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Pregnancy

Pregnancy: Your Nutrient Necessities

Healthy eating during pregnancy is just like healthy eating in general - but there are a few essential nutrients that top the list of what you and baby need the most.

With a little knowledge, you can support baby’s development and future health right from conception. Here’s the list of your much needed nutrients!

Folate and folic acid

Folate is a B vitamin that is crucial during early pregnancy to lower the risk of neural tube defects. Folic acid is the human-made form of folate found in supplements.

Baby’s neural tube forms in the first 28 days of pregnancy, which then develops into the brain and spinal cord. Without enough folic acid, the neural tube will not close properly, causing issues like spina bifida and anencephaly. Folic acid also supports placental development and may lower the risk of heart problems.

How much does mom need?

It’s recommended you take 400-800 micrograms per day. Because the neural tube develops often before you know you’re pregnant, try and take a folic acid supplement at least one month before conception (if possible). Continue taking a supplement and eating folate-rich foods throughout your pregnancy.

What foods are high in folate?

Eat a range of fortified cereals (these are cereals that have added vitamins and minerals), green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and dried beans and lentils.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and supports the development of strong teeth and bones. It’s also needed for muscle and nerve functions.

Your body makes vitamin D from the sun and some foods contain small amounts. Being outside is the best way to up your vitamin D levels.

A lack of vitamin D - known as vitamin D deficiency - can cause ongoing problems with baby’s bone growth, delayed physical development, and low birth weight.

How much does mom need?

You need 600 international units (IU) per day. As an example, 3 ounces of red salmon (sockeye salmon) gives you 570 IU of Vitamin D.

What foods are high in Vitamin D?

Salmon, herring, pork liver, cooked eggs, milk, and high-fat cheeses all contain vitamin D, to complement your daily dose from the sun.

Iodine

Iodine is an essential nutrient that helps make thyroid hormone, essential for baby’s overall growth and development and for optimal metabolism. Baby’s developing skeletal and central nervous system also relies on plenty of iodine.

Iodine deficiency during pregnancy can cause brain damage, low birth weight, and problems with cognitive and motor skills.

How much does mom need?

The recommended daily intake is 250 micrograms per day.

What foods are high in iodine?

Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with seafood (make sure it’s cooked thoroughly), seaweed, milk, and eggs for daily iodine.

Iron

Iron is a mineral found in proteins and enzymes that the body needs to stay healthy. You need iron to make hemoglobin, a red blood cell protein needed to carry oxygen around your body. During pregnancy, you need more blood to carry more oxygen.

Iron also plays a key role in myelin development. Myelin provides the protective covering around nerve fibers, needed for nerve cells to communicate quickly with each other. Myelin production starts when baby’s in the womb.

Ongoing fatigue during pregnancy may mean your iron levels are low. Very low levels - known as iron deficiency anemia - can affect baby’s development, increasing the risk of a low birth weight, or can cause premature labor.

How much does mom need?

You need 27 milligrams a day during pregnancy.

What foods are high in iron?

Animal products such as lean red meat, poultry, and fish contain heme iron which is absorbed better than non-heme iron found in non-animal products. Though iron-fortified cereals contain good amounts of iron the uptake level can also be low..

Protein

Protein is a macronutrient crucial for all cells to function properly. Baby needs an ongoing supply of protein to support muscle growth and ongoing good health.

Protein helps both you and your baby grow and stay healthy.

How much does mom need?

Aim for 71 grams a day.

What foods are high in protein?

Eat a range of animal products including lean meat, chicken, and fish and include plenty of beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

Essentially, that’s it.

Eating well is a great first gift for baby, and it’s good for you too. A diet high in essential nutrients will help to keep you well and support baby’s growth and development.

Disclaimer: The information provided is the opinion of Good Feeding, it has not been evaluated by healthcare professionals, and is for educational purposes only.  Before starting any new foods or feeding practices, please consult your baby's healthcare professional.

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