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Pregnancy Nutrition ~ Iron

Posted Mar 07 2011 10:53am

Good Morning, Everyone! I hope you all had a fantastic weekend! Hopefully I have NO blog issues this week with my server. That was super frustrating! I am so sorry for the inconvenience it brought to you!!

I figured I would do a few pregnancy posts this week. Today I want to focus on the mineral, iron. Many of you may have heard how important things like folic acid and iron are during pregnancy, but why? I believe it’s important to eat a balanced diet overall, not only focusing on specific vitamins and minerals. However, I want to give you a little more insight on  the most  important minerals along with the foods that provide you with them.

Prior to becoming pregnant, it’s typical for a woman to be deficient in iron more so than any other nutrient due to the amount lost every month during menstruation. Even though that part of your life takes a vacation during pregnancy, it does not mean your iron needs have gone away also. It’s true that early in pregnancy you may have some extra iron stored, however, as pregnancy progresses, you need it even more than before. Once you become pregnant you need to focus on getting the proper amount of iron. ESPECIALLY if you want to have energy to continue doing things such as exercising.


Why is iron so important? When you don’t get enough iron, your blood isn’t able to carry as much oxygen meaning you will not have enough energy to fuel the work taking place in your body. This is because iron is an essential mineral that is part of hemoglobin that circulates in your red blood cells. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen to your baby and to the cells in your body. That oxygen provides both of you with the energy needed to function. It also plays a crucial role in fetal development.

What are some signs of an iron deficiency (anemia)?


- Extreme Fatigue



-Heart Palpitations

(if you feel you may be deficient talk to your doctor!)

By the beginning of your second trimester few women are able to meet the 30 mg nutritionists recommend during pregnancy. (If you are anemic, your doctor may recommend you consume 60mg or more. ) As pregnancy progresses your blood volume doubles, making it critical that you get enough to have the energy you need!


(source )


Iron & Your Diet:
Most people know that lean red meats and poultry are iron-rich foods. However, you can get plenty of iron in a vegetarian diet despite the popular belief.

Heme-Iron vs. Non-Heme Iron

Heme iron, which makes up 40 percent of the iron in meat, poultry, and fish, is well absorbed. Non-heme iron, 60 percent of the iron in animal tissue and all the iron in plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts) is less well absorbed. Even though vegetarian and vegan diets contain non-heme iron, anemia is no more common in vegetarians than it is in meat eaters. This is because many of the foods consumed by vegans are superior to the animal-derived foods.  Calorie for calorie you would need to consume a 1700 calorie sirloin steak to get the same amount of iron in 100 calories of spinach!


Another factor that vegans and vegetarians have on their side is Vitamin C. A vegan diet is more likely to be rich in vitamin C than a non-vegan diet. Vitamin C boosts the absorption of iron significantly. This makes the absorption of non-heme iron good, if not better than heme iron! So if  you are eating  a plant-based diet, be sure to combine iron rich foods with vitamin C rich foods to increase iron absorption six fold.



Plants Highest in BOTH Iron & Vitamin C:

Bok Choy


Beet Greens


Swiss Chard


Turnip Greens

Hearts of Palm


Seaweed, Spirulina, Raw



Broccoli Raab


Turnip Greens

Chinese Cabbage


Other Plant-Based Foods Rich in Iron:

Pumpkin Seeds


Blackstrap Molasses


Pine Nuts

Soy Beans

Sunflower Seeds




Kidney Beans

Adzuki Beans

Navy Beans

Pinto beans

Black Eyed Peas

Brazil Nuts

Black Beans

Chick Peas

Ming Beans



Some of my favorite ways to get iron during my pregnancy is through juicing or smoothies. I like to make a beet juice with beets, beet greens, carrots, parsley, and apples.


Or I would make a smoothie with Spinach, Kale, Parsley, Lemon, Apple, Pear and maybe some spirulina or  Maca Powder (which is rich in Vitamin C) along with Chia Seeds <3

My mother in laws minestrone soup recipe was another favorite this past winter


Supplementing with Iron (source )


Even though I try to eat a well balanced diet, I still take prenatal vitamins as “insurance.” I was never really crazy about taking vitamins. I never did well with them. When I became pregnant I was worried because vitamins have truly made me nauseous in the past. one time, many years ago, someone who sold vitamins was hounding me to try some of their supplements. I remember being on the elliptical at the gym and having to run off straight to the bathroom to gag after taking them. More recently I have become very picky about the supplements I do take. They must be plant-based, no chemicals, and a source that comes from FOOD.

Eating a well rounded diet, along with taking prenatal vitamins should ensure you reach your daily needs. If you are deficient, you are the one who is most likely to suffer. The baby will actually take all the iron you have, which is one cool thing about pregnancy. your body automatically gives your baby’s iron needs precedence over yours. You may be lying around, exhausted, meanwhile, your baby is just chilling and happy.

If your doctor recommends you take an iron supplement, here’s some tips to ensure you get the most out of it:

-Take it on an empty stomach

-As stated before, iron absorption is boosted by Vitamin C. Take the supplement with some Lemon Water or a homemade juice rich in Vitamin C

-Do NOT take it with tea, milk or coffee, all of which can interfere with iron absorption

-Do not take it with a calcium supplement (if that is also recommended). Instead take one in the morning, and the other in the evening


Side Effects of Iron Supplements:

There are a few women that experience  side effects when taking an iron supplement. this includes nausea, constipation and appetite loss. Not so appealing during pregnancy. If this were to happen to you, try taking the supplement with food. Iron may not be absorbed as well, but it’s better than nothing. You should also talk to your doctor to see if lowering the dosage is safe for you. Increasing the plant-rich iron foods stated above is another way to get more iron, without the side effects (if you and your doctor agree to lower your dose).


Too Much Iron?

Consuming too much iron can be toxic. This is why it is important to NOT go and take an iron supplement (in addition to your prenatal vitamin) unless your doctor prescribes it.  Although it is unlikely to get iron toxicity from food (however, there are studies that have shown overdoses in iron from a large consumption of animal organs),  synthetic iron found in supplements are a different story. It is tough to overdose on iron if you are just taking a prenatal and eating a colorful diet. Especially later in pregnancy when your blood volume increases along with iron needs. However, just avoid taking all kinds of supplements, unless it is what your doctor prescribes.



Hopefully you have a little more insight now as to the importance of iron in your diet! In a perfect world, you will start eating iron-rich foods before your pregnancy to build up your stores for you and baby! If you are not pregnant, or not planning to become pregnant iron is still important. You do not needs as much as a woman that is expecting, but you still should pay attention to eating iron-rich foods, especially during that time of the month and later in life when you reach menopause! It should help with fatigue and other icky symptoms that come with all those fun unavoidable womanly stages in life.



Have you ever had an iron deficiency?


What are some of your favorite iron-rich foods?


Have a wonderful day!
















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