- Benefits of iron for kids
- Best iron-rich foods for children
- Top iron supplements for your child
Our body needs iron to create hemoglobin and myoglobin, which carry oxygen from the lungs through the blood to the other parts of the body. Kids need iron for development during their growing years, and its deficiency leads to a condition called anemia or iron deficiency.
Benefits Of Iron For Kids
Humans, like most other living things on earth, need iron as it plays a major role in several complex biological processes, the main one being hematopoiesis, a process that produces red blood cells in the body.
- Iron binds the oxygen in the hemoglobin, enabling transfer of oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body.
- It also enables conversion of blood sugar into energy.
- Iron is essential for physical and mental growth in children and babies.
- It is critical for proper functioning of the immune system and overall cognitive development in children (1).
- When an individual is recovering from an ailment or illness, iron is essential to produce the enzymes like amino acids, new tissue cells, neurotransmitters, and hormones.
- Iron also helps you gain energy after a strenuous physical activity or exercise.
[ Read: Best Nutritious Foods For Kids ]
How Much Iron Does Your Child Need?
Iron is an essential nutrient when taken in the right quantities. Excessive iron intake makes it difficult for the body to absorb and convert it into a nutrient. Extra iron is usually stored in important organs like the pancreas, liver, and heart, which can result in life-threatening diseases and disorders later. Therefore, it is imperative that your child gets enough, but not too much, iron for growth.
The amount of iron your child needs depends on his or her age (2).
- Toddlers (1 to 3 years) should get at least 7mg of iron every day.
- Young kids (4 to 8 years) should get 10mg.
- Older children (9 to 12 years) should get 8mg.
The kinds of food you choose alter the absorption levels of the mineral. Sometimes, hereditary hemochromatosis causes the body to absorb more iron than necessary. It is highly unlikely that kids will have a high intake of iron. Symptoms of excessive iron in the body include fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and weight loss, among others (3). If your child displays these symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.
13 Best Iron Rich Foods For Kids
Our body cannot produce iron by itself, which requires us to consume it from other sources. There are many sources of iron, but the natural sources are safer than iron supplements for children. Iron-rich foods are divided into two basic categories – heme and non-heme foods.
Heme Iron-rich Foods
Heme iron is derived from hemoglobin, which is why it is mainly found in animal products like meat and poultry. Iron in animals is usually attached to what are called heme-proteins, and hence the name. Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body with an absorption rate of 7 to 35%, than non-heme iron.
Here is a list of heme iron rich foods for children.
1. Red meat
Red meat is one of the richest sources of heme-iron. Red meat has high amounts of heme-protein, from which heme-iron is derived. Your body is also able to absorb more iron when you consume red meat. In organ meat, liver is rich in iron. One slice of a beef liver can give your kid 5mg of iron, which is half their recommended consumption. 100gm of cooked beef contains 3mg of iron, while 100gm of cooked liver contains 11mg, more than what your child may need in a day.
2. Lean pork
Lean pork is healthy and rich in iron. If you kid consumes 100gm of cooked, ground lean pork in a day, he gets 1.2mg of iron. However, lean pork, like other meats, has a higher absorption rate between 15 and 35 percent, and including it in your diet can increase your iron intake.
3. Poultry and eggs
Poultry, especially dark meat, is a good source of iron for kids. If your children do not like eating beef or pork, giving them smaller amounts of chicken or eggs in their meals will still ensure that they get the recommended amount of iron every day. Including poultry in your daily meal can increase the amount of iron that your body absorbs. Chicken liver is one of the best sources of iron for kids – 75gm contains 9.2mg of iron, which helps your children get the required amount of iron every day.
[ Read: Best Calcium Rich Foods For Kids ]
Seafood is one of the other meats that are rich in iron. Fish, oysters, and clams have the highest amount of iron among seafood. While oysters contain 7mg of iron per hundred grams, clams contain a whopping 28mg of iron per 100gm. The amount of this mineral varies from one type of fish to another. Scallops, shrimp, salmon, and tuna are also excellent sources of iron. A tuna sandwich or cooked salmon once a week can be considered as a good source of iron.
Non-Heme Iron-rich Foods
Non-heme iron is obtained from plant products, dairy, eggs, as well as meat. However, it is less absorbent when compared to heme-iron. But if you and your children follow a vegetarian or vegan diet for any reason, plant-based foods are your best sources of iron. To get the required amount of iron, you should consume sufficient amounts of non-heme iron rich foods. Some of them are mentioned below.
