Iron Requirements During Pregnancy: Plants-based Foods You Can Vouch For

The nutritional demands of the body are increased during pregnancy. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it works out to about 340 extra calories per day in the second trimester and about 450 extra calories during the third. However, if you are following a plant-based diet, your family, friends and even your health care provider may express concern.

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Although a plant-based diet can easily meet the demands of you and your growing baby, pregnant women do need adequate iron intake. Some of the iron requirement is due to the manufacture of red blood cells in the growing baby but most of it, is needed to support the expansion of mother’s blood volume during pregnancy. Insufficient iron intake can give rise to iron deficiency anaemia, which may hamper the growth and the development of the baby. Most health care professionals recommend iron supplements to all pregnant women irrespective of the diet they consume.

Quick tips for meeting the extra iron requirements while consuming a plant-based diet:
1) Eat generous amounts of iron rich foods– Some plant food sources of iron include whole grains, enriched cereals, dark chocolate, dried beans, tofu, cashews, potatoes, and green leafy vegetables.

2) Have a daily dose of Vitamin C– Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron. Hence, a combination of vitamin C rich foods and iron-rich foods promotes better absorption of the iron by the body. Lemons, citrus fruits are the best source of Vitamin C. It is best to have them along with the meals. They also help in combatting morning sickness.

3) Ensure you get enough iron– The recommended quantities are-
Pregnancy: 27 mg/d
Lactation: 14-18 years: 10 mg/d; 19-50 years: 9 mg/d

4) Foods to include in your daily diet
Include these foods in your diet daily, to ensure that you get enough iron for the optima growth and development of your unborn child, as well as for meeting your own body needs.
a)Tofu
b)Legumes (lentils, dried peas and beans)
c)Wholegrain cereals (in particular, iron-fortified breakfast cereals)
d)Green vegetables such as broccoli or Asian greens
e)Nuts, especially cashews
f)Dried fruits such as apricots
g)Seeds such as sunflower seeds or products such as tahini

Also, to improve your iron absorption, combine iron-rich plant foods with foods that are rich in vitamin C.

Any fruit or vegetable will supply some vitamin C, but good sources include:
a)Citrus fruits
b)Kiwi fruit
c)Strawberries
d)Tomatoes
e)Capsicum
f)Broccoli
g)Cabbage
h)Spinach

Pregnant women on plant-based diet can consume adequate iron to meet their daily needs by eating a diet that includes a wide variety of plant foods, especially those rich in iron. It is also important to reduce the risk of low iron levels by eating foods that enhance iron absorption, such as those that are good sources of vitamin C, at the same time.

References:
Snow, Denise JD, CNM, , The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: May/June 2018 – Volume 43 – Issue 3 – p 173 doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000425

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