From heartburn, sleepless nights and leg cramps to managing your hunger levels and preventing dehydration in your third trimester, here are some tips on how to combat the most common pregnancy complaints as you head into the home stretch!
Here are 5 things I wished I packed in my hospital bag the first time I gave birth. Now that I'm packing my hospital bag for my second birth, I am definitely packing these 5 things that are going to make my life a little easier (and more comfortable!).
Most pregnant women will experience heartburn at some stage of their pregnancy – especially in their third trimester when baby is taking up more space and putting more pressure on your stomach.
Why do you get heartburn?
Heartburn is the process of stomach acid going back up your esophagus and giving you a “burning” sensation. Stomach acid is normal. We need it to break down food and to fight bacteria in our food. However, during pregnancy, the hormone progesterone slows down our digestion and loosens the opening between our stomach and our esophagus. This slowing down and loosening of your digestive tract is why stomach acid can go back the wrong way, especially in the third trimester when your baby is taking up more space and putting more pressure on your intestines and stomach.
What can you do?
Here are 5 natural tips and tricks to prevent heartburn.
1. Eat smaller meals
Now that I’m in my third trimester, I’m almost guaranteed to get heartburn if I eat too large a meal. Instead, I try to eat slowly (chewing also helps prevent heartburn) until I feel full but not stuffed.If I haven’t finished my meal, I set it aside and come back to it in an hour or two when I’m hungry again. Eating smaller meals but more frequently seems to be the trick to preventing heartburn.
2. Don’t eat too late
Just like eating a large meal, if I eat too close to my bedtime, I’m guaranteed to get heartburn. I’ve had to change my dinner time to early evening, and then have a small snack of non-acidic foods if I’m still hungry closer to my bed time (see below for some snack ideas).
3. Lie on your left-side
If you have to lie down shortly after a meal, lie on your left-side. Not only is this better for your circulation (and a good way to prevent varicose veins), but it also reduces the likelihood of heartburn. The opening between your stomach and your esophagus is on the right-hand side of your stomach. So, if you’re lying on your right, it’s much easier for stomach acid to go back up your esophagus and give you heartburn. If I have to lie down, I lie on my left-hand side and prop myself up with pillows so my heart is higher than my stomach. It works a charm.
4. Avoid acidic foods
Acidic foods can trigger heartburn or make it worse. What are the worse culprits? Citrus fruits and tomatoes. I try and avoid these from late afternoon onwards. Fried foods also sit in your stomach for longer, increasing your chance of heartburn, so be mindful of this if you’re going to have to sit or lie down shortly after you have fried foods.
5. Have alkaline snacks
Just like acidic foods can trigger heartburn, alkaline foods can help prevent it. If you’re going to have a just-before-bed snack, here are your best options:
· Brown rice
· Raw almonds or almond milk
I personally love having a banana with a glass of unsweetened almond milk as a late night (or middle of the night) snack. Alternatively, try a small bowl of oatmeal with some sliced banana or try my banana oatmeal and raisin muffins that are perfect for an any-time-of-day snack.
Happy (heartburn-free) eating!
Whether you have been pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, most women fear how their body will change during and after carrying a child. It’s a monumental life-changing event in so many ways. Naturally, most women will look different post-baby (after all, the body is bringing a new life into this world!). Our society has done a great job of feeding the message that pregnancy “ruins” a woman’s body. There’s an obsession with celebs (and even regular folk) who’ve “bounced back” to their pre-pregnancy bodies and look like they haven’t had kids at all. Gossip magazines used to be the worst offenders, and now our Instagram feeds are joining the fun.
I didn’t realize just how much society’s idea of perfection was affecting me until my first pregnancy, two years ago. In my childhood and adolescent years, I had subconsciously learned to find love and acceptance by looking a certain way and keeping up with the expectations of others. When I became pregnant, these old image demands re-surfaced, and all the unknowns of pregnancy shook me. Would I gain weight that I would then spend my whole life trying to lose? Would I have stretch marks? Acne? Varicose veins? I dreaded the process of getting bigger. All the subliminal messages about women no longer being attractive after having babies started to morph into fears about my husband not liking my look and then altogether not being beautiful. I began acting irrationally in my marriage (convinced he no longer loved me) and I wasn’t enjoying the miracle of being pregnant and becoming a mother.
