Eating a balanced and healthy diet is very very important so that you and your baby get all the nutrients to ensure your wellbeing. And it is easier for your body to absorb the vital nutrients through food better than the nutritional supplements.
However even the healthiest of diets cannot fulfil the requirements of a growing baby. So please continue supplements as prescribed your gynaecologist.
What Nutrients are Important In Pregnancy
Important nutrients in pregnancy are:
- Folic acid: Adequate intake of folic acid in pregnancy is important as it is essential for the formation of neural tube ( the main building block for the central nervous system development in the baby ). Deficiency of folic acid leads to defects in the baby like; anencephaly; cleft lip; cleft palate; meningocele etc.
Daily folic acid requirement in a nondeficient pregnant woman is 400 to 600 mcg.
- Iron: Your body uses iron to make extra blood (hemoglobin) for you and your baby during pregnancy. Having good haemoglobin ensures proper supply of oxygen to all the body tissues including those of your baby.
Not getting enough iron can cause anemia. Having anaemia can cause your baby to be born too small or too early. Furthermore; adequate iron stores in your body also protect you from pregnancy complications like high blood pressure; abruption etc.. Adequate iron levels in your body lessens the chances of you receiving blood transfusions in case the need be.
Daily iron requirement in pregnancy is at least 27 mg.
- Calcium: When you’re pregnant, your developing baby needs calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps your baby grow a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles as well as develop a normal heart rhythm and blood-clotting abilities.
Inadequate calcium intake in pregnancy can lead to :
- High blood pressure during pregnancy
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Numbness and tingling in the fingers
- Slow growth of the baby
- The baby not getting enough calcium in the bones
- Heart problems
- Muscle and leg cramps
- A poor appetite
- In rare cases, increased risk of bone fractures
Daily requirement of calcium in pregnancy is at least 1000mg.
- Vitamin B6 and B12 and B complex: Vitamin B complex is the building block for the synthesis of iron. They prevent some deformities in the baby as well as help you and your baby maintain the strength and vitality. They help you get relief from your pregnancy symptoms. Vitamin B complex is also important for the development of various tissues in the baby.
- Vitamin K: It is important to have enough stores of vitamin K during pregnancy as it promotes formation of blood clot and thus controls the bleeding.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. They are critical building blocks for the development of fetal brain; eyes and nervous system. Omega-3 fatty acids may also play a role in preventing premature labor and in development of depression in the mother following delivery of a child. . The most biologically active forms of omega-3 fatty acids are DHA ( docosahexaenoic acid ) and EPA ( eicosapentaenoic acid ) which are primarily derived from marine sources such as seafood and algae. Consumption of adequate amount of omega3 fatty acids is associated with good eyesight and attention span in the babies ; as well as the proper development of the mile stones.
Daily combined dose of DHA and EPA present in omega 3 fatty acids in pregnancy is 250-500mg in pregnancy.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D prevents pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia or complicated high blood pressure, gestational diabetes mellitus, preterm birth, and other diseases.
Daily vitamin D requirement for pregnant patients is 1000 to 2000IU/day
- Proteins: Proteins and amino acids, play so many important roles in the body; like maintaining the structure of our muscles, skin and bones to producing critical hormones for growth and to improve the function of body tissues. . Having enough daily protein in pregnancy ensures proper growth of your baby and prevents premature delivery. It also ensures that your baby has enough amount of amniotic fluid around it.
Daily vitamin D requirement for pregnant patients is 1000 to 2000IU/day
First Trimester (5-13 Weeks)
Nutrients important in 1st trimester are:
- Folic acid
- Vitamin B6
- Omega 3 fatty acids
Second Trimester (14 -27 Weeks)
Nutrients important in 2nd trimester are:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B complex
Third Trimester (28 – 40 Weeks)
Nutrients important in 3rd trimester are:
- Vitamin B complex
- Vitamin K
And all the other nutrients required in 1st and 2nd trimesters.
In the third trimester, your baby’s growth will speed up as it gains weight and prepares for life outside the womb. Your energy requirement will increase as your baby is building layers of fat.
