Iron is a nutrient that most of us have heard of, but often underestimate.
It’s essential for helping people of all ages and stages to feel strong and well. It supports oxygen to move through the body, contributes to energy production and helps keep our immune system fighting fit.
So of course, it’s incredibly important for growing children. Children that don’t get enough iron and become deficient are vulnerable to all sorts of terrible symptoms including fatigue and weakness, pale skin, irritability and a decreased appetite. A lack of iron can dramatically impact on a child’s ability to concentrate, learn and participate in social activities.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to include iron in a healthy diet.
Where To Get Iron
There are two kinds of dietary iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron is derived from animal foods (like red meats, fish, and poultry), whilst nonheme iron is plant-based. Our bodies absorb the most iron from heme sources.
Red meat, particularly beef, offers an impressively high concentrate of heme iron.
The best vegetarian sources include chickpeas, beans and lentils, fortified cereals (there are plenty of iron-rich cereals available now) and pumpkin seeds.
A well-balanced diet should cover children’s iron needs adequately though iron supplements may be prescribed by a doctor if needed.
How Much Children Need
The recommended intake of iron for children depends on many factors. The National Health and Medical Research Council provides a comprehensive summary of iron intake by life stage and gender. For babies aged 0-6 months for example, it recommends 0.2 mg/day, whilst the level rises as high as 15 mg/day for girls aged between 14-18. You can see the Ministry’s full recommendations here – it’s a great resource that’s well worth checking out.