Read on to find out which nutrients you need more of to support your health and your baby’s development during pregnancy.
Good nutrition can help ensure your child’s development and well-being well before your child is conceived, believe it or not. If you are trying for a baby or are already pregnant, there are a handful of key nutrients for pregnancy to support both your health and the health of your child.
It is important to eat a wide variety of foods during pregnancy, and the amount of food you need to eat will increase. Your baby will be the first one to tell you this – you can expect to have an increase appetite as the pregnancy. Gaining some ‘baby weight’ (that is, additional body weight, not the weight of the baby) is also normal. You can expect to gain between 11 to 18 kg of baby weight during pregnancy. If you feel like weight gain during your pregnancy has become extreme or is a problem, talk to your doctor… dieting during pregnancy can be harmful to both you and your baby, so a professional’s advice is important. For an in-depth look at diet during pregnancy, visit the Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel’s article on the topic.
Let’s take a closer look at the key nutrients you should be aware of during pregnancy.
Folate (also ‘folic acid’) is one of the B vitamins. It is important during pregnancy as it can help with neural development and protect your unborn child against neural tube defects. 400mcg. a day is the recommended amount.
Brocoli, asparagus, lentils, spinach and citrus fruits are all high in folate / folic acid.
Your iron requirements increase during pregnancy, because your baby is also drawing on your intake of food sources of iron. During pregnancy, your recommended daily intake of iron rises from 18mg a day pre-pregnancy to 27mg a day during pregnancy (source : NRV.gov.au). Iron deficiency is common during pregnancy and iron supplements may be necessary. However, consult a doctor before starting an iron supplement, as too much iron can be harmful to mum and bub. Note: the iron content of some foods is reduced by cooking. Steaming vegetables for the minimum amount of time possible helps it retain it’s iron content.
Lean beef, chicken, eggs, berries and lentils are all good sources of dietary iron during pregnancy.
Iodine deficiency is increasing in Australia. In adults, iodine deficiency can lead to thyroid problems. In infants, the effects of iodine deficiency is much more severe, causing moderate to severe developmental problems in unborn children and infants.
Iodine can be found in ‘iodised’ table salts. Fish is a good food source of iodine, yet eating fish during pregnancy should be approached with caution. Many fish types contain higher trace levels of heavy metals like mercury than others. Mercury can be harmful to a baby. Furthermore, eating raw fish or semi-raw fish should be avoided during pregnancy…. cooked fish only. Increase consumption of dairy products, which are typically rich in iodine. Talk to your doctor about whether an iodine supplement is required.
The huge number of benefits from adequate omega-3 consumption are well documented. One type of omega-3 in particular called ‘DHA’ (docosahexaenoic acid) is important for mental development of unborn babies. Studies show that babies born of mothers who had high blood levels of DHA during birth had accelerated mental development compared to babies born from mothers with low DHA blood levels.
Best food sources of DHA include seafood and marine algae. Vegetable sources of omega-3 such as chia seeds and flaxseeds are often recommended to increase omega-3 intake for pregnant women, but these contain a different type of omega-3 (ALA) that does not appear to have the same link to brain development. An omega-3 DHA supplement may also be a good idea.
Your doctor should become like your best friend during pregnancy. Whilst you will receive advice from nearly everyone you know, the best person to turn to for advise on nutrition and/or supplements during pregnancy is your doctor.
This article was provided by our online health partner Health365. For more information on women’s health, visit www.health365.com.au.