benefit from additional iron.

What foods to feed them to bulk up their iron levels?

Here we will discuss different iron-rich foods for kids, which you need to implement to spike their iron levels as well as red blood cells in your kid’s body.

Breast milk

Breast milk acts as a complete food for infants, and it satisfies the sufficient iron need of your baby.

Finger millet

Finger millet is an excellent source of iron. It might be beneficial for kids who have low hemoglobin levels. There are various recipes that you can include ragi. This grain is also rich in other essential vitamins and nutrients.  

Pearl millet

Pearl millet is also rich in iron. It might help in raising the hemoglobin levels in your child’s body that might also result in treating anemia. Add it in the daily diet of your child.

Green leafy vegetables

Generally, vegetables that are dark greenish are spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, etc. These veggies are also rich in iron. Adding these veggies might also improve their iron levels.

Dry fruits

Dry fruits such as apricots are rich in iron as well as antioxidants, which might meet 50% of the daily required iron dose.

Raisins are also a good source of iron, which might also prove to be beneficial for your child. Raisins are a great snack food, perfect for lunch boxes or when you are on the go as a family. They also make a great addition to breakfasts or salads in Summer.

Prune juice is also a good source of iron which might cater to the iron needs of your child’s body, however this may not be as popular with your child as apricots or raisins.

Green peas

Among the plant-based foods, green peas are one of the richest sources of iron. Along with that, green peas are also  naturally rich in various proteins, and vitamins such as vitamin C. Vitamin C also helps in proper absorption of iron in the body.

Importance of consuming vitamin C with iron

Iron in food is found in two forms, namely heme iron, and non-heme iron. Your child’s body reacts differently to each of them. Heme iron is absorbed easily as compared to non-heme iron.Animal-based foods are typically rich in both types of iron, whereas plant-based foods only contain non-heme iron. The children whose regular diet involves plant-based foods must include vitamin C rich foods. Vitamin C helps in the absorption of non-heme iron and other minerals.

Vitamin C rich vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, red and green peppers, turnip greens, kale, chard, cabbage, and courgettes. Tomatoes and tomato juice are also rich in vitamin C.

Jaggery is a traditional sugar that is also rich in vitamin C, which helps  iron absorption in the body. It also contains folate compounds that are essential for red blood cell production in the body.

Author Bio:

Emylee  is a wellness lifestyle writer. She loves sharing her thoughts and personal experiences related to natural remedies, yoga and fitness through her writing. She currently writes for How To Cure. She can connect with others experiencing health concerns and help them through their recovery journeys through natural remedies.

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