Iron Deficiency Anemia – How to Get More Iron Rich Foods During Pregnancy

Iron Deficiency Anemia – How to Get More Iron Rich Foods During Pregnancy

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Iron is extremely important during pregnancy, and it can be difficult for pregnant women to get enough iron in their diet to support all of the changes going on in their body. Women typically need about twice the amount of iron in their diet while pregnant. Non-pregnant women need about 18 milligrams of iron per day, where pregnant women need around 27 milligrams.

During pregnancy your body produces about 50% more blood to account for your growing baby. That is a lot of extra blood running through your veins! Iron helps produce hemoglobin, which is the protein that transfers oxygen to other cells in your body. Iron deficiency can cause preterm, low birth weight, and infant and maternal mortality, so Iron plays a crucial role in a healthy pregnancy. The symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include extreme fatigue and dizziness. So, adding these symptoms on top of your other pregnancy symptoms can be completely debilitating and awful. Also, according to, “if you’re anemic when you give birth, you’re more likely to need a transfusion and have other problems if you lose a lot of blood at delivery. And some research suggests an association between maternal iron deficiency and postpartum depression.”

Your doctor will monitor your iron levels at different points in your pregnancy to ensure you’re getting enough. If you aren’t you will most likely be put on an iron supplement, but there are foods to eat that will help keep your iron levels up, as well. There are two types of iron-rich foods: heme and non-heme. Heme iron comes from animal protein such as beef, chicken, turkey and pork. Heme iron is typically absorbed easier by your body, but non-heme iron will also help boost your iron levels. Non-heme iron comes from beans, spinach, tofu, iron fortified cereals and other vegetables. To make sure you’re getting enough iron, it is important to eat a variety of iron-rich foods everyday.

It is also important to note that what you eat WITH these iron-rich foods can affect how much iron you are actually absorbing from them. Try including a source of vitamin C at every meal to help with iron absorption. Consuming Vitamin C (like from citrus, broccoli or strawberries) along with iron-rich foods can help you absorb up to six times more iron.

There are also iron-inhibiting foods, that if you are iron-deficient, you may want to avoid eating at the same time as iron-rich foods. These inhibitors are Calcium and also polyphenols found in coffee and tea. If you are taking an iron supplement as well as a calcium supplement, I would try to space them out by a few hours out so you are not taking them at the same time. I typically take my calcium in the afternoon a couple hours after lunch, or at least a few hours before I take my prenatal supplements at bedtime to ensure the calcium doesn’t affect the iron in my prenatal vitamin. If you have been prescribed an iron supplement, it is best to take at least an hour or two after a meal on an empty stomach. Also, drinking some orange juice with your supplement will help you absorb it better.

So, what are the best iron-rich foods for pregnancy to help keep iron deficiency anemia and fatigue away? Here is a list of the best iron-rich foods for pregnancy:

  • Animal Protein, especially Beef
  • Iron-fortified Cereal (Grape Nuts offers the most Iron per .5 cup)
  • Iron-fortified Instant Oatmeal (I love Better Oats)
  • Dark, leafy Greens like Spinach and Kale
  • Lentils
  • Beets
  • Dried Apricots
  • Legumes like Red Kidney Beans or Garbanzo Beans

For a full list of Pregnancy Superfoods Click Here.

You can also check out the Foods for Fertility pregnancy meal plan and recipes here.

*When grocery shopping during pregnancy, be sure to check labels to check for sugar content, protein content, and iron content. Also, make sure there aren’t any harmful ingredients or artificial sweeteners in what you’re buying. For a full list of what to avoid during pregnancy, click here.

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