Pregnancy: Your Guide to Eating Right (cont.)

What Are Good Sources of Iron?

  • Meat and Seafood: Lean beef, chicken, clams, crab, egg yolk, fish, lamb, liver, oysters, pork, sardines, shrimp, turkey, and veal.
  • Vegetables: Black-eyed peas, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, collard and turnip greens, lima beans, sweet potatoes, and spinach.
  • Legumes: Dry beans and peas, lentils, and soybeans.
  • Fruits: All berries, apricots, dried fruits, including prunes, raisins and apricots, grapes, grapefruit, oranges, plums, prune juice, and watermelon.
  • Breads and Cereals: Enriched rice and pasta, soft pretzel, and whole grain and enriched or fortified breads and cereals.
  • Other Foods: Molasses, peanuts, pine nuts, pumpkin, or squash seeds.

Should I Take an Iron Supplement During Pregnancy?

Talk to your health care provider about an iron supplement. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that all pregnant women following a balanced diet take an iron supplement providing 27 mg of iron during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy (that's the amount in most prenatal vitamins). Your doctor may increase this dose if you become anemic. Iron deficiency anemia is a condition in which the size and number of red blood cells are reduced. This condition may result from inadequate intake of iron or from blood loss.

Other Facts About Iron

  • Vitamin C helps your body use iron. It is important to include sources of vitamin C along with foods containing iron and iron supplements.
  • Caffeine can inhibit the absorption of iron. Try to consume iron supplements and foods high in iron at least one to three hours before or after drinking or eating foods containing caffeine.
  • Iron is lost in cooking some foods. To retain iron, cook foods in a minimal amount of water and for the shortest possible time. Also, cooking in cast iron pots can add iron to foods.
  • Constipation is a common side effect of taking iron supplements. To help relieve constipation, slowly increase the fiber in your diet by including whole grain breads, cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Drinking at least eight cups of fluids daily and increasing moderate exercise (as recommended by your doctor) can also help you avoid constipation.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/16/2012

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