Growing Children Need More Iron-rich Foods
While everyone’s vote would be for calcium to be the most deficient nutrient in your teen’s diet, it is actually iron. With natural, enriched and fortified foods available easily, teens still consume less of this mineral than the actual amount required by their developing bodies. Though this can happen to boys, adolescent girls are placed under the “high-risk” category for iron deficiency — and girls from food-insecure households are at greatest risk.
Growing teens need more iron because of their increase in muscle mass and blood volume expansion during their adolescent years. Further, girls also need to replace iron stores lost during menstruation. Vegetarian or vegan teens are at a greater risk of iron deficiency.
Iron is Crucial for our Body
Iron is vital for our body as it helps the blood to carry oxygen to the lungs, muscle and all parts of our bodies. It is also an integral part of the brain functioning and helps to maintain a strong immune system.
Iron deficiency can be tracked with a number of symptoms that can be easily found out by your child’s paediatrician. Shortness of breath, frequent cold and infections, poor concentration at school, pale skin, light-headedness, rapid heart rate, headaches and thin, brittle, concave-shaped nails are some symptoms of iron deficiency, with fatigue being the common sign.
Increase your Intake of Iron-rich Foods
Iron-rich foods can be added to your child’s diet plan at any time through meals such as lean meats, fish, poultry, iron-enriched or iron-fortified grains such as cereals, breads, pasta and rice,dried fruits such as apricots, raisins and prunes, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and cooked kale and dried beans, peas and lentils.
While animal sources of iron (which contain heme iron) are easily absorbed, plant sources (non-heme sources) can be served with a vitamin C source to help increase its absorption. Maybe, you can serve iron-fortified cereals with grapefruit and cook dried beans with tomatoes in a chili. Another simple method to increase iron content is to use a cast iron pan for cooking food.
Some foods and beverages, when eaten together, may cause less absorption of iron by the body. A registered dietitian nutritionist is the right person to devise the best eating plan for your teen that includes good sources of iron.
Iron supplements to tackle iron deficiency or anaemia should be done only under the supervision of a medical practitioner with follow-up blood tests, since increased doses of iron can lead to harmful effects.