Our population as a species is growing at both ends. People are living longer, and our birth rates are rising. Roughly six million babies are born each year in the U.S.A.1
The quality of pre- and post-natal care is higher than it has ever been. These factors support, but don’t replace, the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy. Not only does the growing baby have its own specific nutritional needs, but the mother does as well. For starters, did you know that approximately 300 extra calories a day are needed to keep a healthy pregnancy going? In addition, eating properly can help with common pregnancy issues, like digestive discomfort and excessive weight gain.
What to Look For
Here are a few of the common nutrients that you want to pay extra attention to when it comes to your diet during pregnancy.
Folic Acid: Folic acid, also known as folate, is a member of the B-vitamin family and is generally hailed as one of the most important vitamins during pregnancy. This plays an important role in helping the baby’s brain and spinal cord develop properly. On average, pregnant women should be getting 400 to 800 micrograms of folate/folic acid daily.2 Several foods, like cereals, are fortified with folate, but leafy green vegetables and citrus fruits are also good sources.
Protein: During pregnancy, both mother and baby undergo a lot of growth. This includes the baby’s fetal tissues as well as the mother’s breast and uterine tissue. Be sure to fuel this growth with plenty of protein from lean sources, like lean meats or poultry, beans, and cottage cheese.
Calcium: Calcium helps the baby’s bones to develop, but it also helps your muscle and circulatory systems. In general, dairy products are the strongest sources of calcium, but vegetables like broccoli and kale are also effective for non-dairy diets.
Iron: Iron powers blood flow, in conjunction with sodium, water and potassium. This is important during pregnancy to help the baby get plenty of oxygen. The good news is that many of the foods we’ve mentioned are good sources of iron as well, like leafy green vegetables, lean meats, and enriched breads and cereals.
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Getting Your Nutrients
When it comes to dietary choices during your pregnancy, the above nutrients are the staples, but we are beginning to learn more about other nutrients you may want to get as well. For example, studies are showing that many pregnant women aren’t getting a sufficient supply of Omega-3s.
In some cases, making certain additions to the foods you eat can make a big difference. For example, nausea is a common pregnancy symptom, even when things are otherwise going well. Ginger is proven to help support pregnant women dealing with nausea. Ginger is one of the most versatile spices out there, coming in the form of the original root, ginger drinks, dried ginger, crystallized ginger, and even ginger candy.
In general, when it comes to diet, what you do when pregnant isn’t much different than what you do to ensure that you are getting good nutrition all the time: You want to focus on balance overall, combining lean meats and fish with leafy green vegetables, as these are some of the most nutrient-rich foods around.
However, when it comes to pregnancy, it is important to remember that the body is in a unique physiological state. Basically, you’re eating and consuming for two, and your body has specific needs during this time. For this reason, it may be a good idea to use pregnancy supplements. One example is Digest™ Pregnancy from Enzymedica. This supplement helps women with digestive discomfort during pregnancy, with a combination of digestive enzymes and organic ginger.
Of course, when it comes to pregnancy support, you always want to make sure that you consult with your medical professional first. Everyone has different nutritional needs based on their current diet and lifestyle choices.4 In addition, a healthcare provider may recommend certain supplements for those with dietary restrictions or certain conditions, to fill nutritional gaps. Your doctor can help determine what exactly mother and baby need to start this important milestone on the right foot.
1. Guttmacher Institute, Unintended Pregnancy in the United States, https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/unintended-pregnancy-united-states
2. Mcgarel C, Pentieva K, Strain JJ, Mcnulty H. Emerging roles for folate and related B-vitamins in brain health across the lifecycle. Proc Nutr Soc. 2015;74(1):46-55.
3. Canadian Science Publishing (NRC Research Press). (2015, March 25). Pregnant women not getting enough omega-3, critical for infant development, research shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150325093524.htm
4. Tanha FD, Mohseni M, Ghajarzadeh M, Shariat M. The effects of healthy diet in pregnancy. J Family Reprod Health. 2013;7(3):121-5.