Nutrition in Preganancy – Iron

Iron is a funny one. Some people are very wary of taking iron, and often for good reason! Conventional supplements can play havoc with the digestive tract, and taking too much can be quite dangerous.

However, this mineral is a vital one, especially in pregnancy. Iron plays a large role in carrying oxygen around the body in the blood, which helps to energise you, as cells need this to function!

When a woman in pregnant, her blood volume increases by around 45-50%… and while her body is happily making new red blood cells, she needs adequate iron to slot into the hemoglobin molecules (that carry the oxygen). The amount recommended is 27mg per day, and this may be obtained through food. Sometimes supplements are necessary, however, these should not be used unless tests show low levels, as iron supplementation may worsen zinc depletion (and we all know how vital  this is).

Iron is found in both animal and non-animal foods, but it comes in different forms. The heme form of iron in meat is much better absorbed by our bodies, and that is why red meat is considered a ‘blood-building’ food. This also means that foods with high iron content aren’t necessarily the best sources of iron. By weight, soybeans have roughly twice the iron of beef. But only about 7% of the iron in soybeans is absorbed. Spinach is also high in iron, but less than 2% of the iron in cooked spinach is absorbed.

That said, if eaten with a source of Vitamin C (such as broccoli, tomatoes, citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi fruit…), the body can take in a lot more non-heme iron.

Good sources of this mineral include:

  • Red meats
  • egg yolks
  • fish and poultry
  • spinach and other ‘green leafies’
  • soybeans, tofu, tempeh
  • Prunes, prune juice and raisins.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Blackstrap molasses.
  • Peas, Beans and wholegrains

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