Prevalence of iron deficiency related illnesses have been widespread, affecting 43% children worldwide. Though there has been a 4% reduction in the rate, nonetheless the figure still stands at an alarming rate demanding an immediate cause of action. The situation happens to be deteriorating in the developing countries who have unsatisfactory sanitary condition as the risk factor of being diagnosed with anaemia increases significantly. Developed states like United States of America do not paint a very fortunate picture as well. 10 million people in the US alone were reported to have low levels of iron making them vulnerable to medical complications.
Why our body requires Iron?
Iron is an essential mineral that helps in sustaining vital body functions. The most important function being the transportation of oxygen to different parts of the body. Iron itself does not directly transport oxygen, rather it is needed to produce haemoglobin.
Haemoglobin is what gives red blood cells its distinct red feature and is contained inside the red blood cells. 2/3 of haemoglobin is composed of iron which would mean the deficiency would inhibit the production of this important chemical. Without haemoglobin, there would be not enough oxygen to be transported as a result causing severe fatigue with other conditions. Fatigue or exhaustion may just not be physical rather it can alter the brain and nervous system as well. An adequate supply of oxygen to the brain region will disrupt the transmission of neuro-signals or cognition. Children suffering from anaemia will likely face delayed brain development
Why is more Iron required for a younger age group?
We have already established that iron is needed for sustaining one important function in our body that keeps us alive i.e. production of hemoglobin. However, Hematologists and nutritionists have concluded that the benefits of this mineral go beyond just the synthesis of hemoglobin. Iron is needed for the buildup of healthy cells in the skin, hair and nails. Children will hence require a reasonable amount of this supplement during the transitionary phase from infant to young age to adulthood to avoid stunted growth. Yet there are other reasons as well as to why young children will need to include an adequate portion in their daily diet.
When the baby is in the womb, it starts building up stores of iron which are then used in excessive amount post-birth for up to 6 months. The stored iron is utilized for carrying out the oxygen transportation work apart from the development of cells in different parts of the body. However, in frequent cases, the baby is unable to build up the iron stores and has insufficient amount available for the first few months. As a result, though feeding iron-rich foods would be out of the equation, the mother should make it a point to take healthy dosage as to cover up for the baby.
Children with ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is often misunderstood by people who fail to realize it as a mental disorder. ADHD can be severe at times lasting till the teen age years if not treated properly. This illness affects a child’s learning ability and at the same time is diagnosed with hyperactivity/disruptive behaviour.
Recent studies have found out that children who were known to be inflicted with ADHD showed signs of reduced iron levels and ferritin which stores it for a later time. Though the exact reason for it is still being studied, there remains, however, a connection between iron deficiency and this mental condition
One of the earliest signs of puberty in young girls is menstruation or discharge of monthly periods which in turn decreases the storage of iron in the body. Statistics have shown that women stand with a higher risk of being diagnosed with anaemic than men. Thereby, a menstruating girl should make sure that she takes a good supply of iron.
Iron Rich Foods
The Daily Requirement?
The Food and Nutrition Board based in the National Academy of Sciences publishes a yearly updated Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) which identifies the daily requirement of minerals and other vital nutrients needed by the body. According to DRI, the following is the required daily intake of iron for children up to the age of 18,
|Age Group||Male (in mg)||Female (in mg)|
|Birth to 6 months||0.27||0.27|
|7 to 12 months||11||11|
|1 to 3 years||7||7|
|4 to 8 years||10||10|
|9 to 13 years||8||8|
|13 to 18 years||11||15|
What to include in an Iron-Rich Diet?
Meat, seafood and green leafy vegetables are the most iron-rich foods providing the person with the daily required amount. Nuts, grain, cereal and even bread can provide with an adequate supply while breastmilk of mothers is considered to be the readily available choice for newborn babies.
Yet, nutritionists have identified some essential food items which are the must be included dietary elements for people who have reduced iron levels or suffering from anaemia.
Just about 4 ounce or 100 grams of spinach will cover the 20% of the required intake. This green leafy vegetable is known to be one of the best choices for people who want a good supply of iron as well as to keep themselves healthy. Spinach is a low-calorie diet and is often recommended by nutritionists for people who substitute their normal diet with paleo.
The reason as to why spinach should be included in the diet of children is that apart from the fact that it is able to provide a reasonable amount of heme iron, it is also rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants. The former helps in healthy gums and aid in the absorption of iron. While antioxidants, on the other hand, significantly reduces the chances of inflammation in the body.
Satiate your child’s hunger with red meat which is scientifically proven to contain 15% of the daily iron requirement (in 100 grams). At the same time, having red meat will provide one with a considerable portion of protein that is needed by children for better growth development. This food item is frequently suggested to people who lack iron in their body.
One other added advantage of red meat is that it helps to build iron stores for later usage. Studies have suggested that people who included red meat in their diet were able to build up iron stores more easily than someone who did not.
Legumes belong to the plant family of Fabaceae are grown agriculturally. It is one of the healthiest ways to restore iron to its normal level as they are loaded with this mineral. According to a study, legumes can fulfil about 40% of the daily requirement. Not only they are categorized as a low-calorie diet, they can, in turn, fight major illnesses like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Pronounced as “keen-waah”, it is probably the least known iron-rich food item. Originating thousands of years back in the Andes Mountain, quinoa can provide with a good amount of essential nutrients containing a high amount of protein, magnesium, copper and folate. Moreover, the seeds are enriched with antioxidants that provide protection to cells from free radicals.
The one property that makes quinoa a prominent iron-rich food is that it is gluten-free. An excess amount of gluten can cause numerous digestive complications like Leaky Gut or Intestine permeability.
A lot of studies have been conducted to examine the health impacts of dark chocolate and the results interestingly seem to be good news for chocoholics. The flavonoids contained in dark chocolate are rich in antioxidants, prebiotic fibre and a small portion is able to provide 20% of the necessary amount of iron.
Although studies are revealing the surprising health benefits of dark chocolate yet one should not overlook the fact that it is still a high calorie diet and can cause tooth decay in children. Therefore, only a small portion (equal to 1 ounce or 28 grams) should be taken weekly.