A few weeks into my second trimester, I had to be honest with the fears I hadn’t addressed in the first stage of my pregnancy. By not facing my issues, they were robbing me of joy and eroding the trust and love that once defined my marriage. I had to make a stand and defend the self-worth for which I had spent so many years fighting. I prayed and journaled. I spent time reflecting on the honor it was to grow life inside of me. I stopped watching shows on husbands cheating on their wives because that fed my fear that my husband would no longer find me attractive. I chose to put down the magazines and books that portrayed pregnant women as unattractive or spoke of them as if they were half the women they were before having children. I deleted Instagram accounts that made me feel inferior because I didn’t have the same body type. I meditated on affirmations about my inherent worth. I learned to accept my husband’s unconditional love for me and not conjure up scenarios in my head. I surrounded myself with positive images of powerful pregnant women who are confident and radiant in their skin, even with baby weight and stretch marks. I read about those who were happy and secure after having babies. I dare say, women who felt even more beautiful.
Maybe for you, it’s not the process of pregnancy but something else that’s made you realize society has wreaked havoc on your body image. Perhaps enough is enough, and you’re done dealing with the pressure of living up to the “perfect” body. Whatever it may be, I encourage you to sit and be real with those feelings and have a look at what’s feeding the fear and insecurity. Is it your Instagram feed? Is it that friend or boyfriend that comments about your weight? Is it certain TV shows or magazines that place an expectation on you to look a set way? Is it something more profound like a childhood experience or a relationship that tied your worth to your appearance?
As hard and as painful as it was, I’m so grateful I got a chance to confront my feelings so I could be at peace with who I am, pregnant or not. It didn’t happen overnight, but I started to love carrying a child and how I looked. I embraced the journey instead of resisting it, and the fear of the unknown began to have less of a hold on me. Now, two years later, I am pregnant again with our second child. I can honestly say that I am happier and more confident about my body than I ever have been. Sure, it’s not exactly the same as it was before I had my son, but the great thing is, I’m 100% at peace with that. I don’t feel the pressure that I once put on myself to look a certain way.
I’ve found a deep love for my body, and it’s the most liberating feeling to value it for its strength, tenacity, and ability to bring life into this world. Its worth doesn’t come from being a certain size or weight or whether it has stretch marks or not. Despite what society tells me, that’s not what brings me true happiness at all.
Written for Iridescent Women: https://iridescentwomen.com/2018/08/28/how-pregnancy-improved-my-body-image/
You’ve probably heard this a million times, but drinking enough water while you’re pregnant is an absolute must. Here are five reasons why and how you can drink more water.
Why you need more
Flush out toxins
Water is essential to flush toxins from your body. Toxins can come from anything including the pesticides in our food or the household cleaners we use to the airborne pollutants from car exhausts that we breathe in on a daily basis.
By drinking enough water, you’ll keep your eliminatory systems functioning at their best. This can mean less constipation and less urinary tract infections (which are annoying, even if you’re not pregnant). Yes, that might mean peeing a little bit more than usual, but hey, you’re pregnant, you’re allowed to pee as much as you want!
Clear your skin
It might sound superficial, but this reason alone keeps me drinking water throughout the day: clear, glowing skin.
Most people don’t know that your skin is your largest eliminatory organ, so one of its functions is to eliminate toxins from our body. If you’re not drinking enough water to ensure those toxins exit our bodies through your wee and poop, they’re going to build up under your skin and skin can look dull and breakout.
Water will also help reduce swelling. It may sound counterintuitive, but your body will try to hold onto more water when you’re dehydrated. Drinking enough water will help prevent swollen ankles and feet.
