Foods To Improve Anemia During Pregnancy & Postpartum

Pregnancy causes an increase in blood volume, which can result in anemia. This condition occurs when there’s lower-than-average production of red blood cells in the body, often due to low iron. This prevents enough oxygen-rich blood from circulating around the body. Some estimates say that up to 52% of pregnant women in developing countries have iron deficiency.

Anemia can also occur during early postpartum, as it’s common for iron reserves to be low after giving birth. One study found that anemia affects up to 27% of women postpartum.

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This is a serious condition. Anemia has been linked to prenatal complications like premature birth and low birth weight, and increases the risk of postpartum depression. It’s also potentially fatal if left untreated, as the lack of oxygen can cause organ damage and failure.

One of the easiest ways to treat (and prevent) anemia is through diet. Eating a diet rich in iron can help improve red blood cell production and thus oxygen circulation, reducing anemia symptoms. Here are the best foods to eat to combat pregnancy and postpartum anemia.


20 Spinach

Spinach is a relatively easy-to-access vegetable that’s high in iron. It can be easily blended into your meals, whether it’s a salad, omelet, or smoothie. Try to eat a handful or two a day to combat the symptoms of anemia.

19 Curly Kale

Another easy green to add to an anemia-fighting diet is curly kale, which is rich in iron. It can be used in similar ways to spinach.

18 Swiss Chard

It’s less popular, but Swiss chard is another green that’s similar to spinach and curly kale. It’s high in iron and can be incorporated into a variety of different recipes.

17 Watercress

Watercress is an iron-rich vegetable that belongs to the cabbage family. Most people throw this green into a salad; be sure to remove the stem if eating it uncooked.

16 Citrus Fruits

For something sweet, choose a citrus fruit. They’re high in vitamin C, which helps the body absorb iron and fight the symptoms of anemia. Citrus fruits include lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes, and clementines.

15 Peppers

Not only are red and yellow peppers a good source of iron, but they’re also high in vitamin C, which promotes the absorption of iron. Add some peppers to the side of your dinner or eat them raw with a bit of hummus.

14 Broccoli

Broccoli is another iron-rich vegetable. Consider having a serving at dinner or eating a handful of uncooked broccoli with a dip. It also contains 112% of the daily value of vitamin C, which will help absorb iron.

13 Quinoa

Switch rice for quinoa to easily increase your iron intake. This is also a great option for people who want to limit or avoid gluten.

12 Pumpkin Seeds

If you like snacking on nuts, choose pumpkin seeds. A one-ounce serving contains 2.5 mg of iron, and it’s an easy snack to bring on the go.

11 Cashews

Cashews are another type of nuts rich in iron. One hundred grams can contain 6.7mg of iron. Consider making a trail mix full of iron-rich nuts.

10 Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds aren’t only high in iron. They’re great for expecting women since they’re loaded with vitamin E, which promotes prenatal health.

9 Shellfish

If you’re a fan of seafood, try shellfish to combat the signs of anemia. It’s high in iron and also promotes healthy cholesterol. However, this is only safe after you’ve given birth. Pregnant women should avoid most seafood, like shellfish.

8 Salmon

Many types of fish aren’t recommended in pregnancy, largely because of their high mercury content. But salmon is an exception. It’s low in mercury, high in omega-3s and rich in iron. Enjoy it during pregnancy and postpartum.

7 Shrimp

Shrimp is another iron-rich seafood that’s okay to eat during pregnancy, albeit in moderation (2 to 3 servings per week). Never eat shrimp raw while expecting.

6 Red Meat

Red meat, like beef and lamb, is one of the highest sources of protein. If you’re going to eat red meat in pregnancy, make sure it’s thoroughly cooked to avoid poisoning.

5 Turkey

Another type of meat that’s good for anemics is turkey. A 100-gram portion contains 1.4 mg of iron, which is 8% of the daily recommended intake.

4 Legumes

Legumes – such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, and soybeans – are high in iron. They’re often used as a protein substitute for meat by vegetarians.

3 Organ Meats

If you’re more adventurous, consider trying organ meats, like liver, kidneys, brain, and heart, which are rich sources of iron. However, organ meats should be limited in pregnancy; speak to a doctor for specific guidelines.

2 Tofu

If you’re a lover of tofu, then you’re in luck. A 126-gram serving contains 3.4 milligrams of iron. There are plenty of ways to serve tofu, so try out a few recipes to find your preference.

1 Dark Chocolate

Finally, for an anemia-friendly dessert, consider eating a piece of dark chocolate. A 28-gram serving has an average of 3.4 milligrams of iron and is also high in copper and magnesium.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, BMC, The Whole U, Healthline,

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