The human body contains around 60 minerals, of which 21 minerals are considered “essential”. Each of these “essential” minerals are required in the right amount on a daily basis and each plays its own important part and role in the functioning and cohesion of our complete body and mind.
When we look at all these minerals there is definitely one that usually stands out in most people’s minds and particularly for parents of young children.……Iron.
We had specific questions around Iron because Sandra’s family is vegan. So we went to our trusty SAFbaby Heath Expert, Dr. Murray Clarke, ND., D.Hom., L.Ac. The following is our Q&A with him……
What is the importance of iron?
Hemoglobins are Iron containing proteins that are involved in the transport and storage of oxygen. Hemoglobin is the primary protein found in red blood cells and represents about two thirds of the body’s iron store. Without enough iron we would be unable to pick up oxygen from the lungs and deliver it to the rest of our body. No oxygen, no life.
Cytochromes are Iron-containing compounds that have important roles in within the mitochondria which are the engines within each cell of our body that produce the energy for each and every cell to function properly. No energy, no movement, no life.
Ribonucleotide reductase is an Iron-dependent enzyme that is required for DNA reproduction. This allows our cells to reproduce and repair themselves when necessary. No DNA reproduction, no longevity, no life.
Iron plays a very important role in these very critical functions and does have a good case to present for being considered as one of the most important minerals in our body.
Why is iron so important for kids?
Because babies, infants, toddlers and children are growing and developing so rapidly, Iron is essential to support this growth and development and the daily requirement becomes even more critical. Any deficiency in infancy may not only impair proper functioning, but may also interfere with the proper and full development of the immune and neurological systems including the brain.
Do children generally get enough iron through food?
Fortunately the answer to this question is yes. During pregnancy, and in utero, the baby builds up iron and usually stores enough for the first 6 months of life after birth. By this time, solid foods can start to be introduced which can then continue to provide all the iron required for functioning, growth and development.
Should children be supplemented with iron?
The only time children should be routinely supplemented with iron is if a blood test is taken and shows a clinical deficiency. Although iron is so important for so many important functions, it can also be toxic if supplemented when not required. It is one of the few minerals that can accumulate and cause toxicity and poisoning, even death, when overdosed.
Do boys need less iron than girls?
There is no difference in the daily needs of iron for both boys and girls.
The daily recommended Iron intake for babies, infants, toddlers and children, are as follows:
Foods With the Best Iron Absorption
The amount of iron in food that is absorbed and used by the body is influenced by whether or not the iron is in the form of heme. Because it is absorbed by a different mechanism than nonheme iron, heme iron is more readily absorbed and its absorption is less affected by other dietary factors. Heme iron comes mainly from the hemoglobin and myoglobin found in meat, poultry, and fish.
Nonheme iron is found in plants, vegetables and dairy products. The absorption of nonheme iron is strongly affected by enhancers and inhibitors present in the same meal. The primary enhancer of nonheme iron absorption is Vitamin C. Thus Vitamin C on a daily basis is very important to help your child absorb the iron that they are receiving in their foods and diet.
Meat, fish, and poultry: Aside from providing highly absorbable heme iron, meat, fish, and poultry also enhance nonheme iron absorption and are the most important and reliable for providing the iron your child needs. By mixing some lean meat, fish, or poultry with beans or dark leafy greens at a meal, you can improve absorption of vegetable sources of iron by up to three times.
Is iron absorbed easier when eaten raw or cooked?
As we see from the above, it is the form of iron, heme,( meat, poultry, fish) or non-heme (plants, vegetables, dairy) that makes the difference, not whether it is eaten cooked or raw.
Are vegetarian/vegan kids more likely to be deficient in iron?
The simple answer is yes, although the human body has a great ability to adapt, derive and find the nutrients that it needs from many different forms of diet. Inherently, because the easiest form of iron to absorb(heme) is found in meat, poultry and fish, then vegetarian children should always be closely watched and tested regularly to make sure there is no iron or hemoglobin deficiency.
Can cooking in cast iron pans compare to iron supplementation?
Cast iron cookware has been shown to “release” iron into food. A study published in the July 1986 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that cooking in cast iron skillets added significant amounts of iron to 20 foods tested. For example, the researchers reported that the iron content of three ounces of applesauce increased from 0.35 mg to 7.3 mg and scrambled eggs increased from 1.49 mg to 4.76 mg of iron. Be careful not to use cast iron for deep-frying as iron can accelerate the oxidation of fat and cause it to become rancid.
Signs of iron deficiency anemia
The signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia in children may include:
• Behavioural problems
• Repeat infections
• Loss of appetite
• Increased sweating
• Strange ‘food’ cravings (pica) like eating dirt
• Failure to grow at the expected rate.
Common reasons for iron deficiency
The major risk factors for the development of iron deficiency in children include:
• Prematurity and low birth weight
• Exclusive breastfeeding beyond six months (not introducing solids)
• High intake of cow’s milk
• Low or no meat intake
• Vegetarian eating
• Poor diet in the second year of life
• Possible gastrointestinal diseases
• Lead poisoning.
All of the essential minerals and vitamins are important for the full and proper development of your child. They work as a symphony of ingredients that all play an important part in the orchestra of our human body. Providing your child with clean, organic, fresh, whole foods is the first step to ensuring that they are receiving all of these essential building blocks for life.
Iron does hold a special place of importance due to the connection and function of carrying oxygen in the blood and delivering it to every cell in the body. Work with your pediatrician to keep an eye on your child’s iron and hemoglobin levels and then you will know if supplementation of iron is required or not.
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About Safbaby’s Health Expert: Dr. Murray Clarke, ND., D.Hom., L.Ac.
Dr. Murray Clarke is a doctor of naturopathic medicine with licenses and doctorates in homeopathic medicine and Chinese medicine (including acupuncture and herbology) and is a leading homeopathic physician for children in the Los Angeles area. He is also the founder of ChildLife® Essentials and author of Natural Baby – Healthy Child: Alternative Health Care Solutions from Pre-conception Through Childhood.
Natural Baby – Healthy Child utilizes diet, environmental detoxification, nutritional supplementation, and holistic modalities including homeopathy, naturopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture to help parents—from pre-conception to pregnancy, to the baby’s first year through childhood—make the right health decisions for themselves and their child, naturally. Natural Baby—Healthy Child is an essential medical road map that will help keep children firmly on the path to robust, long-term good health and the realization of the full potential of body, mind and soul. For more information, please visit NaturalBabyHealthyChild.com