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Eating Right When Pregnant

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Why Do I Need More Iron During Pregnancy?

Iron is a mineral that makes up an important part of hemoglobin, the substance in blood that carries oxygen throughout the body. Iron also carries oxygen in muscles, helping them function properly. Iron helps increase your resistance to stress and disease.

The body absorbs iron more efficiently during pregnancy; therefore, it is important to consume more iron while you are pregnant to ensure that you and your baby are getting enough oxygen. Iron will also help you avoid symptoms of tiredness, weakness, irritability, and depression.

Following a balanced diet and including foods high in iron can help ensure that you are consuming enough iron throughout your pregnancy. In addition, the following guidelines will help:

  • The U.S. RDA for iron is 27 mg per day for pregnant women and 15 mg for breastfeeding women.
  • Eating at least three servings of iron-rich foods a day will help ensure that you are getting 30 mg of iron in your daily diet. One of the best ways to get iron from your diet is to consume a highly fortified breakfast cereal such as Total, which has 18 mg of iron. Note that iron intake is not equal to iron absorption. Absorption of iron into the body is greatest with meat sources of iron such as liver.
  • The best sources of iron include enriched grain products, lean meat, poultry, fish, and leafy green vegetables.

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, Brussels 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 deficiencyanemia 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.

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