Necessary Nutrients for Pregnant Women

Although every nutrient is important to a pregnant body and a growing baby, there are a few that need extra attention. Add extra foods containing these vital nutrients to your diet for a healthy baby, and mom too.

Up Your Protein Intake

A pregnant woman needs more protein than prior to pregnancy to support the baby’s growth. You should increase your protein intake by about 10 grams a day during pregnancy. Great sources of protein are meats and poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts and nut butters as well. This may be especially important for vegetarians or vegans whose diet does not include many of the common sources of protein. Remember that you can’t get protein from a prenatal supplement, so make sure it’s present in your diet.

Pump Up the Iron

A pregnant woman needs double the amount of iron to prevent anemia due to the higher volume of blood in your system. Low iron has also been linked to preterm birth as well as low birth weight. Make sure you are getting all the iron you need with iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, poultry and fish, beans or leafy greens like spinach. Your doctor may also prescribe an iron supplement during your pregnancy for extra insurance. A blood test during pregnancy will check your iron levels to make sure you are not anemic.

Increase Your Calcium

Calcium is vital to growing healthy bones and teeth. Because calcium is stored in your bones, the baby will draw on this supply if you aren’t providing enough in your diet. It’s important therefore to increase your intake of calcium during pregnancy so that your stores are not depleted by the baby. You need healthy bones and teeth too! Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are the best sources of calcium. If you can’t eat dairy products due to dietary restrictions or lactose intolerance, look for foods fortified with calcium such as orange juice. Foods such as salmon and leafy greens can also provide calcium.

Folate for a Healthy Baby

Even when you are just trying to conceive, you need to increase your intake of folate or folic acid. This important nutrient protects your baby from serious neural tube defects and may also ward off preterm labor. Because folate is so vital even in the early weeks of a pregnancy, getting extra is important when you are trying to become pregnant. If you are already adding it to your diet, your baby will get the benefits from the time you conceive. Get folate in citrus fruits, leafy greens, and dried beans. You should also take a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid.

The Right Fat

Fats are extremely important for your baby’s eye and brain development, but make sure you are eating the right kind. Look for foods containing unsaturated fats and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, such as nuts, oils like olive and canola, and fish like salmon and tuna.

Fill Up on Fiber

Fiber will keep you full, give you sustained energy, and also help prevent the constipation that plagues so many pregnant women. It has also been linked with a lower risk of gestational diabetes. Get fiber in foods like fruits and vegetables and whole-grains such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice.

Make sure you are eating a balanced diet that includes these and all the other important nutrients throughout your pregnancy.

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