How to get iron in your belly when pregnant!

April 30, 2019
Kirsty Lewis

That moment in pregnancy when you feel like you’ve been hit by a steam train. You’re lying on the floor in a semi-conscious state trying to play with your toddler but dreading the prospect of getting up to make anyone any breakfast. Then the voices in your head start whispering – I thought you were going to workout today!? WORKOUT!? I can’t even get up off the floor. Hang on, I think I have a cold and why on earth does my tongue hurt?
And then you wonder – is this normal?!?!

Nope. And no, you shouldn’t have to live like this, pregnant or not! After 3 weeks of this hell, I knew something wasn’t right.

​First step is to ask your midwife, I did, and it went like this – “I am so crazy tired, is that normal?” “Oh yes, you’re pregnant, you’re growing a human, you need to rest!” To which I respond – “’Please pass that memo onto my toddler!”
And then 6 weeks later at the routine blood screening, “your iron levels are desperately low, how are you surviving the midwife asks!?” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? I’m not! I got my 18-month-old to dress me, feed me and bring me here!  

And then comes the same conversation I’m sure every pregnant woman with low iron gets – you need to take a supplement of 100mg. And by the way, this is really going to hurt your stomach. Ok, sounds great, and how much can your body absorb, just 30mg! So why can’t I take the supplement with 30mg that won’t upset my stomach?

Let’s just skip all this, why can’t I just eat my iron levels up!? Apparently, you need to eat lots of meat. But I don’t eat meat. Well you can’t do it through vegetables alone.

You get the general idea after this shody conversational part of the blog post today!

So here I sit (I’m up off the floor), after extensive research and trial eating and time to pass, you can do it through vegetables, the fruit of the earth, alone! And I am here to tell you how!

Let me just explain quickly. Iron comes in two forms, heme (only found in animal products) and non-heme (only found in plants). Recommended daily intake is around 18mg per day (1) but there are a lot of factors taken into account here. Men and post-menopausal women require only 8mg and this rises to 27mg per day for those of us that find ourselves ‘with child’ (or knocked up if you prefer)! But, non-heme is unfortunately harder for the body to absorb so you need to make sure you are consuming plants with some vitamin C rich foods to help with the absorption (2).  Also, avoid drinking tea and coffee with your meals as this can hinder absorption from 50-90% (3).

What people don’t know is that these plants are crazy powerful, I won’t go crazy with loads of examples, but here’s one for fun. 100grams of spinach contains 1.1 times more iron than the same amount of red meat and 2.2 times same amount of salmon (4).

Here is what you have been waiting for. These are the beauties that are iron rich:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Leafy greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, collards)
  • Potatoes (especially the skins)
  • White and oyster mushrooms
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Nuts: almonds, cashews, pine nuts, macadamias
  • Seeds: Pumpkin, sesame, hemp and flax
  • Chickpeas
  • Black-eyed peas
  • White, Lima and Red kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Soybeans
  • Olives


  • Amaranth
  • Spelt
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Coconut Milk
  • Dark Chocolate (yes you now have an excuse!)

For all you plant eaters out there, this should be a solid list for you to get your teeth into. And good luck, don’t suffer on the floor in silence – reach for the broccoli and you’ll be golden! Have a look at my Instagram or facebook @gotvitality for recipe inspiration and I promise to pack in a lot of iron!

Have a happy and healthy day!