Medical Q&As

Iron deficiency - vegetarian?

My husband and I are planning to try for a baby in the coming months. I am vegetarian and my doctor has prescribed me iron tablets as well as folic acid and multivitamins. Is this enough to boost my iron levels and ensure I have enough stores to help my baby’s development?

I would advise that you increase your consumption of iron rich food. This would include green vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, sprouts, green beans, peas and spinach. In general terms green vegetables tend to be good sources of iron. Many cereals are fortified with iron so it is a good idea to check the label on your cereal box to ensure that the particular brand you eat is rich in iron. It is also a good idea not to drink tea with your meals and also to reduce your overall consumption of tea. Tea contains tannins, which can reduce the amount of iron being absorbed from your gut. For example, you might be eating a diet that is rich in iron but you might not be getting the full benefit from the iron in your diet because the actual amount being absorbed is reduced by the tannins. Tofu and soy also contain iron and could be included in your diet. The skin of a baked potato also contains iron. I assume that the multivitamins you are taking contain Vitamin C. If the particular preparation you are taking does not contain Vitamin C then switch to one that does. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron from the gut, which is particularly important for vegetarians because iron from plant sources is less readily absorbed than iron from animal sources.