Building Strong Bodies: The Crucial Role of Iron in Kids' Nutrition
Iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in children's nutrition.
It is necessary for the formation of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues. Iron also plays a critical role in the development of the brain and immune system. Many children do not get enough iron in their diets, which can lead to iron deficiency anaemia and other health problems. In this blog, we will explore the role of iron in kids' nutrition, how much iron children need, and tips for incorporating iron-rich foods into their meals and snacks.
Why is Iron Important for Kids?
Iron is essential for children's growth and development. It helps build muscles, bones, and teeth, and is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, myoglobin, and certain enzymes. Iron is also critical for brain development and immune system function.
When children do not get enough iron in their diets, they are at risk of developing iron deficiency anemia, which can cause fatigue, weakness, and difficulty concentrating. Iron deficiency can also weaken the immune system, making children more susceptible to infections.
How Much Iron Do Kids Need?
The recommended daily intake of iron varies depending on the child's age and sex.
Here is a recommended daily intake of iron for children as per ICMR:
- Children 1-3 years: 8 mg/day
- Children 4-6 years: 11 mg/day
- Children 7-9 years: 15 mg/day
- Boys 10-12 years: 16 mg/day
- Girls 10-12 years: 28 mg/day
- Boys 13-15 years: 22 mg/day
Iron needs increase during periods of rapid growth, such as infancy, adolescence, and pregnancy. Girls who have started menstruating also need more iron than boys.
Iron-Rich Foods for Kids
The best way to ensure that children get enough iron in their diets is to incorporate iron-rich foods into their meals and snacks. Here are some iron-rich foods that kids can enjoy:
- Red meat, such as beef and lamb
- Poultry, such as chicken and turkey
- Fish, such as salmon and tuna
- Legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale
- Dried fruits, such as raisins and apricots
- Nuts and seeds, such as pumpkin seeds and cashews
Tips for Boosting Iron Absorption
Iron from plant-based sources, such as legumes and dark leafy greens, is not as easily absorbed as iron from animal sources. However, there are ways to boost iron absorption:
- Pair iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods, such as oranges or bell peppers. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron.
- Avoid pairing iron-rich foods with calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products, which can inhibit iron absorption.
- Cook in cast iron cookware. Cooking acidic foods, such as tomato sauce, in cast iron cookware can increase the amount of iron in the food.
- Avoid drinking tea or coffee with meals. The tannins in these beverages can inhibit iron absorption.
Here are some Indian dishes that are rich in iron and can be incorporated into kids' diets:
- Palak Paneer: This is a popular North Indian dish made with spinach and paneer (Indian cottage cheese). Spinach is a good source of iron, and paneer provides protein.
- Chana Masala: This is a popular North Indian dish made with chickpeas and a blend of spices. Chickpeas are a good source of iron and protein.
- Bajra Khichdi: This is a traditional Indian dish made with pearl millet (bajra) and lentils. Both bajra and lentils are good sources of iron.
- Beetroot Curry: This is a South Indian dish made with beets and a blend of spices. Beets are a good source of iron, and this dish is also high in fiber.
- Rajma Chawal: This is a popular North Indian dish made with kidney beans and rice. Kidney beans are a good source of iron and protein, while rice provides carbohydrates.
- Methi Paratha: This is an Indian flatbread made with fenugreek leaves and whole wheat flour. Fenugreek leaves are a good source of iron, and this dish is also high in fiber.
- Lauki Chana Dal: This is a traditional Indian dish made with bottle gourd (lauki) and lentils. Both bottle gourd and lentils are good sources of iron and fiber.
- Masoor Dal: This is a popular Indian lentil dish made with red lentils and a blend of spices. Red lentils are a good source of iron and protein.
Incorporating these iron-rich Indian dishes into kids' diets can help ensure that they are getting the necessary amount of iron for healthy growth and development.
Iron is an essential nutrient for children's growth and development. Parents should ensure that their children get enough iron in their diets by incorporating iron-rich foods into their meals and snacks. By doing so, they can help prevent iron deficiency anaemia and ensure that their children are healthy and thriving.
Also, check out why is calcium important for kids