Iron is not only a metal we use to make structures, it is an essential nutrient in the body! The most common cause of anemia in children is low iron in the diet and is referred to as Iron Deficiency Anemia. Without iron in our diet the body’s ability to carry oxygen to our organs and tissues is decreased. Iron deficiency anemia can affect growth, may lead to learning and behavioral problems, and less energy to learn and play.
It is important to get adequate iron in our diets through the foods we eat. Breastfed infants tend to get adequate amounts of iron from their mothers until 4-6 months of age. After 6 months of age it is important to include foods rich in iron in their diets, such as iron fortified cereals, pureed meats or, if needed, vitamin drops that include iron. Here at South Lake Pediatrics we assess all infant’s hemoglobin at 9 months of age. If it is low we will make recommendations.
Toddlers, teens, menstruating females and young athletes may have increased iron requirements and may be tested in clinic for anemia periodically if there are risk factors or symptoms present (tires easily, mild weakness, irritability, or pale skin color).
What are the best sources for Iron in the diet?
Iron is an important part of a healthy diet. Iron is best absorbed when consumed with foods high in Vitamin C – such as tomatoes, broccoli, oranges/orange juice, or strawberries. Milk is not advised to be consumed with iron if working to increase iron levels as it will block the absorption of iron. Foods rich in iron include: lean meats, iron-enriched and whole-grain breads and cereals, cooked dried beans (black, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, soy beans) and greens (collard, kale, mustard, spinach, turnip). Chicken, egg yolks, and dried fruit (raisins, apricots) have iron, too, but not as much. Ideas for pairing to increase absorption include:
Iron fortified cereals … with berries or an orange
Peanut butter sandwich … with a tangerine
Cooked collard greens … with lean barbecued beef
Brown rice … with pork stir-fry
Scrambled eggs … with ham
Whole wheat bagel … with deli meat