Protect your baby
In the earlier half of pregnancy, water is needed to help build the placenta which provides nutrients to your baby. In the later stages of pregnancy, water is needed to maintain the size of your baby’s amniotic sac which protects your baby. If you’re dehydrated, the size of the amniotic sac is compromised.
Prevent preterm labor
Dehydration can trigger contractions before you want them and in severe cases, it can lead to preterm labor. In one of my checkups, my OBGYN said that dehydration is the most common reason why pregnant women are admitted into ER for preterm labor. Needless to say, from that appointment on, I was carrying a water bottle with me wherever I went!
What can you do?
· Drink water through a straw. I find that I drink faster when I drink through a straw. Each day, I fill up my mason jar with water and sip at it all day through a straw. It actually works! I drink at least 100 oz of water each day this way.
· Never leave home without a water bottle. Even if its empty, it’s a good habit to carry one. That way it can be refilled as needed and you’re never left thirsty for long.
· Limit your sweetened drinks to prevent dehydration and excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Experiment and find ways to spice up your water. Get a quart-sized mason jar, chop up some lemon, lime, cucumber or mint and keep refilling it with water or seltzer water throughout the day. Add a couple of drops of stevia if you still need a sweet “kick”.
Aim to drink enough water so your pee is pale yellow. Drink more if you exercise or sweat – or if you drink caffeinated beverages.
Signs of dehydration?
If you’re already thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Don’t worry, drink a glass (or two) of water and aim to drink as much as you can for the rest of the day to keep your fluid levels up.
Signs of dehydration also include a headache, dizziness, irritability and fatigue. If you know you’re dehydrated, drink up, rest and take it easy. You’ll be doing yourself - and your baby - a favor.
When it comes to prenatal nutrition, we often think of vitamins like folate and minerals like calcium. Although vitamins and minerals are necessary, protein is a macronutrient that is just as important to support healthy fetal development but does not get discussed too often.
Why do we need protein?
Protein forms the building blocks of every cell in your body. Over 1 million new cells are created every 4 minutes while your baby is in the womb. For that reason, we need to make sure we are consuming enough protein, especially in our second and third trimesters when the focus shifts from organ formation to growth.
Protein is just as important for you, mama, because it will keep you feeling full for longer. Protein is digested more slowly than carbohydrates and it helps prevent spikes in blood sugar (remember, a spike in blood sugar triggers the body to go into fat storage mode). For that reason, I like to have some form of protein in each meal or snack. Even if I have fruit as a snack, I will have a handful of raw almonds to balance my blood sugar levels and to keep me feeling full for longer.
How much do I need?
During our second and third trimesters, your baby will grow at his or her most rapid rate. For this reason, I recommend aiming for 80-100 grams of protein each day.
When we think of protein, the first word that often comes to mind is “meat”. And while meat is an excellent source of protein, it’s not the only place to find it. Nuts, yoghurt, tofu and beans are all forms of protein. Instead of an obsessive checklist, I aim to get 100 grams each day by including plant or animal protein in each meal or snack.
Here’s a quick list of some of the best sources of protein.
Meat (3 oz)*
*As a good estimate, 3 oz is about the size of the palm of your hand.
Beef – 20g
Chicken – 25g
Turkey – 27g
Pork – 21g
Liver – 26g
Salmon – 17 g
Halibut – 26g
Cod – 15g
Shrimp – 19g
1 egg – 6g
Milk (1 cup) – 8g
Cheddar (1 oz) – 7g
Mozzarella (1 oz) – 6g
Cottage cheese (1/2 cup) – 12g
Yoghurt (1 cup) – 10g
Kidney (1/2 cup) – 7g
Garbanzo (1/2 cup) – 6g
Black beans (1/2 cup) – 7g
Almonds (1/4 cup) – 8g
Walnuts (1/4 cup) – 6g
Peanuts (1/4 cup) – 4g
Almond butter (1 tbsp) – 4g
Peanut butter (1 tbsp) – 4g
Tofu (1/2 cup) – 20g
Lentils (1 cup) – 18g
Quinoa (1 cup) – 8g
High-protein snack ideas
Here are some high-protein snack ideas that are more nutritional than high-carb traditional “snacks” like potato chips and pretzels. Packaged snacks are often filled with sugar and “empty calories” that don't have much nutritional benefit for your baby and can attribute to excessive weight gain during pregnancy if you eat them too frequently. Plus, these snacks don’t fill you up for longer than an hour or so, leaving you hungry for more high-carb, high-sugar food as soon as they’re digested.
