Iron Rich Food Information

The amount of iron in a baby’s body depletes from around 4-6 months.  Therefore it is vital that iron rich food is introduced in baby’s first foods.  Your body needs iron for the production of red blood cell and to transport oxygen through the blood to all the cells in the body.   Iron plays an important part of normal brain development and a healthy immune system.

According to the Nutrient Reference Values for ANZ the recommended iron intake by life stage are:

Age Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)
7-12 months 11 mg/day
1-3 years 9 mg/day
4-8 years 10 mg/day
9-13 years 8 mg/day
14-18 years 11 mg/day (for boys), 15 mg/day (for girls)

Iron consists two groups heme and nonheme:

Heme iron: animal-based, is the most readily absorbed form of iron.

Phytic Acid

Nonheme iron: plant-based, is less easily absorb by the body.  It often contains phytic acid molecules (Figure 1),which has strong binding affinity towards minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc (the results of this compound referred to as phytate).  As such the iron is bind to phytic acid and carry through the digestive tract without being absorbed in the body.

 A summary of iron food sources [1]

To help with iron absorption, several enhancements can be incorporated to assist with the absorption.  Avoid having your meal with iron absorption inhibitors to maximise iron intakes or include the iron absorption enhancers in your meal to counteract the effect.

Iron Absorption Enhancers

  • Vitamin C, such as, broccoli, tomatoes, capsicum, oranges, berries,

  • Heme iron

  • Citric acid

Iron Absorption Inhibitors

  • Phytic acid, e.g, legumes, cereals, nuts, soy protein, cocoa

  • Polyphenols, eg, red wine, coffee, tea, cocoa

  • Calcium e.g, dairy and soy products such as milk and cheese

How Stuff Works

Iron Physiology (Figure 2) and Iron absorption in the intestine (Figure 3)


Figure 2. Iron Physiology [2] 
Figure 3. Iron absorption in the intestine [3] 

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