Today’s post will be discussing some very important nutrients for a healthy pregnancy. I hope you enjoy learning about these top 5 nutrients and the reason why they are all important to include throughout your pregnancy + beyond!
The Top 5 Nutrients for Pregnancy:
Folic Acid: Folic acid is critical for the development of a growing fetus as it is an essential nutrient for brain and spinal cord development. Specific to pregnancy, folic acid can help to prevent neural tube defects of the cord such as spina bifida. Neural tubes defects occur at a very early stage of development, which is why it is so important to have sufficient amounts of folic acid as early as possible. Foods high in folic acid are leafy greens (think: kale, swiss chard, collard greens, spinach, bok choy, asparagus, broccoli etc.), beans, legumes and whole grains. You can also opt for a supplement, under the advisement of a health care practitioner.
Iron: Iron is a crucial mineral found in the body and is necessary to make hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that carry oxygen to other cells in the body. It is also an important part of myglobin, a protein that supplies oxygen to muscles. As well, iron is used to make enzymes in the body, and is an important part of the immune system. During pregnancy, a woman’s blood increases to almost 50 %, which naturally increases the amount of iron necessary (the more blood you have in the body, the more hemoglobin you need). Sufficient iron is also associated with reducing preterm and low birth weight. Foods that are high in iron are red meat, seafood, beans, dark leafy green vegetables ( same as above) and dried apricots. Supplementing with iron may also be recommended.
Calcium: Calcium is another essential mineral for a healthy pregnancy, as it is important to help with the development of strong bones. A growing fetus will accumulate about 30 g of calcium during pregnancy, mostly in the third trimester. A sufficient amount of calcium-rich foods are great to consume throughout the first and second trimester, while I usually recommend my clients try a supplement for the third trimester. Vitamin D and magnesium are both crucial for the absorption of calcium so they must be included, as well. Calcium rich foods include sesame seeds, dark leafy greens and plain yogurt.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Omega 3 fatty acids include two types, EPA and DHA. Both are important for pregnancy, but DHA has significant benefit to a growing fetus and pregnant women. Omega 3 fatty acids are critical for brain development, retina development and cognitive function. Sufficient amounts of omega 3 fatty acids can also reduce “baby brain” and improve memory and mental acuity throughout pregnancy. Lastly, they may also reduce the risk of postpartum depression. An omega 3 fatty acid supplement, high in DHA, is typically advised throughout pregnancy, the specific dosage depends on your dietary intake. Foods that are high in omega 3 fatty acids are oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring), flax seeds, chia seeds seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flax oil and hemp oil.
Probiotics: Ensuring healthy gut bacteria is another important part of a healthy pregnancy. Healthy gut bacteria is linked to so many health concerns such as immune health, mental health and more. During pregnancy, probiotics can be helpful to boost the immune system, help with digestion, ensure proper absorption of nutrients through food and supplementation and can even reduce the risk of allergies in new born babies. Probiotic rich foods include plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi or any fermented vegetable, tempeh and miso.
As always, this advice is general and it is always advised to seek the help of a health care practitioner throughout your pregnancy.
If you are looking for a nutrition coach to guide you through your pregnancy, please do not hesitate to reach out. In my Baby & Me package we cover everything from the importance of frequent meals, nutrient dense food options, healthy snacks, morning sickness, blood sugar management, safe supplementation, breast feeding/healthy formulas feeding, easy meals for new moms and more! I take your specific health history into consideration and design a program for you, based on your specific needs and goals throughout this exciting time!
I also created a mini recipe booklet for some extra yummy goodness! Check it out and let me know if you try any of the recipes!