6 Iron-Rich Foods for Pregnant Women

Women need to eat iron-rich foods during their pregnancy. We'll share a list of examples in this article, so take note and include them in your diet!
6 Iron-Rich Foods for Pregnant Women
Saúl Sánchez Arias

Reviewed and approved by the nutritionist Saúl Sánchez Arias.

Last update: 04 November, 2022

Iron-rich foods are essential for pregnant women. In fact, a pregnant woman’s body needs twice as much iron since it is essential for the additional red blood cells that the body creates for the baby. These are responsible for transporting oxygen to organs and tissues, as well as to the fetus.

Certainly, iron is important throughout pregnancy, although it’s even more crucial in the first and third trimesters. This is because your body actually doesn’t produce iron and must get it mainly from food.

There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. The first is found only in animal sources and it is easier for the body to absorb. On the other hand, non-heme iron is found in plants, iron-fortified foods and supplements.

Also, red meat, poultry and fish are some of the best sources of iron. If your diet doesn’t include animal protein, you can get iron from legumes, vegetables and cereals.

Why Do You Need Iron During Pregnancy?

Here are some reasons why you need iron during pregnancy:

  • It’s essential to make hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells.
  • Iron is an important component of myoglobin, collagen and many enzymes.
  • It helps maintain a healthy immune system.
  • The amount of blood in your body increases during pregnancy, until you have almost 50% more blood than normal. Consequently, additional iron is needed to produce more hemoglobin.
  • Additional iron is needed for the growing baby and the placenta, especially in the second and third trimesters.
  • Anemia during pregnancy is associated with preterm birth and low birth weight.
6 Iron-Rich Foods for Pregnant Women

6 Iron-Rich Foods for Pregnant Women

To treat iron deficiency naturally during pregnancy, here are some food options:

1. Nuts

Nuts provide an incredible source of non-heme iron, as they help to increase levels in the body easily and efficiently. Pistachios, cashews, pine nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, toasted almonds and apricot nuts are some of the best sources of iron you can find in the market.

2. Spinach

Spinach is one of the most nutritious vegetables. It’s loaded with non-heme iron and many other essential nutrients for health. As one of the main vegetable sources of iron, spinach is delicious raw or cooked.

3. Sardines

Sardines are probably best known for their high concentration of omega-3 and vitamin D. However, they also provide an important source of heme iron.

“It is essential to make hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells.”

4. Dark Chocolate

When you buy high quality dark chocolate, not only do you satisfy your cravings, but you also give your body a significant dose of non-heme iron. In addition, it contains other nutritional components such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. It’s a perfect and delicious healthy dessert option!

5. Lentils

Lentils are one of the foods most popularly known for their extra contribution of iron. This  type of legume has a really impressive amount of non-heme iron.

In addition to its high supply of nutrients, it’s a very economical, versatile and fundamental food for good physical and mental development.

6 Iron-Rich Foods for Pregnant Women

6. Spirulina

Spirulina is one of the foods rich in iron for pregnant women that shouldn’t go unnoticed. It’s a greenish algae known for its intense flavor and its powerful nutritional profile.

When it comes to non-heme vegetarian iron sources, spirulina is undoubtedly one of the most outstanding. In addition, it’s also rich in essential amino acids, proteins, and vitamins B, C, D and E.

Finally, remember that iron is an important mineral to include in your pregnancy diet. Therefore, don’t forget that iron-rich foods for pregnant women are compatible with the baby’s developing brain and help maintain a healthy supply of oxygen in the blood.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • He H., Qiao Y, Zhang Z., Wu Z., et al., Dual action of vitamin C in iron supplement therapeutics for iron deficiency anemia: prevention of liver damage induced by iron overload. Food Func, 2018. 9 (10): 5390-5401.
  • Ried K., Fakleer P., Stocks NP., Effect of cocoa on blood pressure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2017.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.