Teacher Demo/Student Activity: Iron in Cereal

iron-in-cerealFood labels often contain the word ‘fortified’.  This means that one or more ingredients have been added that are not normally found in that food item.  The purpose is to increase the amount of that mineral or nutrient to serve a dietary purpose.  Table salt is fortified with iodine (to help prevent hypothyroidism, which can lead to goiter which is the abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland), and many breakfast cereals are fortified with fibre (to improve digestion) and iron.

Iron ions (Fe3+) are essential for the formation of red blood cells.  They are central to the hemoglobin molecule, which is responsible for the transfer of oxygen gas and carbon dioxide throughout the body.  Iron ions are also found in muscle tissue and many enzymes.  Iron is often added to cereal in its elemental form (Fe) because it is more stable and has a minimal effect on flavour.

The recommended daily intake of iron depends on age and gender.  These values are listed in the Additional Resources section, and information about iron content in food can be found in the nutritional facts label on the packaging.

The purpose of this demonstration/activity is to illustrate the importance of proper labeling and identification of substances and the presence and form of iron in breakfast cereals.

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