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(Fe)eding Pregnancy : The Importance of Iron in Diet - Sophie Umansky & Keerthi Padmanabhan

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

For your overall health, it is vital to incorporate nutrients and minerals into your diet, and even more so during pregnancy. Pregnant women need to provide nutrition not only for themselves, but also for the growing fetus inside them. A major component of those nutrients is iron, and most pregnant women require at least 27 milligrams of it. Iron is used by the body for the production of red blood cells. During pregnancy, a woman’s blood supply can increase up to 50%, thus requiring more iron in the bloodstream to make more red blood cells. Oftentimes, however, many pregnant women are not able to receive enough iron, leading to fatigue, mood changes, and other alterations to their day to day activities, in addition to possible complications with the pregnancy such as low birth weight and preterm labor.

It is a common misconception that iron is solely found in meat products. As a matter of fact, there are two types of iron: heme and nonheme iron. The former is found in animal products such as red meat, chicken, and fish, and is easily absorbed by the body, while the latter is found in beans, lentils, vegetables and grains and takes longer for the body to absorb and use. Some plant based sources of iron include spinach, kale, broccoli, chickpeas, and quinoa. Since nonheme iron is not as easily absorbed by the body, foods high in vitamin C can help break down and absorb the iron into the bloodstream, especially for those who don’t eat meat and rely solely on grains and greens for their iron intake.

Incorporating higher levels of iron into your daily diet during pregnancy can seem challenging, but there are many creative ways one can get these nutrients while enjoying a delicious meal, regardless of dietary restrictions.

This delicious bowl of spinach fettuccine with chicken and sauteed greens provides a healthy dose of iron along with many other nutrients and necessary food groups.


  • ¼ lb spinach fettuccine

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

  • ½ lb boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, thinly sliced

  • 1 large shallot, minced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

  • ¾ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

  • 6 oz baby spinach leaves or 1 medium bunch spinach, washed, drained, and trimmed

  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Salt and pepper


  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.

  2. Meanwhile, warm oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook 5 minutes, or until light golden and almost cooked through, stirring often. Transfer to plate.

  3. Add shallot to skillet, still over medium heat, and cook 3 minutes, stirring. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds, stirring. Add tomatoes and broth; bring to a simmer and cook 3 minutes, until tomatoes soften and some of the liquid has cooked off. Add spinach and cook 3 minutes, stirring. Return chicken to skillet and cook 1 minute, until cooked through, stirring.

  4. Drain pasta. In serving bowl, toss pasta with chicken sauce and cheese. Serve hot.

Find the original recipe here!

Vegetarian, vegan or just not a meat lover? You can still incorporate iron into your diet with plenty of tasty, plant based recipes. Below, you can find a lunch/dinner recipe for an iron rich diet!


Vegan Green Edamame Spinach Hummus Pesto

  1. 1 3/4 cups cooked edamame beans

  2. 7 ounces fresh spinach

  3. 1 tablespoon tahini

  4. 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  5. 2-3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

  6. 2 spring onions, roughly chopped

  7. 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional, but highly recommended)

  8. 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or a herb of your choice)

  9. Salt and pepper


  1. Cook some pasta of your choice

  2. Mix all the ingredients except the spinach in a blender or food processor. Make it as smooth or as chunky as you like.

  3. Quickly sauté the spinach on medium-high heat until wilted, without oil. Use a tiny bit of water, if needed.

  4. Fold in the spinach in the edamame mix and serve over pasta.

Are you craving something sweet instead? This apple and hazelnut crumble is not only tasty, but hazelnuts are also an excellent source of iron.


  • 8 Granny Smith apples

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • 4 tbs golden caster sugar

  • 1 lemon (juiced)

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 125 g butter (softened)

  • 1 1/3 cup plain flour

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts (roasted,roughly chopped)


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced. Grease an ovenproof dish and set aside.

  2. Peel and core the apples. Place in a saucepan with the cinnamon, caster sugar and lemon juice and stir well. Cook over medium for ten minutes, stirring regularly until the apple pieces have softened but still keep their shape.

  3. To make the crumble, mix the brown sugar, butter and flour together with your fingers, working the ingredients into a fine sand-like mixture (this is a great job for the kids to do). Stir through the hazelnuts.

  4. Pour the apples into a baking dish, top with the crumble mixture and bake for 30 minutes or until the crumble is golden. Serve with ice cream and/or vanilla custard.

The information used in this blog post can be credited towards these resources. Be sure to read them for more information!

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