Iron: essential for pregnant women

Iron, along with calcium, is an important part of a mother-to-be’s diet. Our explanations to better understand the benefits of this mineral and our tips for consuming it properly.

Iron requirements increase during pregnancy. It is a trace element essential for the good health of the mother and the unborn baby. A distinction is made between heme iron, present exclusively in animal flesh, and non-heme iron (or metallic iron), present in most foods, regardless of the origin, animal, or plant.

Why is iron essential for a future mother?

Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin. As such, it ensures the transport of oxygen to vital organs. Pregnancy actually induces an increase in the blood mass which must also be oxygenated. It is therefore easy to understand that the iron requirements are greater: 16 mg/day for pregnant women, against 11 to 13 mg/day for the adult population, according to ANSES (source 1).

This trace element is important both for the mother and for the growth of the fetus. If you don’t have enough iron for your unborn baby, she will get what she needs from your supplies. Result: You may be anemic (decrease in hemoglobin in red blood cells), pale, tired, and short of breath.

Did you also know that getting the right iron intake will help you get great quality sleep and high morale during pregnancy? Iron indeed influences the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, also called “the pleasure molecule”.

Is iron also important while breastfeeding?

Yes. Babies, even if they have stored iron reserves before birth, are in great need of it, especially in their first months of life. This trace element is very well transmitted and assimilated by breast milk.

The iron needs of breastfeeding women are also 16 mg per day, according to ANSES (source 1). Iron deficiency in an infant can cause trouble sleeping or loss of appetite.

Which foods are richest in iron?

Contrary to popular belief that places spinach at the top of the foods containing the most iron, we must first give preference to red meat (beef, horse, blood sausage, duck, etc.) and fish (sardines, tuna, mackerel).

Be aware that eggs have an iron that is not well absorbed by the body. They say he’s not “heme.” Otherwise, you will find iron in seafood, mainly clams, and oysters.

As a reminder, do not consume raw meat, fish, or shellfish during pregnancy. They are allowed as long as they are well cooked.

Consider sprinkling your salads or soups with wheat germ. Also, use brewer’s yeast for your pie crusts or homemade bread.

What advice should be followed to properly assimilate iron?

Iron from animal sources (heme) is better absorbed than iron from plant sources. However, non-heme iron (dried fruits, eggs, chocolate) is absorbed better when you add a portion of food rich in vitamin C. For example: after a lentil salad, eat a kiwi for dessert. Or add lemon juice or parsley to your seasoning.

Finally, opt for the consumption of whole cane sugar, which you will find in the health section, to sweeten your hot drinks or yogurts.