Moms of picky eaters always remain preoccupied with the thought about the proper nutrition of their little ones. Iron is the most common nutrient that picky eaters are likely to miss out. Therefore, boosting up their iron level needs a proper diet comprising foods rich in iron. Everyone knows it well that, iron is very much essential for our body. It helps to produce haemoglobin in red blood cells which are responsible for oxygen flow to the whole body. Iron plays a vital role in providing energy for our daily activities and the development and functioning of our brains. Red blood cells support our immune system.
If we have a low level of iron in our body, we get easily tired and sick. In fact, if we do not care about the daily iron intake of our children by including the right kind of iron-rich foods in their meals, they might become vulnerable to the iron deficiency anaemia.
This is an ultimate guide about iron-rich foods in India and how to boost up the iron level in your babies and kids.
WHAT CAUSES IRON DEFICIENCY ANAEMIA IN BABIES:
- Infants born to mother with anaemia or any other health problem may have low Iron level. In fact, babies born prematurely are prone to anaemia.
- A child gets all the Iron from his food. But only a small amount of iron from food is absorbed by the body. A diet that does not contain high-level Iron foods may not be sufficient for him.
- Kids need more iron because, at the growing stage, their bodies require more Iron to produce more red blood cells. Therefore, babies, toddlers, preschoolers and teenagers are at risk of developing iron-deficiency anaemia.
- Blood loss due to any injury or menstrual bleeding also can cause Iron deficiency.
SYMPTOMS OF IRON DEFICIENCY IN CHILDREN:
- Looks pale
- Becomes lethargic
- Get tired easily
- Poor appetite
- Lower resistance of infections
- Brittle nails
- Headache and dizziness
- Sometimes a craving to eat inedible things like clay, dirt, paint, etc.
- Uncomfortable crawling feeling in legs
So, we have to be extra careful so that our babies get enough Iron from the beginning. Iron deficiency can slow the overall physical and mental growth of a child.
HOW MUCH IRON DO BABIES AND KIDS NEED ?
Babies below six months who are breastfed get enough iron from mother’s milk. The babies who are not breastfed should be fed formula milk prescribed by a doctor.
For babies above 6 months, here is recommended daily amount of Iron for babies and children:
|7 – 12 Months||11 mg.|
|1 – 3 Years||7 mg.|
|4 – 8 Years||10 mg.|
|9 – 13 Years||8 mg.|
|14 – 18 Years||14 mg. for girls|
|14 – 18 Years||11 mg. for boys|
We have to take iron by eating iron-rich foods regularly. The best way to boost up the iron level in your toddler is to add plenty of Iron-rich food in his diet. Here is a list of some easily available high iron-rich foods in India. There are two types of iron- Iron available in animal-based foods, that is called haem iron and Iron available in vegetables, fruits and seeds are called non-haem iron. Haem iron can be easily absorbed in our bodies and play a vital role in boosting up the iron level remarkably. As compared to haem iron, non-haem iron can not be easily absorbed in our bodies. But keep in mind, if you fry haem iron-rich foods for a long time, it reduces the absorption rate.
FOODS RICH IN HAEM IRON:
- CHICKEN AND RED MEAT
- SHELLFISH LIKE CLAM, OYSTER
FOODS RICH IN NON-HAEM IRON:
- LENTILS, THAT MEANS ALL TYPES OF DALS
- KIDNEY BEANS
- PUMPKIN, SESAME AND FLAX SEEDS
- ALMOND, PEANUT, HAZELNUT, CASHEW NUT, PINE NUT, WALNUT
- OATS, QUINOA, BARLEY
- BROWN RICE
- VEGETABLES LIKE BEETROOT, CAULIFLOWER, BROCCOLI, SWEET POTATO
- FRUITS LIKE APPLE, BANANA, POMEGRANATE, BERRIES
- DRIED APRICOT, RAISIN AND DATES
- DARK CHOCOLATE
HOW TO GET MORE IRON BOOST UP FROM FOODS RICH IN IRON?