1. Fruit and nut trail mix
Nuts and seeds are high in protein and are full of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin E and calcium. Instead of being high-sugar trail mixes in stores, you can easily make your own trail mix using raw almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds tossed with golden raisins or dried apples. Walnuts are rich in copper, a mineral that boosts collagen production, while almonds are high in protein and Vitamin E.
Check out my pregnancy superfood trail mix here.
2. Greek yoghurt with berries and chia seeds
Greek yoghurt has twice the protein content of normal yoghurt. Choose unsweetened, plain varieties and naturally sweeten it with berries or chopped banana. Plain yoghurt is best because it doesn’t have added sugars that unnecessarily spike your blood sugar levels. If you can, look for high protein brands like Siigis that have up to 25g of protein per serve compared to 6g in some other brands.
3. Hard-boiled eggs and avocado
This snack is one of my go-tos because eggs are naturally high in protein and low in carbohydrates. They’re also super versatile and you can have them morning, noon or night. I like boiling my eggs for 8-minutes (to make sure they’re cooked through), and then having them on some wholegrain toast or crackers with a few slices of avocado and seat salt. Yum!
Check out my recipe for quick & easy eggs on avocado toast here.
4. Paleo choc chip muffins
When I feel like a sweet snack, these paleo choc chip muffins always hit the spot. Instead of white flour, these muffins are made with almond flour making them higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates than your store-bought muffins. I make a batch over the weekend and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for when I feel like one over the week (sometimes, they don't even last that long!).
Check out my paleo choc chip muffins recipe here.
5. Cheese and wholegrain crackers
Top some wholegrain crackers with cheese for a quick and easy mid-afternoon snack that will keep you full until dinner. If you can, add some avocado for an extra serve of folate and healthy fats. Cottage cheese has about 12g of protein in a half cup serve while 1oz of cheddar or Swiss cheese has about 7g of protein.
Did you know that what you put on your skin is absorbed into your blood stream in less than 27 seconds? That means the ingredients in your skincare products are absorbed into your blood stream at a faster rate than what you eat!
Paraben-free. Sulfate-free. No mineral oil.
You might’ve seen these buzz words scattered over your skincare products. More and more people are becoming aware that these synthetic ingredients could be toxic (and potentially harmful to a developing baby).
Scientific studies are still under way but ingredients like parabens have been linked to some cancers and have been found in breast tumors. Sulfates have a degenerative effect on your body (they break down cell membranes) and have been found in heart, brain and lung tissue. Mineral oil deposits have also been found deep inside the body, and have even been found in the milk samples of nursing mothers. Their link to cancer is still being investigated.
To be honest, I didn’t care too much about what was going on my skin until my first pregnancy. Suddenly, I became aware that everything I ate or drank, everything I put on my skin and everything that I inhaled or surrounded myself with, was somehow being passed onto my baby to some degree.
That’s when I started reading the ingredients on my skincare products and found a cocktail of petrochemicals and parabens I didn’t want to be absorbing.
Why does it matter?
A human being will grow at his or her fastest rate inside the womb. Over 1 million new cells are formed every 4 minutes. All it takes during this phase is an excessive dose of a harmful chemical or toxin and your baby’s development could be at risk.
This is definitely not written to alarm you but to encourage you to be mindful about the products you put on your skin over the 9 months that you are pregnant.
The troubling thing with the beauty industry is that skincare companies aren’t lawfully obligated to list certain chemicals they put their products. In fact, sometimes they don’t even need to list all the ingredients they use. For example, the word “fragrance” on a bottle could mean up 5000 different concoctions including synthetic, preservative, or allergy-provoking substances that you might want to know about.
