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What's So Important About Iron?

During each of my pregnancies, I learned early on that I was borderline anemic. Though I wasn’t alarmed by that at first, after some reading, I realized that I needed to take it a bit more seriously.

I learned that anemia is especially problematic during pregnancy, as iron is crucial for making hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells. Since the amount of blood in a woman’s body increases by 50 percent during pregnancy, a pregnant woman’s body has some work to do.

With my first pregnancy, I tried iron supplements and quickly stopped. You know the ones…those that make it nearly impossible to go to the bathroom.

Since iron supplements weren’t a good choice for me, I had to get more resourceful and find ways to work more iron-rich foods into my diet.

I’m not the only one who relied on a healthy diet to provide the vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy pregnancy. Fellow Babble Being Pregnant blogger, Kate, recently wrote about her decision to skip prenatal vitamins altogether.

Pregnant women require 27 milligrams (mg) of iron per day. * Here’s a handy list of iron-rich foods for quick reference to help you hit that mark:

  • 1 c. 100% iron-fortified ready-to-eat cereal: 24 mg
  • 1 c. fortified instant oatmeal: 10 mg
  • 1 c. cooked lentils: 6.6 mg
  • 1 c. chickpeas: 4.8 mg
  • 1 oz. roasted pumpkin seeds: 4.2 mg
  • 1 c. cooked kidney beans: 3.6 mg
  • 1 c. cooked black or pinto beans: 3.6 mg
  • 1 T. blackstrap molasses: 3.5 mg
  • 1/2 c. raw firm tofu: 3.4 mg
  • 3 oz. lean beef chuck, lean: 3.2 mg
  • 3 oz. lean beef tenderloin: 3.0 mg
  • 1/2 c. boiled spinach: 3.2 mg
  • 1 c. prune juice: 3.0 mg
  • 3 oz. roast turkey, dark meat: 2.0 mg
  • 1/2 c. raisins: 1.5 mg
  • 3 oz. roast turkey breast: 1.4 mg
  • 3 oz. roast chicken breast: 1.1 mg
  • 3 oz. halibut: 0.9 mg
  • 1 slice whole wheat or enriched white bread: 0.9 mg
  • 3 oz. pork loin: 0.8 mg

*To boost your iron consumption, try pairing iron-rich foods with those high in vitamin C and avoid drinking coffee or tea with meals, as they may work to reduce your body’s ability to absorb iron.

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