- Vitamin C can increase the absorption of Iron in our body. So try to give your kid vitamin C rich food along with foods rich in Iron. Mango, berries, kiwi, pineapple, papaya, tomato and capsicum are some common foods rich in vitamin C. Your target will be giving one of this food every time your child is consuming foods rich in Iron. The influence of Vitamin C is the greatest on vegetarian meals in case of boosting up the iron level.
2. There are some foods that can block the absorption of Iron in your body. These foods are:
- TEA OR COFFEE
- SOY PROTEINS
- CALCIUM RICH FOODS LIKE MILK, CHEESE
- UNPROCESSED BRAN, BREAKFAST CEREALS, OATS, PASTA, NUTS AND PEAS
Try to avoid these foods in the meals or snacks in which you are having foods rich in iron.
3. There is a certain limit of how much Iron your body should take at a time. So it is ideal to have it in different meals throughout the day. Don’t overload each meal or snack with non-haem iron foods.
BENEFITS OF IRON ON CHILD’S HEALTH:
- Makes you energetic.
- Makes your skin glowing
- Boosts up the healing process of the wounds
- Fights hair loss and improves hair texture
- Improves muscle health
- Ensures healthy brain development
- Prevents anaemia during pregnancy
- Enhances Immunity Power
SOME COMMON QUESTIONS RELATED TO BOOSTING UP IRON LEVEL IN CHILDREN:
IS COW’S MILK A GOOD SOURCE OF IRON?
No, cow’s milk is not a good source of Iron. Children less than 12 months of age, who drink cow’s milk rather than breast milk or iron-fortified formula milk, are more prone to anaemia. Cow’s milk has less Iron. The high level of calcium and casein of cow’s milk hampers the Iron absorption of the body. Growing infants and younger children need sufficient iron for development. So, we should not depend completely on cow’s milk for our infants and children. Children older than 12 months who drink too much cow’s milk, can develop anaemia if they do not take a sufficient amount of other healthy Iron-rich foods.
SHOULD I GIVE MY CHILD AN IRON SUPPLEMENT TO INCREASE THE IRON LEVEL?
Full-term babies who are breastfed or take iron-fortified formula milk, don’t need to take Iron supplements. Low birth weight babies need Iron supplements. But what kind of supplement they need or in what amount should be prescribed by a doctor. Children over 12 months of age may need iron supplements if they do not take enough iron-rich foods. Let that be determined by a doctor only.
Though Iron is very much important for our body, too much iron can also be harmful to our bodies. So it is extremely important to maintain the balance. With this in mind, never give any iron supplement to your children to boost up the iron level without doctor’s advice.
DOES COOKING IN IRON VESSEL INCREASE THE IRON LEVEL OF FOODS?
It is a traditional belief that when we cook in Iron vessel, Iron release in the food. So, cooking in Iron pot has health benefits. A study in this regard confirmed that the Iron level of some foods increased when they were cooked in Iron vessels in comparison to other vessels. Besides, many moms like to cook in iron vessels as they heat up evenly.
But there are some facts we should be aware of:
- There is a chance of chemical reaction with acidic foods and iron. As a result, it can produce a metallic taste. So, Sambhar, kadhi, and tomato-based foods should not be cooked in an iron vessel.
- Transfer the food into another pot (made of glass or enamel) immediately after cooking in an iron vessel.
- Iron reacts with moisture and creates rust. Therefore, water and other liquids should not be kept in Iron pot.
SUGGESTIONS TO MOTHERS TO BOOSTING UP IRON LEVEL IN CHILDREN:
FOR BABIES :
First of all, follow an iron-rich diet plan during pregnancy. Breastfeed your baby or choose iron-fortified baby foods. From around six months of age, give your baby pureed food.
FOR YOUNG CHILDREN:
Add red meat in their diet two to three times a week. Offer lentils, chickpeas, dried beans, spinach, fish, egg, and nuts. These are important sources of iron and can work as meat alternatives.
FOR TEENAGERS :
Offer them meat, fish, and eggs as well as great sources of non-haem iron-rich foods like lentils, peas, dried beans, broccoli, spinach, whole grains and fortified cereals.
Above all, it is always suggested not to be worried too much about the eating habits of your children. Don’t force them to consume something just because that is healthy. Be creative while making your child’s meal plan. Most importantly, we get the most benefit out of our food when we really enjoy having it.