Plus, some companies intentionally use fragrance to mask the smell of certain chemicals they use so the consumer has no idea just how toxic it really is.
What do I use?
Now, in my second pregnancy, I've discovered fantastic products that are free from synthetic ingredients that could harm my baby’s development. One brand that I’ve discovered is True Botanicals. I love their stuff because they deliver real results and they use only pregnancy-safe ingredients.
In fact, True Botanicals is the first company I’ve come across that has the pregnant woman in mind. They've designed a special range (called the Hydrate collection) and they don’t use anything that pregnant women can’t put onto their skin.
The icing on the cake is that their products actually work. My skin feels softer and has more of an even skin tone in the last 6 weeks that I’ve been using their products. Despite having acne-prone skin and being worried I would break out during this pregnancy, I haven’t had one pimple.
My next concern was anti-ageing and they’ve proved themselves there. Fine lines on my forehead have disappeared in the recent weeks that I’ve used their face oil and serum. My skin feels hydrated and well-nourished. Just this morning, I was told that I look ten years younger than my actual age (I’m not sure how I feel about that) – but hey, I’ll take it!
What can you do?
First up, have a read of the ingredients in your cleansers, toners, serums and moisturizers. Have a look for key words that mean parabens, sulfates and petrochemicals have been used. To make it easier, there’s a quick list below.
Next up, I’d encourage you to look for safer options in whatever products that have more of the synthetic ingredients you don’t want. If price is an issue, swap out one product at a time. Natural skincare is becoming more mainstream so it’s becoming more and more affordable to the average woman. Drug store brands I love include Aveeno and the Nutragena Naturals line.
Try before you buy. If you’re not convinced that natural skincare will work for you, I encourage you to be open minded and try it out first. Some brands like True Botanicals sell samples of their products which you can try out for a few days to see for yourself.
I'd love to hear from you. What are some natural skincare products that you've tried and loved? Feel free to email me or comment below! x
About 9 in 10 women develop stretch marks during pregnancy. Despite all the stretch mark creams available on the market today, experts agree that the determining factor on whether a person gets stretch marks is genetics.
Although genetics play a major role, holistic health practitioners will also say that nutrition can be the determining factor. I have to agree. It would explain the fact that I got faint stretch marks on my hips from a growth spurt during high school but I didn’t get any stretch marks during my first pregnancy with a collagen-rich diet (and I’m working on preventing any during this pregnancy).
How can food help prevent stretch marks?
First up, your skin is an organ that needs specific nutrients to function at its best. Your skin is your body’s largest organ so just like your heart or liver, it needs nutrients to thrive.
The key nutrient for healthy-looking skin is collagen.
Collagen is the main structural protein found in skin and other connective tissue such as bones, joints and ligaments. Without collagen, our skin would be inelastic, i.e., it wouldn’t be able to stretch. That’s why the beauty industry has long-used collagen in anti-ageing serums and moisturizers. Collagen improves our skin elasticity and without it, our skin is prone to wrinkles, sagging and stretch marks.
Improving skin elasticity from the inside out
I’m all about health from the inside out. Healthy skin is a reflection of a healthy diet and lifestyle. By eating more collagen-rich foods we can improve skin elasticity from the inside out. After all, stretch marks are a sign that the skin is not as elastic (or cannot stretch) at the rate it’s being asked to.
As a side note, I still use stretch mark prevention creams, along with good nutrition, to prevent stretch marks. Since your skin is your largest organ (and everything you put on your skin is absorbed into your blood stream within 27 seconds), I've been on the hunt for natural stretch mark creams that actually work. I love ThinkBaby's Best Stretch Mark Creams for Pre and Post-Pregnancy list for natural creams that have been tried and tested on moms who've either used these creams and haven't got stretch marks - or moms who've seen stretch marks fade and disappear after using these creams.
