IRON DEFICIENCY IN CHILDREN

Iron is an important dietary mineral which is essential for the growth and development of kids- both physical and mental growth. Iron helps form hemoglobin that is found in the blood cells of the body. It has a red color pigment which gives the blood cells its color, commonly known as red blood cells. These red blood cells have hemoglobin which is responsible for carrying oxygen from lungs to different parts of the body. Hemoglobin is formed of iron containing part known as heme and protein part as globin. Without hemoglobin, the body stops producing healthy red blood cells and often shows weaker coloured cells.

The first step towards raising hemoglobin level in your kid’s body is to start including iron rich food in his/her diet. Lack of iron in children’s bodies can affect them badly as without enough iron, the child’s muscles, tissues and cell won’t get the oxygen they need. This condition of iron deficiency is most commonly known as anemia.

Newborns on breast feed can easily get required iron intake from mother’s milk for the first 6 months. But, after you switch infants to solid food, they might not be able to get enough iron, which can lead to iron deficiency in children. Our body doesn’t produce iron, so the only way to get iron is through food sources.  There are many causes responsible for iron deficiency in children. Premature born babies with low birth weight, children with chronic infections, overweight or obese kids are at high risk of iron deficiency. Teenage girls also suffer from this deficiency as their body loses iron during menstruation.

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency or Anemia in Children

  • Pale skin
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Poor appetite
  • Craving for strange things like ice, dirt and paint
  • Slower growth and development
  • Behavioral issues
  • Frequent infection

If you notice these symptoms in your kid, you must consult a doctor. Iron supplements can only be taken under doctor’s supervision, as excess iron accumulation can cause other complications. The best way to consume any nutrient is to take it through food. That results in lesser chances of over consumption also.

The recommended amount of iron intake depends upon the age of the kid. When a baby is born, he/ she has iron stored in their bodies after that they get iron from mother’s milk or milk supplements. Once they start eating solids, they require more iron. As per studies the recommended amount of iron in kids is:

AgeDosage
Birth to 6 months0.27 mg (adequate)
7- 12 m11mg/ day
1-3 years7 mg/ day
4-8 years10mg/ day
9-13 years8 mg/ day
14-18 years11mg/ day (boy) 15mg/ day(girl)

Source: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/

Encouraging your child for a nutritious iron rich diet is the first step to prevent the problem of iron deficiency or anemia in children. Vitamin C rich food can also help, as it helps your body to absorb more iron. Cooking your food in iron cookware is a smart hack to increase iron content in the food preparations (How much iron does iron cookware add to food?)

Food for Iron Deficiency in Children

Green vegetable: Green leafy vegetables are the best source of iron. Spinach, Kale, Fenugreek, collard greens provide approximately 2.5-5 mg of iron per cooked cup. Apart from iron, they also contain sodium and potassium in high quantities which are equally essential for the body. Some other iron rich veggies include cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, which contain 1-2 mg per cooked cup. (How to cook green veggies to not loose their nutrition?)

Dried fruits: Dried fruits are a delicious source of minerals, protein, fiber and vitamins. Dried fruits like raisin, prunes and apricot are good sources of iron. 100 gm of prune contains 0.93 mg of iron, while raisin contains 2.6 gm and apricot 6.3 mg. Raisins are also rich in potassium and magnesium, which helps in bone health, improves blood circulation and digestion. Apricots being high in antioxidants and vitamin A aids in visual health. Consuming these dry fruits daily help to combat iron deficiency. (What are other foods for healthy eyesight?)

Fruits: Fruits like apple, pear and pomegranate are rich sources of iron, vitamins, protein, carbs and fiber which help regulate blood count in the body. Apart from this, fruits rich in vitamin C such as orange, lime, blueberries and grapefruit also help the body to enhance iron absorption. By including these fruits in a kid’s diet you can also help them to build up a strong immune system. (What are the best fruits teenagers?)

Legumes: Legumes are a powerhouse of nutrients. Most common types of legumes are beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans. They are a great source of iron which helps your child to meet their daily need of iron intake and save them from iron deficiency. Chickpeas and black eyed peas are the highest source of iron and can provide up to 6 mg per cooked cup. Legumes also contain B vitamins, folate, magnesium, potassium, fiber and zinc which means they keep you energetic throughout the day. (Why should lentils or legumes be soaked?)

Seeds: Pumpkin, sesame, hemp and flax seeds are seeds richest in iron and help your child to fight iron deficiency. They contain iron around 1.2mg to 4.2 mg per two tablespoons. These seeds also contain a good amount of protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, antioxidants and are great sources of fatty acids too, which helps in overall kid’s growth. (What is the easiest source of selenium that is good for brain?)

Recipe for Noodle Meal

  • Vegetable broth
  • carrot slices
  • mushrooms
  • pring onion chopped small
  • greens (lettuce etc)
  • tofu cubes or lightly fried tofu cubes
  • sprouts
  • noodles
  • Pok Choy
  • Roasted seeds (sunflower, pumpkin or other)
  • sea weed cut in strips (optional)

Saute all the veggies (except greens and sprouts) in some oil. Add spices like coriander, cumin, red pepper etc. Add veg broth and boil for 10 minutes on low flame. Add tofu and sprouts. Add boiled noodles. Add greens on top. Serve hot.

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