Mama Monday - Nutrition in Pregnancy Pt. 3
Happy Monday, Lovies! I'm writing today from sunny Florida where we are visiting family for the holidays. I hope you all are well and not too frazzled with shopping and feast preparing!
Today, for Mama Monday, I'm going to wrap up my series on nutrition in pregnancy. I've recently shared about the importance of adequate protein and water consumption, being discerning when it comes to sugars and carbohydrates, and today I'll discuss a few key vitamins that are essential in pregnancy.
While there are several important vitamins you should incorporate into your pregnancy diet, I'm going to focus on ones I think are particularly important or you may not be aware of. I'll also point out some power packed foods that will cross several vitamins off your list in one shot! I encourage you to look at The American Pregnancy Association's list of Essential Nutrients and Vitamins for Pregnancy for a comprehensive list.
1. Calcium. Calcium is among the highest in terms of milligrams required daily for pregnant women. Pregnant women should have 1000-1300 mg of calcium each day. Many women in the United States are at risk of developing Osteoporosis due to inadequate calcium intake, so it goes without saying that pregnant women should be even more diligent.
Calcium keeps bones and teeth healthy in mom and baby, and keeps nervous, muscular and circulatory systems healthy. If you do not monitor your calcium intake and make sure you get enough through foods and supplements, your growing baby will draw calcium from YOUR bones in order to grow well. Your bones and joints are important for every day movement and to support the growing weight of your belly!
Most people know they can get calcium from milk and dairy products, but you may not know that foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, and canned fish with bones are also excellent sources. Add spinach, broccoli, asparagus, kale and canned pink salmon to your grocery list!
2. Iron. Iron helps mom and babies muscles develop and also prevents anemia. Anemia occurs when you don't have enough red blood cells in your body which help carry oxygen throughout your body. Increasing your iron intake can also help prevent low birth weight and preterm labor which can be accompanied by birth defects and developmental delays in your baby.
You should receive around 27 mg of iron daily while pregnant. While protein sources such as red meat and pork are great sources of iron, you can also get it through dried beans, spinach, dried fruits and oatmeal.
3. Folic Acid. Folic acid (folate) is a B vitamin that helps support the developing placenta, the vital organ which supplies all nutrients traveling from you to your baby during pregnancy. Folic acid also contributes to the healthy development of the baby's neural tube, which later develops into the baby's brain and spinal cord. Incorporating adequate amounts (600 mcg) of folic acid into your diet helps to prevent spina bifida and many other birth defects.
Folic acid is most important before you become pregnant and in the first few weeks of your pregnancy, often when you don't even know you've conceived. The best way to make sure you are getting enough folic acid when you need it is to begin to incorporate foods rich in folate into your diet now. Though multivitamins and prenatal vitamins have this essential nutrient, it's always best to get it from the source. Oranges, orange juice, strawberries, green leafy vegetables, spinach, beets, broccoli, cauliflower and peas are all great sources of folic acid. You can also choose fortified cereals and pasta
4. Omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acid, particularly the long chain DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) helps support in the development of your growing baby's eyes and brain and is essential to the production of prostiglandins. Prostiglandins help regulate blood pressure, blood clotting and kidney functions. If you incorporate the recommended amount of folic acid (300 mg) into your pregnancy diet, you're doing one more thing to prevent neurological defects in your baby! Then, after pregnancy when you are breastfeeding, Omega-3s help substantially in milk production.
Your best sources for Omega-3 fatty acids are tuna, salmon, herring, sardines, and anchovies. If you are concerned about mercury levels or other toxins in fish, consider adding a fish oil supplement to your daily routine. There are also prenatal vitamins which include DHA, but fish oil supplements and the fish listed earlier are the best and most reliable sources of this essential nutrient.
Power Packed foods!
Did you notice all the repeat foods in the four lists above? They were, for the record, dark green leafy vegetables, spinach, salmon, nuts, and many colors of fruits and veggies. So, my advice is to never leave the grocery store without a bag of fresh spinach in your cart, a different green leafy veggie for a new one each few days, one of the fish choices mentioned, a variety of nuts and fruits each week. Consider eating salads for lunch and substituting spinach for lettuce, and throwing spinach into sandwiches, omelets, and as many different recipes as you can. Find a granola recipe to make in bulk for snacking, and add a variety of nuts and dried fruit. That way, if you snack on it throughout the day, you'll easily reach your quota! Grab some frozen berries or smoothie mixes from the frozen foods section of the store, and make yourself a smoothie for breakfast or snack each day.
Remember, getting your vitamins and minerals from the source (i.e. through your diet) rather than through synthetic supplements is always best!
For more information about important vitamins and minerals for pregnancy, please look at the following websites:
- American Pregnancy Association's list of Essential Nutrients and Vitamins for Pregnancy
- March of Dimes - Vitamins and Minerals During Pregnancy
Love and Honey (and healthy moms and babies!),