How Much Iron Is Needed During Pregnancy and Where to Get It

You always hear how important iron is in your body.

Most of the body’s iron resides in the hemoglobin of red blood cells – the pigment that makes those blood cells appear red.

Hemoglobin carries oxygen to cells and transports carbon dioxide from cells.

Iron is also essential to enzymes involved in energy release, cholesterol metabolism, immune function, and connective-tissue production.

There are good sources of iron in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and nuts.

Iron is also one of the nutrients added to enriched cereals.

According to research, soybean hulls (not the whole soybean) contain a very absorbable form of iron.

Cooking in iron pots adds iron to the foods prepared in them.

This is especially true of acidic foods such as tomatoes.

The recommended daily allowance for iron is 16 milligrams (mg) per day for menstruating women and 10 mg for postmenopausal women and adult men.

Women who are pregnant or breast feeding require more iron.

The average pregnant woman needs about 30 mg to 60 mg of elemental iron per day (compared to 18 milligrams for adult women 19 to 50 who are not expecting) to prevent maternal anaemia, puerperal sepsis, low birth weight, and preterm birth.[1]

Iron requirements are also greater during periods of growth and development.

For those of us in the United States – the typical American diet provides about 6 mg of iron for every 1000 calories.

This can present a problem for women who eat fewer than 2000 calories a day.

Women lose iron in their menstrual flow each month, which only adds to the concern of iron deficiency.

Absorption of iron is notoriously poor – only about 10% of what is eaten. (Iron in meat is absorbed better than iron found in vegetables – soy hulls being an exception).

Vitamin C can however increase iron absorption.

But coffee, tea, whole soybeans, and whole grains, all reduce the amount of iron absorbed from foods eaten at the same meal. 

(May seem confusing, but don’t think about it too hard – see some of my tips!)

Vegan Diet Society’s Tips:
Eat Iron enriched cereal for breakfast.
Have a spinach salad with figs on top for lunch or dinner.
Throw cooked soybeans and or peas into your vegetable soup.
The beans fill you up on protein and on iron!
Snack on grapes, cherries and honeydew throughout the day!

READ : 30 Iron Rich Foods For Vegans and Vegetarians

When it comes to supplements, iron is available in both a ferrous and ferric form.

Iron in the ferrous forms is better absorbed than ferric iron.

Make sure when you read the labels of iron supplements you note that the number of milligrams for each tablet refers both to the iron it contains and the carrier to which it is bound.

For example, the label may state, “Each tablet provides 200 mg of ferrous fumarate, which yields 67 mg of elemental iron.”

The amount of elemental iron is what you should consider.

For those that don’t tolerate iron supplements very well (and have side effects such as heartburn, nausea, stomachache, constipation, or diarrhea) there are a couple things you can do to help.

One, taking the supplement with food can eliminate or minimize these symptoms.

Two, you can gradually work up to the desired dose or divide the high dose into several small doses.

Here’s a list of the best iron-rich foods for pregnant women:

FoodQuantityMilligrams (mg)
Farina1 cup10
Soybeans, cooked1/2 cup4.4
Spinach, cooked1 cup2.9
Figs, dried1/2 cup2.2
Peas, dried, cooked2 1/2 cups2
Bread, whole grain2 slices1.7
Spaghetti, noodles or macaroni, cooked1 cup1.5 – 2
Bread, enriched2 slices1.4
Cereals, enriched1 cup1 – 18
Potato, baked with skin1 medium1.7
Turnip greens, cooked1 cup1.2
Cherries, fresh1 cup0.6
Honeydew melon1/2 medium0.4
Grapes1 cup0.4
Raisins2 tablespoons0.4

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