Nutrients and Food for Pregnant Women

Bringing a new life into this world is an exciting experience and one which requires a close look at good nutrients and food for pregnant women and her growing baby. During pregnancy nutrient requirements increase to support women's health and the needs of their growing baby.
As a pregnant woman, you need more nutrients to help your baby grow and be healthy. Particular attention should be given to the following nutrients.
Calciumis one of the essential minerals found all over the body. It strengthens bones, assists with blood clotting, helps with muscle function and breaks down fat.

During pregnancy, the developing baby drains the mother of many resources, including calcium. Your baby needs as much calcium as possible for proper growth and development of bones, muscles and blood clotting abilities. For these essential needs to be met, the baby starts pulling the calcium from your body. Recommendations for calcium during pregnancy and breastfeeding are therefore the same as for non-pregnant women (1000mg per day). The calcium needed by both the mother and baby during pregnancy can be provided by 3 to 4 serves of dairy foods each day. One serve is equal to:

  • A glass of milk (250mL),
  • tub of yogurt (200g), 
  • slices of cheese (40g).
Eating foods that rich in calcium is vital to good health during pregnancy. Eating the right amount of servings per day helps eliminate poor health, increases energy and promotes strong bones and teeth. Some
foods, like cheese, are naturally enriched. Here is a list of foods that are high in calcium:
  • Cheese of any kind
  • Low-fat milk
  • Orange, grapefruit or enriched natural fruit juice
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Turnip greens
  • Ice cream
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Canned tuna and salmon with bones
  • Calcium enriched
    breads, grains and cereal
Folate and folic acid
Folate (also known as folic acid) is a B-group vitamin essential for the healthy development of the fetus in early pregnancy, in particular their neural tube. Women of child-bearing age should take extra folate daily to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Even women who aren’t planning to have a baby should increase their folate intake.Folate taken before conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy can prevent seven out of ten cases of neural tube defects.
Folate requirements increase substantially in pregnancy, so women should aim to consume at least 600 mcg of folate from their normal daily diet. In addition to eating foods that are rich in folate, if you are planning a pregnancy or are in the early stages of pregnancy (the first three months or ‘first trimester’) you should take a daily supplement containing 0.5 mg of folic acid.
You can get enough folate if you:
  • Take folate supplements
  • Eat folate-rich foods – folate is present in a variety of
    vegetables (such as asparagus, spinach and broccoli) and fruits
    (such as oranges, bananas and strawberries) as well as legumes (such
    as chickpeas, dried beans and lentils), cereals, nuts and yeast
    extracts such as Vegemite
  • Choose foods that
    have been fortified with folate – this includes some breakfast
    cereals and fruit juices, and most bread.
Iron is a major component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body and to the placenta. It also enables both mother and fetus to form new red blood cells. During pregnancy a woman's daily requirement for iron doubles, from 15 to 30 milligrams. Getting enough iron becomes especially important in the second and third trimesters, when maternal blood volume increases and the fetus begins to store the mineral for the first few months after birth.
To avoid iron deficiency it is important to eat plenty of iron rich foods.
The best sources of iron are meat, fish and chicken. Iron is also in foods derived from plants such as:
  • legumes (dried beans, lentil, baked beans, chick peas, etc.)
  • nuts and nut butters
  • seeds (e.g. sunflower seeds, sesame seeds)
  • wholegrain breads
  • green leafy vegetables
  • dried fruit
  • iron enriched breakfast cereals (check label to see whether iron has been added)
  • Milo, Ovaltine.
Iodine plays an important role in regulating your thyroid gland and your metabolism – the rate at which your body uses energy. In pregnancy, iodine also helps your baby's brain and nervous system develop. In fact, iodine deficiencies (uncommon in the United States) are the single most important cause of preventable mental retardation and brain damage worldwide. A lack of iodine during pregnancy has also been linked with an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and stillbirth.

Iodine is found in dairy products, eggs, vegetables, seafood (especially ocean or saltwater seafood), and brewer's yeast. Sea vegetables contain large amounts of iodine – sometimes too much for regular consumption.
Good food sources of iodine include:
  • Sea Vegetables
  • Cranberries
  • Oysters
  • Organic Yogurt
  • Organic Navy Beans
  • Organic Strawberries
  • Himalayan Crystal Salt
  • Potatoes
Zinc is a trace mineral which is required right from the time you conceive till delivery. Zinc has myriad functions during pregnancy; it is very important for all phases of growth, tissue development and maintenance, and for the overall immune system. Zinc is essential for many metabolic processes, protein and blood formation, and in wound healing.
Zinc is most easily absorbed from animal sources such as red meat, fish and dairy and to a lesser extent plant sources including:
  • Oysters
  • Toasted Wheat Germ
  • Veal Liver
  • Roast Beef
  • Roasted Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
  • Dried Watermelon Seeds
  • Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder
  • Lamb (Mutton)
  • Peanuts
  • Crab
  • cereals
Protein plays an extremely important part in your pregnancy and the development of your baby. The amino acids which make up protein also form the basic building blocks of your body's cells — which in turn also form the building blocks of your baby’s body too. During the second and third trimester is when you should make sure your protein levels are where they should be, especially as this is when your baby will be growing it’s fastest and that means placing more demand on you for all his/her essential nutrients.

It is recommended that during your pregnancy you should be consuming around 70 grams of protein per day, which is only about 25 grams more than what you would have needed prior to your pregnancy. The good news is that the average woman in America eats more than the recommended amount everyday and so you are probably already getting enough protein.

If you don’t eat meat, which is one of the main sources of protein – but definitely not the only, you will need to be sure that you are getting your protein requirements from other sources.
Here are some good sources of protein:
  • Turkey Breast (and Chicken Breast)
  • Fish (Tuna, Salmon, Halibut)
  • Cheese (Low-fat Mozzarella and Cottage Cheese)
  • Pork Loin (Chops)
  • Lean Beef and Veal (Low Fat)
  • Tofu
  • Beans (Mature Soy Beans)
  • Eggs (Especially Egg Whites)
  • Yogurt, Milk, and Soymilk
  • Nuts and Seeds (Pumpkin, Squash, and Watermelon Seeds, Peanuts,

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