This blog is brought to you by Jennifer Douglas from Jump Start Nutrition. Jennifer will be at the show this year and presenting a seminar about Baby-led Weaning. Make sure you book your spot to learn more.

Iron is a mineral found in every cell in our body that is critical for human health. Iron has three main functions in our bodies, which are:

  • To carry oxygen in the blood from the lungs around to the rest of the body

  • Aid in maintenance of a healthy immune system to fight off illness

  • Help with energy production.

Depending on age and stage of life you need different levels of iron intake:

Recommended dietary intakes iron per day (mg)

Infants (7-12 months) 11

Children (1-13 years) 8-10

Boys (14-18 years) 11

Girls (14-18 years) 15

Women (19-50 years) 18

Men (19 years and above) 8

Women (50 years or above) 8

Pregnant women 27

Breastfeeding women 8-10

Lack of iron is one of the most common deficiencies in the world and almost half the women in New Zealand from 15-44yrs are estimated to be consuming less iron than is recommended.  Infants, children, teenagers, athletes, pregnant women and those following vegetarian diets are especially at risk of iron deficiency. In infants and children especially, long-term iron deficiency may have a detrimental effect on growth, development and learning ability.

By six months of age the iron stores that have been given to the infant during pregnancy have become low and introduction of iron foods such as meat/fish/lentils along with iron fortified cereals is important. An infant requires more iron than it’s father in those early years.

Possible signs of iron deficiency include tiredness and lethargy, poor growth, a reduced ability to work and concentrate, getting sick frequently, reduced sport performance and feeling the cold more.

There are two main types of iron found in foods. Haem iron is found only in animal products and is the form of iron that is best absorbed by the body. Red meat (such as beef or lamb) contains more iron per serve than white meat (chicken or fish), so include lean red meat in your diet if this is an option for you.  Non-haem iron is found mainly in plant foods and is less absorbed by the body.

Below are some sources of iron:

140g beef mince = 3.8mg iron

1 cup green lentils = 3.0mg iron

2 lamb chops = 2.9mg iron

120g tin sardines = 3.5mg iron

100g tofu = 5.4mg iron

2 x wheat biscuits = 4.2mg iron

100g salmon = 1.28mg iron