The richest source of collagen is from bone broth. Beef, chicken and fish broth contain collagen from the bones it was cooked from. By slow cooking these bones, collagen is released into the broth. I personally love the taste of broth, so I drink a small bowl of it almost every day. There are a few places around New York you can get broth, but I’ve found that cooking my own is so simple and inexpensive, that I make a batch in the slow cooker almost every weekend.
Broths are also a great base for home-made chicken and noodle or minestrone soups. This is how I sneaked broth into my diet during my first trimester when the thought of broth by itself made me feel ill!
What if you can’t stomach bone broth?
If the thought of drinking bone broth makes you want to gag, try collagen powder. You can add a spoonful in to your sauces, your soups, your smoothies or smoothie bowls for a collagen-boost. Vital Proteins and Dr. Axe have high-quality collagen powders you can order online that are rather taste-neutral and easy to mix into soups, smoothies or even juice or water.
If you can drink bone broth, check out my easy chicken broth recipe that takes only a few minutes to prep and you'll have enough broth to last you a week. In my humble opinion, it’s totally worth the many benefits it can give to your skin and your body (not to mention your baby’s development too).
Air travel can be hard enough without being pregnant. Dry air, dehydration and fatigue are just some of the things that your body already has to deal with when you're not pregnant, let alone while you’re pregnant and your body is more sensitive to these things.
I recently flew from NYC to Sydney… with my 18-month old son… without my husband… and at 11 weeks pregnant (!!!). Understandably, I was dreading the 24-hour flight for many weeks. Was it hard? Yes, definitely. But was it bearable? Strangely, yes. Despite traveling with a toddler (which is a whole other ball game), I felt comfortable for most of the flight because there are things that I’ve learnt to prepare for when I travel pregnant.
If you're going to fly at any point in your pregnancy, here are 7 things to consider first...
If you’re before 28 weeks and don’t have a high-risk pregnancy, you should be in the clear to travel but always check with your doctor to see if it’s safe to fly first. Some airlines request a doctor’s note after 28 weeks pregnant, and others ask for one after 32 weeks, so check with your airline and see if you need a doctor’s note so you don’t get caught out at the airport.
It’s generally not recommended to travel after 36 weeks pregnant because you could go into labor at any time (and if you’re carrying twins, it’s after 34 weeks). If you absolutely have to travel, get your doctor’s clearance first.
The cabin air is about 7% humidity, so it’s very dry. If you’re like me, I get really dry eyes, lips and nasal passages during the flight so I always carry saline eye drops, lip balm and hand moisturizer. A pregnant woman’s skin is naturally more sensitive so definitely pack these essentials to make sure you’re comfortable throughout the flight.
The cabin air is pressurized so you don’t have to worry about oxygen levels during your flight. However, the changes in air pressure when you fly can cause digestive discomfort, even if you’re not pregnant (anyone else gassy after a flight?!). A pregnant woman is naturally more likely to experience gassiness, bloating and constipation because of the extra progesterone in her body, so be mindful of this when you fly. I try and avoid foods that naturally make me bloat before and during the flight. This includes carbonated beverages and chewing gum during the flight because you naturally swallow more air when you chew gum.
Air travel is a dehydrating experience for everyone, let alone pregnant women who need to drink more water because of higher blood volumes and the extra fluid making up the baby’s amniotic sac. I always fill a large bottle of water after I pass through airport security so I always have access to water throughout the flight. During the flight, I only consume water – I avoid coffee, tea and soda because they have a dehydrating effect and are diuretics that make you pee more.
Plane food is pretty horrible, even at the best of times. When you’re pregnant, I would be cautious about pre-prepared salads including fruit salads because they’re more likely to harbor dangerous bacteria called listeria. It’s also best to say no to deli meats in sandwiches or in cheese platters. Instead, opt for cooked vegetables, pasteurized dairy and whole grains while you fly.
Before I travel, I like to eat a hearty meal consisting of high-quality protein such as grilled chicken or salmon, with greens and starchy vegetables such as sweet potato. Protein and complex carbohydrates will keep you full for longer while veggies outside of the brassica family (so, not brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale or cauliflower) won't make you gassy for the flight.
