Iron is a very essential mineral that our bodies need to function very well because it helps the red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body. This has a very important role in the proper development of the brain and the central nervous system.
Iron is important for children, starting from birth, however babies are born with a supply of that keeps them going up till around six months…one of the reasons why you should start weaning your baby at that age, in addition to others which you can find the weaning guide.
An iron deficiency will normally make a child look pale, tired and weak all the time, a sign of anaemia or lack of blood as we normally say. What it simply means is that the red blood cells are not working as it should because they are not getting enough iron as they should. The reason why this is so may be either because the meals you give your child contains little or no iron-rich foods or the body is not able to properly absorb the iron in his or her food.
Iron-rich foods are found in animals and plants. The animal-based foods (also known as ‘heme iron-rich foods) are easily absorbed by the body, while the body finds it hard to absorb the iron in plant-based foods also called ‘non-heme iron-rich foods). There are also foods that makes it less effective for the body to absorb iron, while there are foods that will boost the absorption, therefore it always important bear this in mind when making food for your child.
Examples of Iron Rich Foods are;
- Red meat, especially beef and liver
- Chicken or turkey
- Grean leafy vegetables like ugu, spinach, broccoli, kale etc
- Sweet Potato
- Beans, including baked beans, kidney beans, soyabeans
- Dried fruits e.g. dates and raisins
- Tuna fish or Salmon, as well as some other sea foods like shrimps
- Iron fortified or enriched breakfast cereals, as well as baby food or formula.
- Fortified or enriched rice, spaghetti or other pasta and also bread.
Examples of foods that help the body absorb iron better are those that are very rich in vitamin C like oranges (or other fruits that contain citrus), tomatoes, red and green peppers. Also eating the animal-based iron-rich food with the plant-based ones like this beans and mince sauce recipe is a good way to help the body absorb more iron.
Examples of foods that inhibit or reduce the absorption of iron are mainly calcium rich foods like milk, cheese and sardine. Also cocoa and tea reduces absorption of iron. These foods when taken especially with plant-based iron-rich foods will not allow the body absorb the iron and thus increases the risk of anaemia.
So here are points to note to ensure your child’s gets enough iron or the best out of iron-rich foods;
- Serve a meal containing meat (beef or liver especially) everyday as it is the best source of iron. A lunch of beef curry stew with rice, spaghetti or yam is a good example.
- Plant-based iron rich foods are best served with foods containing vitamin C, for example serving beans or potato and with tomato stew or adding ugu or green veggies to tomato sauce. Green, red and yellow peppers are rich in vitamin C too and can be added to foods, sauces or breakfast rolls or even bread pizza.
- Also, give oranges or orange juice with iron-rich foods to increase absorption in the body. A breakfast of egg or sardine sandwich is preferably best taken with a glass of orange juice.
- Buy cereals and baby formulas that are labelled ‘iron-fortified’ or ‘iron-enriched’. Some breakfast cereals are very good for kids when you choose healthier options (examples are cheerios, shredded wheat or shreddies and cornflakes). Same with commercial baby cereals…always look out for iron-fortified ones if you prefer not making your ground rice and other cereals at home.
- Reduce the amount of milk you give your child and also avoid serving milk with iron-rich foods. Don’t give your child iron supplement with milk or tea/beverage, but rather give with orange juice. It can be easier for them to swallow if you get the smaller capsule sizes available. Always check with your doctor before giving your child iron supplements.
Did you find this helpful? Drop your feedback and any other helpful view or opinion on feeding your child with iron-rich foods in the comment box. Don’t forget to share with friends.