Iron For Kids: All You Need to Know
Why Is Iron Important For Children?
Iron is an essential nutrient; most people are aware that it is required to form healthy red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body. Iron also plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy immune system and reducing tiredness and fatigue.
One of the most important roles it plays in children is supporting healthy cognitive (mental) development. If your little one does not get enough iron in their diet, their mental development could be adversely affected, especially if they develop anaemia – a lack of healthy red blood cells. The most common cause of anaemia is a lack of iron in the diet.
The signs and symptoms of anaemia can include:
- Feeling tired
- Looking pale
- Poor appetite
- Suffering from lots of infections
Iron Requirements For Children
In babies, if the mother has not become iron deficient during pregnancy, a healthy full-term new-born baby will generally be born with enough iron stores in their body for the first six months of life.
After this first six months, however, we need to ensure that the weaning foods include iron-rich ingredients to help meet the baby’s iron needs.
Parents of babies being weaned onto a primarily plant-based diet, or those remaining on a mainly breast milk-based diet, may need to look at ways to supplement their diet with iron to support cognitive development.
Iron Rich Foods For Kids
There are two types of iron found in food: haem and non-haem iron. Haem and non-haem iron are absorbed differently, with haem iron being absorbed much more easily.
Haem iron is typically found in the following foods:
- Red meats, such as lean beef and lamb (which contain three times as much iron as chicken or oily fish).
Non-Haem iron is generally found in:
- Fresh and dried fruits
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Iron-fortified breakfast cereals
- Beans and lentils
How to Support Healthy Iron Levels:
Do: try to combine haem iron rich foods for kids with plant-sourced iron, which helps boost absorption. So, for example, mix meats with green leafy vegetables or pulses at a meal.
Do: eat plenty of vitamin C rich foods. Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) can help the body to absorb iron. This is especially important if the diet is more focussed on non-haem iron sources. So, try having a glass of fresh orange juice alongside your iron-fortified breakfast cereal.
Don’t: offer your child tea to drink! Besides containing caffeine that is not good for little ones, tea also contains polyphenols, which reduces iron absorption in the body.
Don’t: offer plain cow’s milk (non-formula milk) as a drink to babies under one year of age; it is too difficult for them to digest and is a poor source of iron.
Don’t: give your little one wheat bran cereal, nuts, seeds, soya or raw spinach; these foods contain phytates, which can also inhibit iron absorption.
Why Use Iron Supplements For Kids?
If your little one doesn’t enjoy foods like meat or fish, or you are choosing to feed them on a primarily plant-based diet, their diet may be low in absorbable iron.
Adding in an iron-based food supplement aimed at infants and children can help you top up your little one’s iron safely, ensure they have enough energy, and support healthy brain development.
The Best Iron Supplements For Children
Iron is an essential nutrient, but it is also dangerous to take too much. Therefore, you should look for a supplement like Mini Drops Iron, which is designed to provide the required daily dose of iron needed by infants and children.
Mini Drops Iron is formulated using a form of iron called Iron Bisglycinate, which has been shown to be well absorbed and gentle on the stomach.
The formulation also includes Vitamin C to optimise the absorption of the iron. Additionally, Folic acid and Vitamin B12 have been included because these nutrients are required, alongside iron, to form healthy red blood cells.
Written by Jenny Logan DNMed (Jenny is a nutritional therapist who has worked with clients in health food stores and private clinics for over 20 years, and is Product Development & Training Manager at Natures Aid).