Beans of all varieties have iron in them. Make it a point to include black beans, kidney beans, Lima and pinto beans in some form or the other in your meals. It is especially important if your kids do not eat meat. Three-fourth cup or 175ml of cooked soybeans contain 6.5mg iron, while the same amount of kidney beans contains 3.9mg iron, Lima beans contain 2.2mg iron, and re-fried beans have 3.9mg iron.
6. Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach
Among non-heme iron foods, green leafy vegetables like turnips, kale, broccoli, and spinach are all rich sources of iron for kids. 100gm of spinach contains 2.7mg of iron, while the same amount of kale gives you only 1.5mg of iron. Broccoli and turnips may provide even lesser amounts of iron with each having less than 1 mg of iron per 100gm. 125ml of beet greens has 1.5mg of iron while cooked green peas have 1.3mg of iron per 100gm.
The best way to get the most iron from these foods is to cook some of them together, instead of separately.
7. Peanut butter
Peanut butter is not only protein rich but also has good amounts of iron. In every 100gm of peanut butter, there is 1.9mg of iron. So a couple of slices of bread with peanut butter, a peanut butter smoothie, or a cupcake can be excellent choices for increasing your child’s iron intake.
[ Read: Magnesium Rich Foods For Kids ]
Tofu is another dairy-free option for vegan or lactose-intolerant kids. Also, milk can prevent absorption of iron, which makes tofu a much better option. Including tofu in salads, sandwiches, and desserts can be an excellent way to get iron into your kid’s diet. Every 100gm of tofu contains 5.4mg of iron, so one grilled tofu sandwich covers almost half the daily recommended dose of iron for your child.
Prunes are among the healthiest dried fruits you can give your kids. It is a low-fat option with zero cholesterol. However, prunes are only a source of non-heme iron, which cannot be absorbed quickly as well as heme-iron. In every 100gm of prunes, there is 0.9mg of iron.
10. Oatmeal and cream of wheat
Among cereal grains, oats have good amounts of iron in them. Iron fortified oatmeal has more iron, with every 100gm of oatmeal giving you 6mg of iron. One bowl of oatmeal every day covers over 60% of the daily value for your child.
Likewise, cream of wheat can provide almost the entire daily value of iron that your child needs. One serving of cream of wheat or one 100gm of cooked cream of wheat gives you 11 mg of iron. However, as it provides non-heme iron, your body may not absorb all of it. So, 100gm of cooked cream of wheat may not yield 11 mg of iron to the body.
11. Dried fruits – raisins, apricots, and figs
All dried fruits including raisins, figs, and apricots are also rich in iron. Dried fruits are ideal snacks that your kid can have on the go. A handful of raisins, a few dried figs, or apricots along with kids’ snack or lunch consisting of meat or eggs can boost their iron absorption.
Dried apricots have 2.7mg of iron per 100gm while raisins contain 1.9gm, and dried figs only have 0.3mg of iron per 100gm.
Among legumes, chickpeas have high iron content. One 100gm of chickpeas, or one cup of boiled and strained, have 6.2mg of iron in them. The best way to eat chickpeas for better iron absorption is cooked or raw (soaked). You can make a tangy chickpea salad with tomatoes and lemon as a snack for your kids. If they don’t like chickpeas as they are, you could make hummus and serve it with pita bread. However, one 100gm of hummus has only 2.4mg of non-heme iron.
13. Iron-fortified cereals, bread, and pasta
Iron-fortified cereals and pasta have more non-heme iron content. Fortified foods are those that have added iron or other nutrients that the body cannot produce on its own. While there are several so-called ‘fortified foods’, you should pick one only after reading the labels. A bowl of enriched cereal may have as much as 67mg of non-heme iron. A slice of enriched bread may have 0.9mg of iron per slice, while a cup of enriched pasta can have 2mg of iron.
[ Read: Fiber Rich Foods For Kids ]
7 Tips To Include Iron In Your Child’s Diet
The best way to make sure that your child gets the recommended daily value of iron is to include high iron foods in his or her diet. Here are a few tips you can use to make these foods more appealing.
- Find recipes that will help the ingredients retain their nutrient content.
- Create a meal plan that includes heme and non-heme iron-rich foods that your kids eat.
- If you are making pizza or macaroni, you could choose iron-fortified pizza base or pasta to increase the amount of iron in the food.
- Choose healthy cereals – read the ingredient and nutrient tables on the cereal boxes to know whether or not the cereals are fortified.
- The best way to improve iron absorption in the body is to pair foods rich in vitamin C with iron-rich foods. Along with a peanut butter sandwich or a bowl of fortified cereal, give your kid a slice of grapefruit or a glass of orange juice.
- Using cast iron pots and pans for cooking enhances the iron content in the foods.
- Reduce your child’s intake of milk, as it inhibits iron absorption by the body.
