Meet iron, one of the most abundant metals on Earth and a dietary mineral that is essential in keeping one’s health. Iron is needed in making enough healthy red blood cells that transport oxygen to the different organs and tissues in the body. It is also a part of many enzymes that help the body digest food, aid in energy production, and boost the immune and central nervous systems.
Most of the iron in the body is found in hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells. Smaller amounts are found in another protein, the myoglobin which is responsible for supplying oxygen to the muscles.
Iron is important in the growth and development of babies and children. Newborn babies received their supply of iron from their mother’s blood while they were still in the womb. Fortunately for breastfed babies, breast milk contains adequate iron supply that covers the iron requirement of full term babies in the first 6 months.
As babies grow, their iron requirement changes. It must be noted that children only absorb about 10 percent of the iron they get from the food they eat, so it’s best to keep track of their iron intake requirement. The Food Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) in 2002 provided a guide for recommended daily intake of iron for Filipino babies and children age 0-18 years old.
Birth - < 6
6 - < 12
Considering the facts above, how do we know we’re giving the required amounts of iron to our children? We should know how to pick out the heme iron, the type of dietary iron found in animal-sourced food, such as red meats, fish, and poultry. Our body absorbs the most iron from heme sources. On the other hand, non-heme iron is sourced from plant foods such as beans and spinach. It’s important to note that getting iron from different sources makes for healthier eating.