When it comes to eating well, Americans are more likely to get too much of a good thing (e.g., calories, fat) than not enough. But there are a few nutrients I could stand to get more of. One is iron.
Not getting enough of this mineral-and many women are guilty of this-can lead to feeling lethargic and unfocused, since your blood needs iron to transport oxygen to all of your body's cells, including those in your muscles and your brain. Skimping on iron may also be one reason why some women-non smokers-are not able to shake a chronic cough, according to one study I recently discovered.
I don't have a chronic cough, but recently my doctor told me that my iron level was on the low end of normal. I'm about eight months pregnant, and pregnancy increases your iron needs dramatically. She also told me that, since the baby will continue to draw from my iron stores, she expected me to dip down into the anemic range (i.e., a bona fide iron deficiency) over the next couple of months.
If I want to avoid having to take iron supplements, which can be hard to digest, I need to boost my intake of foods rich in iron, like lean beef, chicken, iron-fortified cereals, leafy greens and beans. So I've been "collecting" iron-rich recipes.
Since I'm trying to boost my intake of calcium, too, I've been experimenting with dishes that are good sources of both minerals. Two favorites that fit the bill are:
- EatingWell's Spinach & Roasted Red Pepper Calzones (per serving: 368 calories; 30% DV for iron; 25% DV for calcium)
- Florentine Lasagna Roll-Ups (329 calories; 17% DV for iron; 28% DV for calcium).
By Nicci Micco
Nicci Micco is senior editor of features and nutrition at EatingWell. She has a master's degree in nutrition and food sciences, with a focus in weight management. She's addicted to ice cream and pizza. But she also can't imagine going a week without eating sweet potatoes, salad greens or kidney beans. Kale and beets also rank at the top of her favorite-foods list.
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Video: Watch EatingWell's Healthy in a Minute video to see how to meet increased iron needs during pregnancy.