Is it iron-ic?

“I’m too tired!”.  

As parents, we don’t get too worried if we hear this at the end of a long school day or after a challenging game of footy.  Sometimes, it’s great to know that our kids have finally reached their limits!  

But for other kids, this statement might indicate something more troubling.

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency, even in developed nations like Australia.  

Up to 25% of children under the age of three are at risk.   

The statistics don’t improve with age.  

It concerns us enough if our children are too tired to focus on their lessons or can’t find the stamina to keep up with play.  But this is just the start.  

Iron deficiency anaemia in early life is also directly related to alterations in the way the brain develops.  Studies suggest that this might be irreversible, as iron is centrally important to the production and efficacy of neurotransmitters, including dopamine.  It also impacts how the neural pathways are organised, particularly in the formation of the myelin sheath and the speed with which nerve impulses travel across the brain.

Research suggests that children who have been iron deficient (even if current levels are adequate) demonstrate lower results in maths and writing.  Toddlers who are currently iron deficient are more hesitant and anxious, especially when facing new experiences.  

Unfortunately, if intake is inadequate, studies suggest it is not possible to reverse the damage.

Even when iron levels improve to satisfactory levels, children who were deficient at one point demonstrate higher levels of depression and anxiety between 11-14 years of age, together with more significant challenges in maintaining attention, planning skills and restraining impulsiveness.

Ensuring our children receive adequate levels of iron is crucially important especially during pregnancy, toddlerhood and adolescence (especially for girls, who are affected by iron loss in the menstrual cycle).  

Ensuring a continuous, adequate supply of this nutrient is essential, and is best done through consuming foods rich in iron.  You can fix it from your kitchen!

Traditionally, this has been possible though a diet heavy in red meat.  But perhaps your child is a reluctant eater?  Or you are concerned about its environmental impacts and other challenges and would like to find alternative sources?

I’m on a mission to share recipes that my kids love, but that won’t take hours for you to prepare.  These little fishcakes are a favourite and I’ve tweaked them to make the most of ingredients that are rich in iron and high in flavour!

Don’t be frightened by using tinned sardines.  Not only are they a great source of iron, they’re low in mercury and a sustainable source of seafood.  Mixing them in to the fishcakes means they lose some of their strong ‘fishy’ taste too.

Using sweet potato is a great way to include vitamin C too, which helps with iron absorption.

I've made a quick video.  Click here: