We’re sure you’ve noticed it yourself: iron is just one of those nutrients that keeps cropping up in conversations when you’re pregnant.
Alongside folic acid, suddenly these two nutrients take on a whole new meaning – but why do we need more iron, how can you increase your iron intake naturally through foods, and do we need to supplement? Alice Fotheringham, Piccolo’s infant nutrition expert, tells us all.
Please note: This blog was written before the Coronavirus outbreak, and we understand that it may be difficult to access some of the foods mentioned during this time. As mentioned below, you shouldn't need additional iron supplements during pregnancy as most pregnancy multivitamins contain iron anyway, so please do not worry if your local supermarket is running low on Piccolo's suggested foods.
Why we need iron
Iron supplements are often discussed in forums and by your midwife because when we’re pregnant, our bodies produce double the amount of blood - and red blood cells for you and your baby are made, in part, by iron. Some women find they have low levels of iron and this can lead to anaemia, particularly if you’re pregnant with twins.
Your midwife will be looking out for symptoms of anaemia (fatigue and very low energy) but do speak to your GP or midwife if you are feeling more tired than normal and they can easily test for this.
You’ll only be given iron supplements if you test positive for anaemia. Most pregnancy multivitamins contain iron anyway, so you will be getting some from them and shouldn’t need to take additional amounts.
Getting iron into your diet naturally
A great way to get readily absorbable iron is from food – and you don’t need much, so try to vary your sources. If you can, it’s always better to get your nutrients from food because you’ll be absorbing a whole range of balanced nutrients, not just iron.
Which foods contain iron?
Red meat: a well-known and rich source of readily absorbable iron.
Oily fish: another great source of iron, but also of healthy fats which are really important for you and your developing baby. Aim to eat a source of oily fish a couple of times a week.
Eggs: very rich in nutrients and a great quick food choice in pregnancy.
Pulses: not as rich in iron but full of fibre and other nutrients. Try to eat your peas, beans and pulses with a source of vitamin C, like vegetables or fruit, to make it easier for your body to absorb the iron.
Green leafy vegetables: packed with a long list of nutrients needed in pregnancy, and also a great source of iron and vitamin C! Try spinach, broccoli and kale, which you can also buy frozen to get your started.
Nuts: rich in protein as well as iron. You don’t need to eat many nuts to get your iron fix, so try to keep to just a handful and mix up the types of nuts you eat to get a variety of nutrients.
Fortified bread and cereal: contain added iron.
You can see from the list that lots of everyday foods contain iron, and it’s really easy to get a good intake of iron each day; from adding nuts to your snacks to making sure you include green leafy vegetables and oily fish to your menu each week.
Try this simple and delicious homemade pesto to up your intake of leafy greens up, which are rich in folic acid and iron – two for the price of one! Even better, why not try spreading it on top of a freshly grilled piece of salmon or trout!
Check out more of Alice’s recipes for pregnancy on Piccolo’s website.
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