Sources of iron for pregnancy
Iron is an important nutrient for pregnancy. It is essential for the developing blood supply of your baby and for your own expanding blood supply. It’s easy for vegetarian women to become deficient in iron during pregnancy so its important to eat plenty of iron rich food.
Roughly one in five women develop iron-deficiency anaemia when they are pregnant. For some women, natural sources of iron are important and preferable to taking iron supplement. This is because iron supplements can have unpleasant side effects such as constipation and other uncomfortable tummy upsets.
What are the best sources of iron during pregnancy?
Its best to get iron from a healthy diet that includes lots of dark green leafy vegetables, wholemeal bread, iron-fortified cereals, baked potatoes, lean red meat, pulses and dried fruit (see list below.)
Vitamin C helps your body to absorb the mineral. Drinking fresh orange juice and foods rich in vitamin C will help prevent you from becoming anaemic. Avoid caffeinated drinks, such as tea and coffee, during meal times as they can interfere with iron absorption.
To download a printable version of the cut out guide click on Natural Sources of Iron for Pregnancy
Where can I find vegetarian sources of iron during pregnancy?
- Spice up your meals because ground spices are excellent sources of iron, for example one teaspoon of ground ginger gives nearly 1 mg of iron, and curry powder slightly more.
- Add dried organic apricots to sweeten your porridge and a sprinkling of crushed pumpkin and sesame seeds.
- Use cast iron cooking utensils.
- Enjoy an organic baked potato in its skin with baked beans in tomato sauce for an easy lunch.
- Make sure you eat plenty of lentils, soya beans or mince, haricot beans, red kidney beans, cashew nuts, pot barley, couscous, dried apricots and leafy greens.
For information on which fruit and vegetables to buy organic see picking and choosing organic food.
How much Iron do I need?
According to the UK Food Standards agency an adult female requires 14.8 mg of iron each day. This is more than men who require 8.7 mg each day. You should be able to get small amount of iron from the fruit, vegetables, grains and meats you eat every day. However, its worth checking that you are including the above foods in your diet.
Do I need to take an iron supplement during pregnancy?
Eating an iron rich diet is the best way to avoid iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy and is preferable to taking iron supplements. Iron supplements can improve iron levels but also have unpleasant reactions such as; constipation, nausea, diarrhoea and tummy ache.
FSA, Eat Well Be Well, When You Are Pregnant(Accessed 18/02/10) NHS Clinical Knowledge Summaries (CKS) www.cks.library.nhs.uk (Accessed 18/02/10) Vegetarian Society Fact Sheet, Ironing out the Facts, 2008 (Accessed 18/02/10)