Study: Eating more iron-rich veggies may help boost children’s brain health
06/29/2021 / By Brocky Wilson / Comments
Study: Eating more iron-rich veggies may help boost children’s brain health

Here’s why you should give more iron-rich vegetables to your children: A 2020 study suggests that getting enough iron during childhood is important for the normal development of children’s brains.

Researchers arrived at this finding after measuring the brain iron levels of more than 900 individuals between the ages of eight and 26 years. They were looking to determine the relationship between brain iron concentration in childhood and cognitive health.

Iron, an essential mineral found in vegetables like dark leafy greens, is important for optimal brain health because brain cells store iron to stay healthy. The mineral is mostly concentrated in the basal ganglia, a region of the brain that filters incoming information from moment to moment and tells you the best action to take.

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Past studies show that having low iron levels in the basal ganglia during childhood is associated with cognitive impairment. However, it was unclear prior to the study how iron levels change over the course of normal brain development.

Iron levels in the brain increase as children mature

After analyzing the participants’ brain scans, the researchers found that brain iron levels in the basal ganglia steadily increase throughout children’s development and, in two subregions, continue to increase into adulthood. In addition, they found that reduced brain iron in a subregion called the putamen is associated with poor cognition during late adolescence.

“Iron levels in brain tissue rise during development and are correlated with cognitive abilities,” said Bart Larsen, a neuroscientist from the University of Pennsylvania and the study’s lead author. He added that children should continue to eat an iron-rich diet until their mid-20s.

Other studies also show that high intake of the mineral is important for optimal brain health. A 2004 study, for example, found that taking iron supplements significantly improves children’s attention and memory even when they’re not anemic. In addition, a Polish study found that women with iron deficiency tend to be more irritable and less motivated when they’re on their periods than those with healthy iron levels.

How to get more iron into your children’s diet

Giving your children more iron-rich vegetables is one of the best and safest ways to get more iron into their diets. Too much iron at any age is toxic to the brain, liver and gut, among other things.

Vegetables that are high in iron include:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • String beans
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as dandelion, collard, kale and spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes

The following plant-based foods are also rich in iron:

  • Some fruits, such as figs, dates, prunes and raisins
  • Wheat products
  • Bran cereals
  • Cornmeal
  • Oat cereals
  • Rye bread
  • Fortified rice
  • Whole wheat bread

How much iron your children need depends on their age. Take a look at the following:

  • Infants who breastfeed usually get enough from their mothers until the age of 4 to 6 months. Around this time, iron-rich baby foods like fortified cereal can be introduced. Breastfed babies who don’t get sufficient iron should be given iron drops as prescribed by a health professional.
  • Infants between the ages of 7 and 12 months need 11 milligrams (mg) of iron a day.
  • Toddlers between the age of 1 to 3 years need 7 mg a day.
  • Kids between the ages of 4 and 8 years need 10 mg.
  • Kids between the ages of 9 and 13 years need 8 mg.
  • Teenage boys should get 11 mg a day while teenage girls should get 15 mg to replace what they lose monthly when they begin menstruating.
  • Young athletes who regularly engage in intense exercise may need extra iron in their diets because they tend to lose more of the mineral. Young individuals on a vegetarian diet may also need added iron.

Toddlers who just turned a year old are at risk of iron deficiency because they no longer drink iron-fortified formula and may not be eating enough iron-rich foods to compensate. Female teens who have very heavy periods are also at risk of iron deficiency if their diets don’t have enough iron.

Iron deficiency can affect growth and may lead to learning and behavioral problems. If left uncorrected, it can lead to iron-deficiency anemia or a decrease in the number of red blood cells in the body. Anemia can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, abnormally fast heartbeat and reduced lung function, among other things.

Iron is an important mineral for children’s brain health. Make sure your children eat more iron-rich vegetables and other foods so they can grow into healthy adults.

Sources:

DailyMail.co.uk

JNeuroSci.org

MedicalXpress.com

Health.ClevelandClinic.org

KidsHealth.org

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