Haem Vs Non-Haem Iron Foods
The first week of May is World Iron Awareness Week. Here in New Zealand this is something that health professionals actively team up together to support and there are some good reasons why.....
Concerning Iron Stats:
- 1/3 of the worlds population are anemic, which is actually a late consequence of iron deficiency.
- Iron deficiency in infants is the biggest nutrient deficiency world-wide in both developed and under-developed countries.
- 1 in 14 women here in New Zealand are low in iron.
- Iron deficiency in children can lead to cognitive delays and behavior problems long after the deficiency has improved.
So What Does Iron Do?
One of the primary roles iron has is in the synthesis of haemoglogbin in red blood cells which carries oxygen around the body. Iron is essential for brain development, which is particularity important in the first few years of life. In addition iron is crucial for a strong immune system, helping to fight off germs and inflammation.
Most At Risk?
Those that are most at risk of iron deficiency are infants and children aged 0-5, women of child bearing years and pregnant women. As an expert who closely works with families all over the globe this is an issue very close to home. I talk A LOT about iron in my up coming book - yes another teaser of what is in this.... time minus 12 weeks until the release and I am excited as you are about this (just a little longer to wait!).
Best Iron Sources?
It is your animal-based sources of iron (the haem iron) which is the most easily absorbed by the body. Given the rise of vegetarian and vegan diets, including in infants (a 30% increase in the last five years) this is an important consideration. Examples include red meat, ofal, fish and eggs. Now I know there is a lot of conflicting information regarding giving meat to a baby and an infant so check out my blog here 'The Meat Question' which will help. Non-haem iron food sources are those which are plant-based and it is your green leafy vegetables which are one of the non-haem sources. Other examples include tofu, chickpeas, lentils and nuts.
My personal opinion is to give both - both plant-based and animal-based iron sources to your children AND to yourselves. In terms of how much, as a guide aim to have a source of iron at least twice a day, with red meat as part of your meal a minimum of three times a week. Those that are vegetarian or vegan will need to included high-iron plant based sources more than this.
I have loads of great high-iron recipe ideas, including vegetarian options over on my blog. A few of my favourites are listed below!
- Cajun Beef Casserole (above)
- Zingy Meat Balls
- Spiced Meat Loaf
- Beef and Liver Parcels (below)
- Vegetarian Lasagna
- Breakfast Muffins
Plus....In my cook book Healthy Easy Dinners for Busy Mums (which is where the Spiced Meat Loaf is from) I have purposely labelled all the recipes as either high iron, gluten-free or dairy-free. This I have available in both an ebook and a hard-copy if you are looking for some more easy healthy recipe ideas! Those that are interested in knowing more about iron especially for babies be sure to keep your eyes out for my book in August!
xxx Dr Julie Bhosale.