Following foods are rich in natural folate:
- vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, English spinach, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnip, sweet corn, zucchini)
- fruits (avocado, banana, orange and other citrus fruits)
- legumes (chickpeas, soya beans, lima beans, red kidney beans, lentils, haricot beans)
- juices (many apple and orange juices)
No vegetarian sources:
Following foods are rich in iron
Vegetarian sources; also called non-heme based foods
- Fortified Cereals
- Green leafy vegetables – e.g., spinach, methi (fenugreek). And all other leafy vegetables
- Dried seeds and nuts
- Whole grains
- Pulses and beans – e.g., lentils, peas, soy, kidney bean
- Fruits – e.g., figs, dates, apples, raisins (dried fruits)
No vegetarian sources; also called heme-based food
- Poultry – chicken breasts, chicken drumstick
- Seafood – canned tuna, mackerel, trout, bass
Also, a very important step is to add Vitamin C along with as it helps in the absorption of iron. Some Vitamin C rich sources include fruit juices (e.g., lime, orange, amla), vegetable juices (e.g., tomato, carrot) and whole vegetables (e.g., capsicum, tomato)
Following foods are rich in vitamin B6:
Vitamin B6 rich foods help you cope your morning sickness blues.
Foods with vitamin B6 during pregnancy.
Vegetarian sources of vitamin B6:
- Starchy vegetables
- Fortified cereals
- Mixed nuts
No vegetarian sources of vitamin B6:
- Lean meat
- Chicken breast
Following foods are rich in calcium:
Vegetarian sources of calcium are:
- Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, turnips, and collard greens
- Fortified cereals such as Total, Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes (They have a lot of calcium in one serving.)
- Fortified orange juice
- Fortified soymilk (Not all soymilk is a good source of calcium, so it’s best to check the label.)
- Enriched breads, grains, and waffles
No vegetarian sources of calcium:
1. Some fish like sardine
Sources of vitamin D
Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D; but still everyone is not able to obtain enough vitamin D from sunlight;so your doctor prescribes you the supplements which you have to take.
The foods rich in vitamin D are:
Vegetarian sources of Vitamin D
- Vitamin D fortified foods – such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals.
- Some mushrooms
- 1.oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- red meat
- egg yolks
Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
Vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids:
- Green leafy vegetables
- 4.Seeds like pumpkin seeds; chia seeds; sunflower seeds
- Brazil nuts
No vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids
- Cold water fish
- Grass-fed beef, buffalo and lamb
- Crab and shrimp
- Pasture-raised or omega-3 chicken
Following foods are rich in vitamin K
Vegetarian foods rich in vitamin K are:
- Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, parsley, romaine, and green leaf lettuce.
- Vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
- Some cereals
Non vegetarian foods rich in vitamin K are:
Protein rich foods
Good sources of vegetarian protein include:
- Dairy products.
- Legumes, such as chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils.
- Soy foods, including tempeh, tofu, soy milk, and soy beans.
- Many nuts, seeds, and nut butters (such as peanuts, almonds, cashews, chia seeds, flaxseed, and walnuts)
Good sources of nonvegetarian proteins are:
FOODS TO AVOID IN PREGNANCY
- Raw sprouts can be contaminated with bacteria; so eat them after they are thoroughly cooked.
- Fruits and vegetables also may be contaminated with bacteria like toxoplama; so wash all fruits and vegetables with plenty of clean water.
- Pasteurising is an effective way of controlling infections without changing the nutritional values of any food item. unpasteurised milk; cheese; processed fruit juices are to be avoided. Cheese made from unpasteurised milk should not be eaten during pregnancy. In India, nearly all types of cheese available in the market including mozzarella are made from pasteurised milk and are safe to consume during pregnancy, except feta cheese which is not pasteurised.
- Avoid high mercury fish like shark; swordfish; tuna and marlin.
- Raw fish; raw or undercooked meat may contain harmful bacteria.
- Raw eggs may be contaminated with bacteria called salmonella which may put you and your baby at risk. So cook your eggs thoroughly before eating.
- Meat; liver and liver products are very nutritious and good sources of iron; vitamin b12; vitamin A and copper. But having too much vitamin A can cause abnormalities in the baby; so avoid it.
- Limit caffeine intake
- Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol can lead to abnormalities in the foetus.
Fruits to avoid in pregnancy
- Canned fruits
- Canned fruit juices as they have lot of preservatives.