Best Iron Supplements For Kids
Iron supplements should be an option you should consider if your children are not getting enough iron from natural sources like foods. However, if your kid has anemia and is showing signs of iron deficiency, using supplements can be a good idea. In any case, iron or any other vitamin supplements you give to your child should be verified or recommended by a doctor.
[ Read: Benefits Of Protein For Kids ]
NovaFerrum Pediatric Drops
NovaFerrum Pediatric Drops is liquid iron supplement by NovaFerrum. These pediatric drops are among the popular iron supplements for toddlers. One serving or 1 ml of the NovaFerrum Pediatric Drops provides 100% daily value for infants and more than 150% daily value for toddlers. The supplement is naturally sweetened and comes in raspberry grape flavor. It is free of eggs, sugar, peanuts, and dairy ingredients.
Per serving (1ml) contains 15mg of iron.
Water, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Vegetable Glycerin, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Natural Grape and Raspberry Flavors, Lo Han (fruit) extract.
Why Choose It?
This product is easy to administer to toddlers and does not contain any allergens either. It does not leave a metallic aftertaste, which makes it great for kids’ palates.
You can buy the NovaFerrum Pediatric Liquid Drops here.
Fer-Iron Liquid Drops
The Fer-Iron Liquid Drops can be one of the iron supplements you can consider for your toddler. A product from Rugby Laboratories, the Fer-Iron Liquid Drops aim at increasing the red blood cells count in children aged less than four years. The drops have added sugar and come in natural lemon flavor.
Per serving (1ml) contains 15mg of iron.
Sorbitol, Water, Sugar, Ferrous Sulfate USP, Sodium Bisulfate (Preservative), Flavors (Natural), Citric Acid, Alcohol (0.2% v/v)
Why Choose It?
This product is easy to administer to toddlers and does not contain any allergens. The supplement can be used if your kid is showing any symptoms of anemia. However, doctor consultation is recommended before you use the product.
You can buy the Fer-Iron Liquid Drops here.
Chewable – Chewable Iron tablets are like candy or mint that your child can eat. These chewable tablets come in different flavors to make it easier for kids to eat and swallow. Chewable iron supplements for kids include Natural Factors Chewable Tablets and Maxi Health Chewable Kiddievite in bubblegum flavor.
Natural Factors Chewable Tablets
Natural Factors Chewable iron supplements are bio-available elemental iron tablets. These tablets come in a natural flavor with no added sugar, preservatives, or color. These tablets are available in tasty, natural fruit flavors, and are easily digestible by kids. You can give your child one tablet a day or as recommended by the physician.
Per serving (1 tablet) contains:
Iron (as ferric pyrophosphate): 20mg
Dextrose, xylitol, fructose, citric acid, natural fruit flavor, silica, stearic acid, magnesium silicate and natural peach flavor. It also contains soy.
Why Choose It?
The chewable tablets are ideal for kids and are known to increase iron levels in the body. It also increases the absorption levels if iron in kids.
You can buy the Natural Factors Chewable Tablets here.
Maxi Health Chewable Kiddievite
Available in bubblegum flavor, the Maxi Health Chewable Kiddievite tablets contain 10mg of iron each, along with several other essential minerals and nutrients that your child needs. One bottle of the Maxi Health Chewable Kiddievite contains 90 tablets. The tablets are delicious but contain no added sugar or artificial flavors.
In addition to the multivitamins, per serving (1tablet) contains:
Iron (as ferrous fumarate): 10mg
Multivitamins, minerals, Lecithin (from soybeans), Barley juice powder, Broccoli powder, Carrot powder, Spinach powder, Papaya fruit powder, and Biolut¬ Marigold flowers extract.
Why Choose It?
These tablets are ideal for the entire family – kids, teenagers, and adults. Also, Maxi Health Chewable Kiddievite supply more than just iron to the body.
You can buy the Maxi Health Chewable Kiddievite tablets here.
Gummies – Kids love gummies. Gummies are also easy to administer, and usually, come in fruit flavors. Your child will get the required dosage of iron with these iron-fortified gummies. Gummies like Vitamin Friends Iron Diet Supplement are tasty and leave little iron aftertaste, which makes them a hit with kids.
Vitamin Friends Iron Diet Supplement
There aren’t many options when it comes to gummy iron supplements for kids. Of the few, Vitamin Friends Gummy Supplements are popular because of the natural flavors and the iron content. More than anything, kids are more likely to eat gummies than chew tablets. The Vitamin Friends Supplements are free of gluten, egg, dairy, nuts, and gelatin (which your kid may be allergic to). Each Vitamin Friends Gummy contains 15mg of iron.
