Friday, October 2, 2020

How To Improve Iron Absorption For Pregnancy


by Parisa Wang, Nutritionist


After the initial excitement or shock of seeing a positive pregnancy test, how many of us are aware that mom’s nutritional foundation sets up the future health of our babies. Pregnancy nutrition matters for baby and mum as it:

  • Supports skeletal development
  • Supports brain development
  • Reduces risk of birth defects
  • Prevents low birth weight
  • Reduces preterm delivery
  • Reduces risk of gestational diabetes
  • Reduces risk of obesity later in life
  • Reduces risk of chronic disease later in life
  • Decreases nausea and other symptoms associated with pregnancy
  • Decreases unnecessary weight gain

When you are pregnant, eating the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, as well as micro-nutrients like iron, folate, calcium, and vitamin D is crucial!

The average female adult requires between 10 and 18 mg of iron a day. During pregnancy, Iron needs are increased by 1.5 times. This increase can be even higher and even higher for vegetarians. The increase need for iron is because of the large increase in red blood cell production which is necessary to support the growth and development of baby, and the placenta. Low iron is linked to preterm delivery, low birth weight, and impairs the mother’s thyroid function. However, everyone’s iron needs can be variable depending on their constitution, their iron level at the time of getting pregnant, how many pregnancies have had, how close together they have been and the symptoms that they have during pregnancy.

The symptoms that you may experience during pregnancy that are associated with iron deficiency include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn


Food Sources of Iron

It’s always best to get your nutrients from food first.

Iron can be found in animal foods that originally contained hemoglobin, such as red meats, fish, and poultry (meat, poultry, and seafood contain both heme and non-heme iron). Your body absorbs the most iron from heme source. Iron from animal foods have the highest absorption rate and bioavailability. The amount of iron in animal foods include:
  • chicken liver (12.8 mg / 100 gm)
  • beef liver (6.2 mg / 100 gm)
  • ground beef, 75% lean (2.36mg/100 g)
  • turkey, dark meat (2.30mg/100g)
  • lamb, shank (2.11mg/100 g)
  • haddock (1.35mg/100 g)
  • halibut (1.07mg/100 g)
Even though if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, don’t worry. Iron can be found in grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds as well. Vegetarian food sources of iron contain non-heme iron, which takes a little longer time to convert in your body.  The amount of iron in vegetarian sources includes:
  • lentils (6.6 mg/ cup)
  • soybeans (8.8 mg / cup)
  • dates (1.8 mg / cup)
  • spinach, boiled (6.43mg/cup)
  • olives (4.44mg/cup)
  • shiitake mushrooms (3.59mg/cup)
  • brussel sprouts, boiled (1.87mg/cup)
  • broccoli, steamed (1.37mg/cup)
Iron is a key aspect to healthy pregnancy, but there are other nutrients that are also important. Working with a nutritionist during this important time of your life will help you: 
  • Optimize your nutrition
  • Understand whether you’re getting enough iron and other nutrients in your diet
  • Ensure that your weight gain is optimal – not too little; not too much
  • Relieve fatigue and other iron deficiency symptoms
As a nutritionist, I can assist you in figuring out how to balance your overall nutrition levels, and provide you with individualized, personalized, customized nutrition plans. 

To book an appointment, call the Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic at 905-940-2727

References:

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/iron/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/basics/healthy-pregnancy