RDA for Iron
I am 39 and pregnant with my third. I know that black strap molasses is a good source of iron. I also know that ingesting Vita C with it improves its bioavailability. How much molasses a day should I ingest in order to get my RDA? Also, for babies and toddlers, what are the recommended RDA of iron/day and how much molasses a day should they ingest to meet the suggested allowances? Thanks.
“RDA for Iron”
Dear “RDA for Iron”,
It is true that black strap Molasses is a good source of Iron. Adding molasses to breads, muffins or cookies is a great way to increase the amount of iron fortified foods that you and your family ingest. The important thing to remember is that the amount of iron that a person ingests does not necessarily correlate with the amount that the body absorbs. Iron absorption varies with age, state of health, source of Iron, amount of Iron, the body’s Iron stores and the interaction of Iron with other dietary components and with intestinal secretions. (1)
As you mentioned, Vitamin C should be increased and administered with Iron fortified foods because it enhances the intestinal absorption of Iron. (2) On the other hand if an Iron containing food also contains phosphates, such as in the case of cow’s milk, there is decreased Iron absorption because the phosphates bind with iron and remove it from the body. (2) As a result less Iron is absorbed, and because of this milk is not considered a good source of Iron. In addition, there are certain medications, such as Tetracycline and antacids that inhibit the absorption of Iron. (3)
Since only a portion of the amount of Iron ingested is actually absorbed, it is not sufficient to compare milligrams to milligrams when deciphering the amount of Iron needed. Only 1 to 20 percent of the Iron that we eat is absorbed into the body. (1 ) Iron from meat sources or animal products are in the upper range where 10 to 20 percent of ingested Iron is absorbed. On the other hand, Iron from vegetable sources, such as beans, corn, wheat and soy beans is absorbed at the lower range at 1 to 10 percent. (1).
The term RDA represents the recommended average daily intake that is needed to meet the nutritional requirements of most healthy individuals in each age group.The amount of Iron that a child needs depends upon their age, weight and state of health. According to the National Institute of Health(4):
RDA for Iron for a child 7 to 12 months old is 11 mg/day
RDA for Iron for a child 1 to 3 years old is 7 mg/day
RDA for Iron for a child 4 to 8 years old is 10 mg/day.
This is assuming the child is an average weight and free from any health conditions. The best way to determine how much iron your particular child needs is to consult with his doctor.
In the Doctor’s office during well child examinations children routinely are required to have a blood test for hemoglobin. This test serves as a screening tool which identifies which children are at risk for Anemia. If a child’s hemoglobin level is below the acceptable range, further blood tests may be ordered in order to differentiate one type of Anemia from another. If a diagnosis of Iron Deficiency Anemia is made, Iron supplementation will be recommended. Serial hemoglobin testing is one of the tools that Doctor’s use to monitor a child for Anemia and determine the amount of Iron supplementation that a child needs.
During pregnancy Iron requirements increase due to the needs of the developing fetus and because of maternal blood losses. According to the National Institute of Health, the RDA for a pregnant woman from 19 to 50 years old is 27 mg of Iron per day. (4) Many pregnant women take Prenatal Vitamins as prescribed by their Obstetrician which provide the RDA for Iron. Additional Iron should not be necessary unless a pregnant woman has a health condition that requires more Iron. Before adding extra Iron to the diet, a pregnant women should contact her Obstetrician since excess amounts of Iron can be toxic.
Children can also easily overdose on Iron, therefore all Iron supplements should be kept locked and out of a child’s reach. Children who accidentally ingest Iron supplements can develop toxicity very quickly. If there is an error in a child's Iron dosage, or if a child ingests Iron by accident it is important to contact The Poison Control Center and your child’s Physician immediately. You should not wait for symptoms to develop because Iron overdose can have serious consequences including severe toxicity leading to death in only a few hours. (5)
In regards to your question, about blackstrap Molasses, it contains 3.5 mg of Iron per Tablespoon. (4) If your child is 3 years old; 2 Tablespoons per day should be sufficient. Then again, Iron absorption is dependent upon many factors and the exact amount of Iron absorption may vary from person to person.
For more information about Iron requirements and foods rich in Iron log on to:
The National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements Website
(1)Chow M, Durand B, Feldman M, Mills M. Handbook of Pediatric Primary Care. Albany, New York:Delmar Publishers Inc. 1984: 124-125.
(2)Betz C, Hunsberger M, Wright S. Family-Centered Nursing Care of Children. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA:W.B.Saunders Company. 1994:1408-1409.
(3)Greene M. The Harriet Lane Handbook. St. Louis, Missouri: The Mosby-Yearbook, Inc. 1991:194.
(4)National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Dieatary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron. Available at:http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/iron. Accessed September 2006.
(5)Wood D. Teach Adults to Recognize Signs of Pediatric Poisoning. The Nursing Spectrum. 2006. May:18.
Lisa-ann Kelly R.N., P.N.P.,C.
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Pediatric Advice About Healthy Eating