Iron-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating During Pregnancy
Calling all pregnant woman/prospective parents! We know that nothing is more important to you than your growing bub’s health and development. We had heard about how important adequate levels of iron are throughout pregnancy, but not until we conducted a bit of research did we discover just how critical iron is for both your little miracle’s well-being and your own.
Why increase iron levels during pregnancy?
Your body converts iron into haemoglobin – an oxygen transporting substance contained in red blood cells. When you’re pregnant, that haemoglobin is working double time, providing oxygen and blood to you and your growing baby. In short, iron intake is extremely crucial for both you and bub, given that your body requires it to make extra blood for your baby. Iron is also responsible for transporting oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body, as well as your baby’s.
Photo by Fallon Michael on Unsplash
Risks of low iron intake for pregnant women
Did you know that iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia globally? Despite most people being vaguely aware of the importance of iron intake during pregnancy, an alarming 38.2% of women worldwide and 25% in Australia are affected by anaemia, according to the World Health Organization.
Anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity is insufficient to meet physiologic needs, which increases during pregnancy. Risks associated with low iron during pregnancy include: poor gestational weight gain, fetal growth restriction, preterm delivery, increased risk of birth complications and depression in the mother. Low iron in the mother can also result in low iron and behavioral and cognitive disorders for bub. Increased iron intake is also recommended before conception, in order to reduce the risk of low birth weight and premature birth.
Eep! This iron business is serious stuff. But not to worry, standard Australian health care includes a full blood examination at the first antenatal visit and at 28 weeks’, meaning iron deficiency is readily detected and treated.
Best way to meet recommended iron needs
High levels of iron can result in constipation, a symptom already common in pregnant women. In order to avoid exacerbating pregnancy-related constipation, you may be better off getting your iron fix from food sources as opposed to supplements (if medically possible). This is due to the lower amount of iron in food compared to supplements.
In terms of foods high in iron, all sources are not created equal. Iron comes in two main varieties: haem iron from animal products such as chicken, red meat, fish and insects (such as our favourite cricket pals!) and non-haem iron from plant based sources. The main difference is haem iron is far more readily absorbed by your body. In other words, the best source of iron is animal-based foods, especially red meat and offal such as liver.
Insects are a particularly splendid source since the whole animal is consumed, including extra iron-y parts: kidneys and livers. Furthermore, crickets contain almost three times as much soluble iron as sirloin. Great news for those pregnant women who can’t quite stomach platefuls of steak on the regular.
Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
Top high-iron foods:
|FOODS (100g)||IRON (in mg)|
|Beef Liver (braised)||6.54|
Source: USDA Food Composition Databases
How to Improve iron absorption from food
If you want to up your iron game even further try combining iron-rich foods with vitamin C. Foods rich in vitamin C such as oranges, tomatoes, berries, kiwi fruit and capsicum can improve your body’s ability to absorb it, while tea, coffee and calcium containing products, inhibit absorption.
Crickets are swimming in readily absorbable iron, and can be easily incorporated into smoothies, baked goods, dinners and any other pregnancy craving- growing bubs love crickets. Read more about how insects can boost your iron intake!
Smart tip: Grilo Super Greens & Cricket Powder is an excellent source of iron (53% RDI of iron per serve) and it may assist with digestive health. Good for preggos! Add it to your green smoothies, juices and raw treats!
Our beautiful friend Bella during pregnancy preparing her daily green smoothie!
A big thanks to Courtney Franz for writing 🙂