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During the second half of pregnancy, the body requires enough iron to produce enough blood for you and your baby. But what if you’re iron deficient? That leads to iron deficiency anemia. When your body isn’t able to meet the daily iron requirements, your body becomes deficient in iron hence iron deficiency anemia. Many foods contain iron, but it is difficult for the body to absorb it. Also, iron can only be absorbed and not produced by the body.

You might also experience some symptoms of iron deficiency, which are:

  • Overall body weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness

You may think that consuming prenatal vitamins or iron supplements can overthink the problem. It would be better to eat iron-rich foods for better efficiency as they’re a natural source. Let’s discuss anemia, its causes, the iron-rich foods to prevent it, and the absorption of iron by the body.

What is Anemia, and What may be its Causes:

Anemia generally is described as the deficiency of healthy red blood cells in the body. There are various types of anemia, of which iron-deficient anemia is one. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when there is not enough iron supply to the body to meet the daily requirements.

During pregnancy, the occurrence of anemia is common, especially during the second half of the pregnancy, as blood is needed for both the mother and the baby. These can be overcome by the consumption of iron-rich foods as a part of your daily diet. The causes of anemia may be:

  • Destruction of red blood cells due to some illness
  • Poor consumption of folate and iron-rich foods.

How to Prevent yourself from being Anemic?

The best answer for prevention against anemia would be eating iron rich foods on a daily routine.

  • Meat products are rich in iron as it contains heme. If you eat meat you can just increase the amount of intake of meat. Other iron rich foods are fish, eggs, chicken, dried beans, and fortified grains. All these foods can easily be incorporated in your daily diet.
  • For vegetarians, green vegetables, orange juice, and dried beans are good sources of iron.
  • More iron is added by cooking your food in cast iron pots.
  • Consume vitamin C rich foods such as raw vegetables and citruses.
  • Have prenatal multivitamins.

Why do you need Iron?

It is obvious that when consulting your OB/GYN, you will be told to have a balanced diet and how you should meet your daily body requirements for nutrients. Of these, some are essential for the development of the baby, such as iron and folic acid. Your body requires double the amount of iron consumed pre-pregnancy.

Iron requirement is increased during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, and to meet the needs, iron rich foods should be consumed.

What Iron rich Foods can be Consumed during Pregnancy?

27mg of iron is generally required during pregnancy, and you should consume just enough to meet the requirements. Following are some iron-rich foods based on the amount of iron each contains. You can keep track of how much you consume daily.

0.5 – 1.5 mg of Iron:

  • Chicken – 3 ounces
  • Tomato juice – 6 ounces
  • Whole wheat bread – 1 slice
  • Broccoli – ½ cup
  • Green peas – ½ cup
  • Strawberries – 1 cup
  • Raspberries – 1 cup
  • Cooked Brussel sprouts – ½ cup
  • Dried apricots – 5 halves

1.6 – 3 mg of Iron:

  • Lean hamburger – 3 ounces
  • Steak – 3 ounces
  • Roast beef – 3 ounces
  • Baked potato
  • Raisins – ½ cup
  • Cooked Navy beans – ½ cup
  • Cooked kidney beans – ½ cup
  • Cooked lima beans – ½ cup
  • Cooked oatmeal – 1 cup

3 – 12 mg of Iron:

  • Clams – 9 small ones or 4 large ones
  • Fortified cereal – 1 cup
  • Oysters – 6 mediums sized
  • Cooked spinach – ½ cup

Other or additional sources could be:

  • Tofu
  • Soy bean flour
  • Lentils
  • Green vegetables
  • Lamb and beef
  • Enriched pasta
  • Liver
  • Unrefined sugar
  • Beets

Absorption of Iron:

Iron in foods exists in 2 types: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is linked with meat and poultry, whereas non-heme iron is linked with both plant-based iron and meat. The body’s ability to absorb heme iron is much more than the absorption of non-heme iron. You should consume different iron rich foods.

Although meat consumption can improve the iron level, it is still essential to consume plant-based food products for a balanced diet. Vitamin C, which, as discussed above, is consumed for the prevention of anemia, actually plays a role in aiding the consumption of iron in the body.

Some vitamin C rich foods are as follows:

  • Citruses, e.g. oranges, lemon
  • Kiwi
  • Papaya
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Guava

Having a balanced intake of both heme iron and non-heme iron can help in better absorption of the non-heme iron, which is already less absorbed than heme iron.

Tips on Consumption of Iron rich Foods:

The best way to make up for your daily consumption is to add a little bit of these foods to your meals and snacks. Adding spinach instead of lettuce to your salads is a good alternative. Top the salad with some white beans or kidney beans.

Have beef steak for dinner and add some raspberries for the sweets. Having beans and lentils for a meal is also a good option and would be light on your pocket. You can have baked beans as a snack, add it to your salads or have them as a side of your meal.

A bowl of fortified cereal is best for breakfast, and you can top it with some raisins. You can have a variety of options for your breakfast which can help you to meet your daily requirements, and you won’t have to stick to one sort of food item as well.

For Vegetarians:

If you’re a vegetarian and are wondering whether you should consume meat, the good news is that you can carry a healthy pregnancy based solely on plant-based iron. However, you should consult your OB/GYN for the best food options and additional planning for a safe pregnancy and better iron absorption. Keep in mind that whatever you consume, do remember to take Vitamin C rich foods like citruses for better absorption.

The Takeaway:

It is important to adopt a healthy lifestyle generally and especially during pregnancy. As the 2nd half of the pregnancy starts, the body’s requirements for nutrients and minerals increase as it is needed for the baby’s development. It is not advised that you stick to a single or a few specific food items to meet your requirements, you should have a variety of foods and have them alternatively on alternate days.

Keep everything balanced. If you’re a vegetarian and prefer vegetarian-based diet but worry if it would be harmful for your baby then that is not the case, you can carry your pregnancy well even with a vegetarian diet but make sure you fulfill all the requirements. In some cases, you’re advised to take some pre-natal vitamins, consult your doctor for such options but the better option would always be getting the essential nutrients from natural sources.

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