In this article, we will discuss the importance of iron during pregnancy and provide a comprehensive list of iron-rich foods that can help meet the increased iron needs of expectant mothers.
Becoming a parent is an exciting and potentially intimidating experience, as you’ve likely heard about the importance of iron, zinc, vitamins, and more for a healthy baby.
However, to aid your understanding of this plethora of information, we have dedicated our efforts to analyzing the vital nutrients necessary for a joyful and thriving pregnancy.
Commencing with the significance of iron, an abundant mineral facilitating the transportation of oxygen within your body.
Within this piece, we shall explore the significance of iron during pregnancy, the recommended daily intake, and the prime sources of iron-rich foods that can seamlessly integrate into your daily routine.
Furthermore, when combined with a prenatal supplement, this regimen guarantees the provision of optimal nourishment for your body and the development of your precious baby, ensuring a wholesome beginning to life.
Why is iron important for pregnancy?
Iron is a natural nutrient found in certain foods, not produced by the body, requiring a sufficient amount from your diet. It is utilized by the body to create hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to all body parts, as well as myoglobin, which transports oxygen to muscles and body tissues.
This oxygen transportation aids in muscle development, growth, and the proper functioning of organs. During pregnancy, iron plays a crucial role in supplying enough oxygen to the womb for the healthy growth of the placenta and the baby. Additionally, iron is vital for the developing brain and organs of your baby.
How much iron do pregnant people need?
To ensure proper nutrient levels, it’s crucial to consult your prenatal physician for precise iron intake requirements, as every individual’s body has unique needs.
Pregnant individuals typically require 27mg of iron per day, serving as a general guideline. It’s essential not to exceed a daily iron consumption of 45mg to avoid potential organ damage caused by heightened toxicity.
What happens if you have low levels of iron during pregnancy?
Iron deficiency is more prevalent during pregnancy because the growing baby necessitates an additional 50 percent of blood to sustain sufficient blood supply for both the mother and the baby throughout the entire journey. Insufficient blood circulation leads to anemia, a condition characterized by inadequate healthy red blood cells to deliver sufficient oxygen to the body’s tissues.
Anemia, also known as iron deficiency, can result in extreme fatigue, weakness, pale skin, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, cold hands, and feet, tongue inflammation or soreness, and weak nails.
Ensuring adequate iron intake becomes especially crucial in the last 10 weeks of pregnancy when the baby begins developing their own iron levels in preparation for the first six months after birth. Therefore, consuming sufficient iron is essential to prepare for childbirth.
Approximately one-third of women worldwide suffer from iron deficiency. Young individuals who experience heavy menstrual cycles and bodily changes during puberty are susceptible to iron deficiency anemia.
Thus, it is important for young people to be aware of their iron levels before planning a pregnancy later in life.
How does your body use iron in food?
Iron in food exists in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme is exclusively present in animal meats such as red meat, poultry, and seafood.
Non-heme iron can be found in plant-based foods including whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens.
Iron is stored as ferritin in the body and transported throughout by transferrin, a blood protein that binds to iron.
While these terms may cause confusion, understanding the distinct iron variations aids in optimizing your diet.
Heme iron is more readily absorbed by the body, making red meats preferable to grains and nuts/seeds.
What role can iron supplements play?
Iron supplements can be beneficial for those following a plant-based diet or needing to increase their iron intake. In early pregnancy, an iron supplement can provide an extra boost during the numerous changes.
These supplements are available in tablet and liquid forms. It’s crucial to consult your doctor or GP before taking them to ensure the correct dosage for your needs.
If you encounter constipation or other adverse effects while taking iron supplements, you can:
- Include more unprocessed plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your diet.
- Increase your water intake.
- Engage in low-impact exercise.
- Take your iron supplements every other day.
- Seek advice from your doctor before switching to a different type of iron supplement.
Iron is an essential mineral for growth, but 50% of women experience iron deficiency during pregnancy.
Formulated to support you throughout conception, pregnancy, postpartum, or daily life, Iron Support helps combat tiredness, promotes healthy iron levels, supports the development of the baby, and maintains energy production.
Common sources of dietary iron
The sources of dietary iron vary widely, with some foods containing higher amounts than others. Both animal and plant-based sources contain iron.
Common sources of iron include:
- Lean beef
- Organ meats like liver and kidney
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Wholegrain and enriched bread
- Dark green leafy vegetables like raw spinach
What foods are high in iron for pregnancy?
In search of iron-rich foods with optimal iron absorption for your body? Explore this selection of choices:
Meat and plant-based alternatives
- Tofu (170g): 4.9mg
- Kangaroo (100g uncooked): 3.4mg
- Kidney beans (150g): 3.2mg
- Sardines (120g): 2.7mg
- Lean beef (100g uncooked): 2.1mg
- Eggs (120g): 2mg
Bread and cereal foods
- Iron-fortified breakfast cereal (30g) contains 3.4mg of iron,
- While wheat biscuits (35g) contain 2.4mg.
- Half a cup of cooked spinach contains 1.6mg of iron,
- Half a cup of cooked silverbeet provides 1.5mg of iron.
- Half a cup of cooked asparagus contains 1mg of iron.
- Cashews (30g): 1.5mg
- Pine nuts (30g): 1.1mg
- Almonds (30g): 1.1mg
- Dried apricots (30g): 0.9mg
- Fruit (150g): 0.4mg
What are the best plant-based sources of iron?
For those following a vegan or vegetarian diet concerned about sufficient iron intake, several plant-based foods are rich in iron. Incorporate leafy greens, citrus fruits, cooked lentils, and more to ensure a plant-based boost in daily meals. Here are our top 10 vegan iron sources:
- Tempeh: 3.6mg per 100g
- Pumpkin seeds: 3mg per 2 tablespoons
- Iron-fortified cereals: 7.8mg (fortified instant oats)
- Baked beans: 2.8mg per 200g
- Wholewheat pasta: 2.4mg per 75g
- Quinoa: 3.9mg per 50g
- Wholemeal bread: 1.8mg (2 slices)
- Tahini: 1.6mg per 1 tablespoon
- Sunflower seeds: 1mg per 2 tablespoons
- Sweet potato: 2.2mg per 300g
How to Increase Iron Absorption
In addition to consuming iron-rich foods, incorporating vitamin C-rich foods can enhance iron absorption. Vitamin C aids in the breakdown and absorption of iron from your diet.
To optimize iron absorption, include citrus fruits, tomatoes, red or yellow peppers, and a serving of broccoli or cauliflower alongside your sources of iron. This combination can boost your body’s efficiency in absorbing the iron you consume.
Include iron-rich foods, such as lean red meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, dark leafy greens, dried fruits, and fortified cereals, in your diet during pregnancy
Pomegranates are a beneficial super fruit during pregnancy as they alleviate nausea, relieve morning sickness, aid digestion, and contribute to blood production, reducing the risk of iron deficiency anemia
Anemia during pregnancy can be caused by higher blood volume and insufficient intake of iron, vitamin B12, or folic acid