vegan pregnancy
Motherhood | Nutrition

Iron Rich Foods + Bump Update

March 17, 2016

Greens do the body good. Really they do. Oh and they are awesome for iron! Iron is an essential nutrient for the body and I will cover the whys and what nots in this blog. It is important for man, woman, child, pregnant mama, baby on board and even dogs. Even though I will be mainly talking about pregnancy in this blog the information can still be applied to anyone as it is a very important nutrient that will do the body good.

Pre-pregnancy I had my full blood work done which included red blood cells, white blood cells, vitamin B12, iron, folate and bone profile (including calcium). I was intrigued to see how a plant based high carbohydrate vegan diet was going for my body, it turns out incredibly well as everything was in a very healthy normal range. Plus, I wanted to monitor how all of these would be affected during my pregnancy. In the early weeks of pregnancy I had iron levels checked again and they were still healthy. And again I was checked at 28 weeks for my iron levels, red blood cells and white blood cells. Everything was all healthy and normal. In fact I’ve increased my iron levels a tad during pregnancy compared to my pre-pregnancy even when it was healthy. So it turns out iron levels do not have to drop when pregnant and you DO NOT need to supplement with an iron tablet. I haven’t taken any supplements aside from vitamin B12 during pregnancy as this is one nutrient that really can reduce, whether vegan or not. I have focused on MORE iron rich foods since being pregnant and clearly it is doing the trick. I honestly do believe a plant based diet is the key to keep all blood work at a healthy range. And eating all the plants ensuring a good variety of nutrients are included will help to keep mama and baby healthy. It’s easy to get a host of nutrients such as folate, iron, calcium, vitamins A and C, fibre, magnesium and potassium into the diet when eating a good mix of raw fruits and veggies with some cooked starches and healthy fats. Easy peasy. No iron, folic acid or multivitamin supplements required. Eat PLENTY of the plants. Stay away from acidic foods aka animal products (meat, fish, dairy and eggs), a steak is not the answer to increasing iron. Instead say hello to kale, broccoli and oranges!!!

vegan pregnancy

The Benefits of Iron

Iron is as important for your health as many other nutrients such as fibre, calcium and vitamin C. It is an essential mineral and is a component of haemoglobin, the pigment in blood that carries oxygen throughout the body. All of the tissues in our body need a good supply of oxygen to maintain life, so it is important to have plenty of iron running through the body to help the red blood cells transport the oxygen.

Iron also supports energy production as it helps the metabolism for muscles and other active organs. Our body burns calories to create energy through a process that requires iron, so when iron levels become low it can result in fatigue. Iron deficiency anaemia is a common disorder, especially in women, and is associated with fatigue, weakness, light-headedness and shortness of breath.

Iron During Pregnancy

Running low on iron during pregnancy can make you feel like you’re running on empty. It is a common symptom of some pregnant women to experience fatigue when carrying and building a little one. I have not experienced any long bouts of major fatigue during this pregnancy to date and I pin this down to my diet and lifestyle. As I write this I am 31 weeks pregnant and have felt fantastic with energy throughout, on top of my blood results being healthy from pre-pregnancy to present date.

The need for iron when pregnant greatly increases due to the extra volume of blood pumping around the body and providing extra red blood cells and oxygen to the growing baby. To avoid fatigue, anaemia and low levels of iron it is important to look after yourself to keep mama and baby healthy throughout this incredible journey. The key to doing this is through nutrition, and then of course taking care of yourself with a healthy attitude to rest and being mindful of what your body can do through these changes.

Increase Iron Intake

When eating a diet abundant in fruits and vegetables you will automatically be eating a lot of vitamin C. Eating foods with high levels of vitamin C can enhance the availability of non-heme iron (plantbased iron). Therefore, eating fruits and vegetables along with the iron-rich foods will enhance the absorption of iron. It’s a win-win situation, eat plenty of oranges, broccoli, spinach and tomatoes and your body will be full of vitamin C and iron, reaping the rewards for a stronger immunity and plenty of energy.

vegan pregnancy

vegan pregnancy

vegan pregnancy

vegan pregnancy

vegan pregnancy

Iron Rich Foods

  1. Blackstrap molasses
  2. Spinach
  3. Pak choi
  4. Kale
  5. Broccoli
  6. Rocket
  7. Lettuce
  8. Basil
  9. Parsley
  10. Other dark leafy greens (swiss chard, beetroot greens, collard greens etc)
  11. Tomatoes
  12. Beetroot
  13. Olives
  14. Sesame seeds/tahini
  15. Pumpkin seeds
  16. Beans (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans etc)
  17. Lentils

For those of you interested in this fruity mama’s pregnancy journey, as mentioned I am currently 31 weeks pregnant and feeling fantastic. I have no complaints about this journey and have felt incredible to date. As mentioned in my last bump update blog the only “issues” I had were itchy shins and a weak hip during the second trimester, however those two issues are clearing up and almost fully healed. I am not experiencing, or experienced, any of those common major pregnancy symptoms that I’ve heard and read about. I honestly put this down to my diet, mindset and lifestyle.

25 weeks pregnant vegan

25 weeks pregnant!

30 weeks pregnant vegan

30 weeks pregnant with baby duckling!

Exercise: I am still walking the dogs every day and my usual pace is almost back to normal now that the hip and hamstring are nearly back to normal. I love walking, especially with my fur boys, and it has been such great exercise whilst pregnant for both mind and body. It’s a great way to connect with the baby (aka talking nonsense to the bump). I am doing prenatal yoga once a week which feels fantastic and is again another fab way to connect with baby. Also, I am doing exercises on the birth ball 3 times a week which have been great for the hips, legs and pelvic muscles.

Food: Still eating my usual way (plantbased vegan, high carb, high raw and high calories) and feeling amazing. Since hitting the third trimester I noticed I naturally started eating a little more than my usual amount of food, which equates to about 300 extra calories than my normal. I haven’t had any weird cravings. I am eating lots of fresh juicy fruit, big salads, bowls of banana nicecream, raw vegetables, medjool dates, pasta (gluten free), broccoli and avocado. I am loving the food and have a fantastic appetite!

Health: No major pregnancy symptoms. Energy is great, blood results are great, urine samples are great, blood pressure is healthy, appetite is super and sleep is good most nights (10+ hours in bed seems the norm these days and I’m taking full advantage until baby arrives).

Overall: I am loving every second of being pregnant and cherishing every moment of this crazy magical journey. I am beyond excited and happy to know that my little fruity baby duckling will be arriving soon. Going by what is classed as full term for a healthy baby from 37 to 42 weeks (even 43 weeks in some cases), little one could arrive in the next 6 to 11 weeks. Eeeeeeeek!!!!!!

Check out my first trimester update and my latest video update of my second trimester.