When you’re pregnant, it’s important that you pack snacks that you know you’ll enjoy during the flight. This is especially important if you’re travelling in the earlier half of your pregnancy and might be experiencing nausea. On my flight to Australia, I packed apples, oranges, dried mango, plain saltine crackers and salted potato chips. I knew I could easily eat these snacks without throwing up and they were a lifesaver to stave off the hunger between airline meals.
Dressing for comfort is key, especially for long flights while you’re pregnant. I like to wear loose, breathable pants, a pair of socks, comfy shoes and bring a loose sweater in case it’s cold. Invest in those neck pillows and an eye mask if you’re flying overnight or just in case you want to sleep (because who doesn’t want to sleep a little extra when you’re pregnant?!). Feeling well rested will make all the difference when you get to your destination.
I'd love to hear from you! What are some of the things you can't live with when you travel while pregnant? Are there other things women can do to make themselves more comfortable while they fly?
About 1 in 2 pregnant women suffer from iron-deficiency anemia. Even if you’re not pregnant, iron-deficiency anemia affects about 1 in 20 women due to heavy blood loss during their monthly periods.
For most women who suffer from iron-deficiency anemia, the words “get more iron” are all too familiar. And while there is a role for iron supplements, there’s also a lot you can do with your diet to boost your absorbable iron intake.
What is absorbable iron?
To start with, there are two types of iron and they are both absorbed very differently by your body. There are also foods to avoid because they block your body’s ability to absorb iron and there are foods to eat more of because they increase your body’s ability to absorb iron.
Heme vs non-heme iron
Heme iron is absorbed more effectively by your body. Heme iron is found only in animal meat and the best sources are grass-fed beef, chicken liver, seafood, turkey and chicken (in that order).
Non-heme is found in plants, eggs and dairy products. Your body has to convert non-heme iron into heme iron before it can use it for the production of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is what carries oxygen around in your blood and not having enough of it can cause you to feel tired and fatigued.
It’s good to note that gram for gram, vegetables have a higher concentration of iron, even compared to meat. However, vegetables contain non-heme iron so you have to be more intentional about eating more plant sources of iron to get the same amount of absorbable iron as meat. Despite this, it is still possible to get your recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron from plant sources, especially when eaten with the right foods (check out the next section).
10 foods surprisingly high in iron
1. Spirulina – 1 oz contains 8mg iron (44% RDI)
2. Tofu or tempeh – 6 oz contains 3.6mg iron (20% RDI)
3. Oats – 1 cup, cooked oats contain 3.4 mg iron (19% RDI)
4. Lentils – ½ cup contains 3.3mg iron (20% RDI)
5. Dark chocolate – 1 oz contains 3.3 mg iron (19% RDI)
6. Spinach – ½ cup cooked spinach contains 3.2 mg iron (18% RDI)
7. Potatoes – 1 large, unpeeled potato contains 3.2mg iron (18% RDI)
8. Garbanzo beans or hummus – ½ cup contains 3mg iron (17% RDI)
9. Quinoa – 1 cup, cooked contains 2.8mg iron (16% RDI)
10. Mushrooms – 1 cup, cooked white mushrooms contains 2.7mg iron (15% RDI)
How to increase your iron intake
Did you know that your body is better able to absorb iron when you get foods rich in Vitamin C in the same meal? It might sound strange, but during my first pregnancy I craved burgers and I would eat an orange straight afterwards. I guess it was my body’s way of absorbing more iron! Other foods rich in Vitamin C include bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli and kiwi fruit, so try and include more of these foods into your diet if you’re anemic.
Unlike Vitamin C, caffeine has the opposite effect; it hinders your body’s ability to absorb iron. If you have an iron-rich meal, avoid having a coffee or tea for at least 2 hours. The same applies with taking your prenatal supplement. I try and avoid having a tea for at least 2 hours after I’ve taken my prenatal supplement, so my body’s ability to absorb the iron is increased.