Iron and Vitamin C
Essential for healthy blood, iron is a vital nutrient during pregnancy. It has a key role in transporting oxygen to your baby and contributes to their healthy brain development. Read about the warning signs of iron deficiency, the best ways to add iron to your diet and why it’s beneficial to include vitamin C and iron in the same meal.
Iron is a key nutrient during pregnancy – your blood cells need iron in order to transport extra oxygen around and your baby needs it for their developing brain. If you’re running low on iron you could develop anaemia which will leave you feeling tired, washed-out, short of breath and generally unwell.
When you have your first antenatal appointments, you’ll be routinely tested for anaemia. This will be done by analysing both the haemoglobin levels and the number of red blood cells in your blood. While it’s common for your haemoglobin levels to be lower during pregnancy, you’ll only be prescribed iron supplements if they are very low.
For most pregnant women, including lots of iron-rich foods in your diet such as red meat, fish, eggs, dried fruit, wholegrain breakfast cereals and breads, and green leafy vegetables should keep your iron levels where they need to be.
Good sources of iron
- Lean meat (make sure it’s well cooked) and oily fish, like sardines
- Leafy vegetables such as spinach
- Dark green vegetables such as broccoli, watercress.
- Nuts, especially cashew nuts
- Beans and pulses such as chick-peas and lentils
- Wholegrains such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and iron-fortified breakfast cereals
- Dried fruits like apricots, prunes and raisins
Vitamin C helps your body to absorb iron
Whether you’re taking it in pill form or tucking into a steak, iron is best absorbed if ingested alongside vitamin C, so wash down your iron-rich meal or supplement with a fresh glass of fruit juice with no added sugar, or eat fresh fruit with or after your meal.
However, you should avoid drinking tea or coffee within an hour of your meal as they actually reduce iron absorption.
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