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Iron

By Hanan Saleh

Paediatric Dietician


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Written By Hanan Saleh

Growth and development of the central nervous system is rapid during the first years of life and iron is critical for this process. The human brain almost triples its weight from birth to 3 years of age and has reached 85% of its adult size[i]. Iron helps make red blood cells which are necessary for carrying oxygen around our bodies and providing energy for daily life. As the body is unable to produce iron, this essential mineral must be fully supplied by the foods we eat. Iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient deficiency worldwide and young children are a special risk group because their rapid growth. Iron deficiency has been conclusively seen to affect growth, ability to fight infections and brain development.

Some symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Poor weight gain
  • Tiredness, sleep issues
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite, fussy eating
  • Strange ‘food’ cravings (pica) like eating dirt

How Much Do They Need?

Iron in foods can come in two forms, haem iron & non-haem iron. The haem form is more bioavailable to humans than the non-haem.

Haem Iron

Iron from animal food sources such as meat, fish and poultry. Examples include:

  • Liver
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Salmon

Non-haem Iron 

Iron from plant food sources such grains and vegetables.

Examples include:

  • Eggs
  • Breakfast cereal (fortified)
  • Wholemeal bread
  • Spinach
  • Lentils/kidney beans
  • Tofu
  • Sultanas
  • Dried apricots
  • Almonds

 

Presence of vitamin C can increase absorption of iron

The major contributors to iron intake in Australia and New Zealand are wholegrain cereals, meats, fish and poultry, however, the iron from plant sources is less bioavailable. Vitamin C helps to increase the absorption of iron into our bodies. Health professionals recommend combining vitamin C rich foods with your meal to help increase iron absorption.

Examples of foods rich in vitamin C are:

  • Citrus fruits e.g. orange, mandarin
  • Tropical fruits e.g. pineapple
  • Berries e.g. strawberry
  • Vegetables e.g. tomato, capsicum, cabbage and broccoli
Age RDI mg/day
Infants 0 to 6 months 0.2
7-12 months 11
1 to 3 years old 9
4 to 8 years old 10

Source: Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand[vii]

Highest sources of Iron per serve

Highest sources of Iron per serve

FOOD SERVE SIZE IRON PER SERVE (mg)
Kangaroo 100g 4.4
Sardines 120g 3.24
Beef 100g 3.1
Lamb 100g 2.5
Pork 100g 1.4
Chicken 100g 0.9
Chickpeas 100g 6.2
Tofu 100g 5.2
Kidney beans ½ cup 2.1
3 bean mix ½ cup 2
Egg 1 egg 1.1
Salmon 100g 1.3
Tuna 100g 1.0
Iron fortified breakfast cereal 30g 3
Wheat biscuits 2 biscuits 3
Oats 1 cup 1.3
Wholemeal bread 1 slice 0.69
Pasta 1 cup 0.6
Blackstrap Molasses 1 tablespoon 3.5
Tahini 1 tablespoon 1.4
Broccoli 1 cup cooked 1.1
Kale 1 cup cooked 1.2
Spinach ½ cup cooked 2.2
Green beans ½ cup 1.0
Beetroot 3 slices 1.2
Green peas ½ cup 0.9
Bok choy 100g 0.8
Dried apricot 10 pieces 1.5
Sultanas 1 small box, 40g 0.8
Cashews 50g 2.5
Almonds 50g 1.8
Liquorice 50g 4.4
Peanut Butter 1 tablespoon 0.5
Milo 2 teaspoons 3
Milk 1 cup 0.3

Source: Modified from Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. National Health and Medical Research Council. (2006) Commonwealth of Australia.

By Hanan Saleh 1 August 2015 references

Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. Parents should exercise caution with vitamins and supplements and monitor their children’s intake of these and other foods to ensure that kids do not get too much of these nutrients. This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner. The development of this document is not influenced by commercial organisations.

  • current version

    Hanan Saleh
  • PEER REVIEWER

    Hanan Saleh
  • document id

  • next review

    22.08.2015

This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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Iron

nutrition

Iron is one of the Top 10 Nutrients required for Kids Health, Development and Wellbeing. Growth and development of the central nervous system is rapid during the first years of life and iron is critical for this process.  Iron an important role in muscle function, energy creation, and brain development, therefore a child with iron deficiency may have learning and behavioral problems. A deficiency in Iron can cause Anemia.

By Evelyn Lewin 01.08.2015
references
  • current version

    Hanan Saleh
  • PEER REVIEWER

    Hanan Saleh
  • document id

    1203450
  • next review

    22.08.2015

This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

make a comment

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iron   rich Recipes

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top 10 nutrients

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nutrition protocols for kids

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MEET THE EXPERTS

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