Iron-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating During Pregnancy

Battle anemia in pregnancy with your diet

kale salad
Harald Walker/Stocksy United

If you have been diagnosed with low iron or anemia in your pregnancy, you are not alone. Because of the increased demands on your body and the increase in blood volume, anemia is a very common condition in pregnancy. However, low iron means that you may feel tired, have headaches, get dizzy, and have other symptoms of anemia. By eating iron-rich foods, you can help prevent or combat anemia in pregnancy and postpartum.

Foods to Eat When Trying to Increase Iron in Pregnancy

  • dark, leafy greens (spinach, collard greens, kale, etc.)
  • dried fruit (apricots, prunes, raisins, figs)
  • beans
  • eggs (yolk)
  • black strap molasses
  • meat (red meat, liver, etc.)
  • fortified cereals and grains

These foods can be very helpful in preventing and alleviating not only the symptoms of anemia, but anemia. The benefit of getting your iron from food is that you can typically absorb it better than pills and other supplements. It also does not cause the intestinal distress that some medications may cause.

The easiest way is to try to incorporate a few of these foods every day. For example, do you eat a salad with iceberg lettuce? Consider switching to a base of baby spinach or mixed leafy greens. Need a pick-me-up snack in the afternoon? Think about a couple of dried apricots. Adding a couple of prunes with your breakfast is also helpful. You could sprinkle prunes or raisins on to your oatmeal or add it to your trail mix.

You can also eat bean burritos at least once a week—it's cheap, easy, and good for you. All of these simple ways to increase your iron intake can be helpful at reducing your risk of getting anemia and/or help if you have already been diagnosed. If your doctor or midwife doesn't have a good working knowledge or nutritional help, ask for a referral to a nutritionist.

A simple one-on-one visit might be all that you need to get back on track.

What If I'm a Vegetarian or a Carnivore?

Being a vegetarian in pregnancy is perfectly fine. You do not have to eat meat to increase your iron intake. Though, if you like meat and want to add it or add more of it to your diet, consider eating more red meat. The caveat here is that you should never order your steak or other meats rare in pregnancy. That can increase your risk of trichinellosis.

Tips to Increase Iron Intake and Absorption 

You can also increase the amount of iron your body absorbs by eating your iron-rich foods with vitamin C. However, you should avoid calcium when eating iron-rich food or taking iron supplements because it can decrease absorption. Many foods you eat, like grains and cereals, have also been fortified with added iron. Check for these when doing your grocery shopping.

Taking Supplements for Anemia

Your midwife or doctor will usually screen for anemia early in your pregnancy and again between 24-28 weeks. If you are anemic, it is also important to note that you may be asked to take a supplement in addition to your prenatal vitamin. Or you may be asked to switch which type of prenatal vitamin you are taking.

Your practitioner can help you decide what is best for your case of anemia.

Many of the supplements can make you feel constipated or your bowels feel sluggish. This is certainly something to talk to your doctor or midwife about because then you may need a different dosage or a different supplement. Not everyone responds well to supplements, which makes the nutritional case very important. Do not hesitate to try a variety of supplements, including some of the liquid variety until you find one that works for you.


Anemia. March of Dimes. Updated December 2013.

Trichinellosis FAQ. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated August 2012.