Per serving (1 gummy) contains:
Iron (as ferrous fumarate): 15mg
Water, Glucose, Citric Acid, Natural Sugar Cane, Black Carrot Extract, Citrus Pectin, and Natural Flavors
Why Choose It?
This product is free of allergens like yeast, gelatin, soy, milk, shellfish, and nuts. What’s more, kids love gummies and are more likely to eat them.
Syrups – A spoonful of iron tonic or syrup every day can be recommended by the doctor to fight anemia. Options include NovaFerrum 125 Liquid Iron syrup and Pediakid Iron + Vitamin B Complex which are available in natural flavors.
NovaFerrum 125 Liquid Iron syrup
Like the NovaFerrum pediatric iron drops, the NovaFerrum 125 liquid iron syrup is also available in raspberry flavor. The syrup is free of any added sugar, alcohol, preservatives, or colors. The syrup comes in a 180ml bottle and each serving of one teaspoon or 5ml of syrup contains 125mg of elemental iron. Be sure to talk to a physician before using the syrup.
Per serving (5ml) contains:
Vitamin D3: 100IU’s
Elemental Iron (as ferrous fumarate): 125mg
Water, Citric Acid, Vegetable Glycerin, Potassium Sorbate, Xantham Gum, Lo Han (fruit) extract, Sodium Benzoate and Natural Raspberry and Grape extracts.
Why Choose It?
Liquids have better absorption rate when compared to tablets and gummies, which makes it the best iron supplement for kids. Also, it has a fruity flavor that you kids will love.
You can buy the NovaFerrum 125 Liquid Iron syrup here.
Pediakid Iron + Vitamin B Complex
This syrup is especially aimed at helping kids with symptoms if anemia. The iron supplement is available in natural banana flavor and has no allergens like milk, soy, gluten, nuts, and egg. Made from organic ingredients, the syrup comes in a 125ml bottle. One teaspoon or 5ml of the syrup contains 7mg of iron.
One serving (5ml) contains:
Acacia organic prebiotic fibers: 1500mg
Iron (as iron pyrophosphate): 7mg
Organic agave nectar, purified water, banana flavor, natural banana concentrate, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate.
Why Choose It?
Pediakid Iron + Vitamin B complex helps build the immune system of the kid while promoting healthy metabolism. The syrup also helps children fight symptoms of anemia like fatigue and stress. The bonus here is that this product is free of allergens.
You can buy the Pediakid Iron + Vitamin B Complex here.
Powder – Iron fortified-powder can be mixed in milk or other drinks that your kids have. Some of these powders like the Rainbow Light NutriStart Multivitamin powder and Amway Nutrilite health drink powder are flavorless and can be added to a specific dish or food item that you make.
Rainbow Light NutriStart Multivitamin Powder
A popular iron supplement powder, Rainbow Light NutriStart Multivitamin powder is ideal for kids under four years of age. One serving, which is half a pack or 14 teaspoons of the powder, contains 2mg of iron, while one pack contains 5mg of iron. It is made of natural ingredients and can be easily digested by children. You can mix this powder with water or fruit juice to make it easier for the kids to have it.
One serving (sachet) contains
Iron (as carbonyl): 2mg
Multivitamins, minerals, fructose, and antioxidant fruit extract – organic apple extract, organic banana powder.
Why Choose It?
Powders are easy to give to kids – you can mix these sachets with fruit juices, cereals, formula, yogurt, or applesauce.
You can buy the Rainbow Light NutriStart Multivitamin Powder here.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Does my child need an iron supplement?
Your child may require iron supplements if he or she has iron deficiency and displays symptoms like weakness, loss of appetite, unusual cravings like eating dirt or chalk, behavioral issues, etc. Always consult a doctor first, before giving your child iron supplements.
2. Safe types of iron supplements for kids
Doctors may recommend the following types of iron supplements that are considered safe for children.
Liquid drops – Liquid drops are easy to administer and are also easily absorbed by the body. The drops can be squirted directly into the child’s mouth using a dropper, which also has precise dosage levels. Look for pediatric iron liquid drops such as the NovaFerrum Pediatric Drops or Fer-Iron Liquid Drops for kids.
Other Things To Know About Iron-rich Foods:
- Intake of too much milk by toddlers or children, who consume less iron and vitamin C, can increase the risk of iron deficiency.
- Always have iron-rich foods along with foods rich in vitamin C because vitamin C is essential for absorbing iron.
- Too much of seafood can expose younger kids to mercury, hence give them in a limited amount.
Do remember that while it is important that your children get the required amount of iron every day, it is equally important that you do not overdo it, as excess iron in the body can also be a dangerous thing.
Tell us about your ideas of an iron-rich diet for children. Post your views and opinions in the comments section.
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