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Iron and calcium when planning a pregnancy

Eating foods that are rich in iron and calcium can strengthen your bones and help to keep you healthy when you are planning a pregnancy.

Getting enough iron when planning a pregnancy

Try to eat foods that are rich in iron every day. It's best to eat a variety of haem and non-haem sources of iron.

Haem iron is a type of iron that is more easily absorbed by the body. Haem iron is in red meats like beef, lamb, mutton and pork. It should be included in your diet 2 to 3 times a week.

If you do not eat meat, aim to include plenty of non-haem sources of iron in your diet, such as:

  • eggs
  • pulses – beans, peas and lentils
  • green vegetables – spinach and broccoli
  • breakfast cereals with added iron
  • dried fruit – prunes and apricots

Combine these iron-rich foods with foods that are rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, kiwis, peppers and berries. Vitamin C helps your body to absorb and use the iron in your diet.

Avoid tea or coffee around the time you are eating iron-rich foods. They reduce your body's ability to absorb iron.

Calcium in your diet when planning a pregnancy

Calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth. It also helps you manage your blood pressure during pregnancy. Try to eat 3 servings of foods that are rich in calcium each day.

Sources of calcium include:

  • milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy foods
  • green leafy vegetables – such as curly kale, okra and spinach
  • fortified dairy alternatives such as soya drinks with added calcium
  • bread and other products made with flour with added nutrients
  • fish where you eat the bones – such as sardines and pilchards

Page last reviewed: 30 September 2022
Next review due: 30 September 2025