Child Specialist & Neonatologist

Importance of Iron in Child’s Growth

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Why is IRON Important?

Iron is needed to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. It also plays an important role in brain development, growth and fighting infections. Children who do not eat enough iron-containing foods may become tired, faint, pale, disinterested in play and may complain of headaches and often have small appetites. These can be symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia, where the body’s iron stores have fallen too low. To maintain blood iron levels it is recommended that you eat a variety of foods that contain iron every day.

What are the best sources of iron?

Animal foods, such as meat,fish and chicken, are the best sources of iron and are most easily absorbed by the body.
Iron from other sources, such as vegetables and cereals, are not as easily absorbed but are still important.

Making most of Iron

Vitamin C foods help iron absorption
Iron from all foods is absorbed better if eaten with a Vitamin-C containing food such as: citrus (orange, lemon, lime, mandarin), kiwifruit, pineapple, berries, tomato, capsicum, parsley, broccoli.
Calcium can decrease absorption
Large quantities of dairy products may interfere with the absorption of iron and may also decrease your child’s appetite for food. A child over 12 months of age should be having no more than 600ml of milk each day to meet their calcium requirements.

Tea and coffee decrease iron absorption and should not be given to young children.

Key points

  • Start solid foods, containing iron, from around 6 months of age.
  • Breast milk or infant formula should be your baby’s main drink until 12 months of age.
  • Include Vitamin C rich foods to help the absorption of iron.
  • Iron requirements are higher during adolescence.
  • Vegetarian diets can be balanced to make sure your child receives appropriate nutrition