The food we put in our bodies is oftentimes the best medicine, and this is true during pregnancy as well. For healthy pregnancy nutrition, we recommend a balanced diet complete with fruits, vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
While your pregnancy nutrition should typically mimic a regular healthy diet, there are certain nutrients that are especially important to pay attention to during your pregnancy. Before we start listing the foods you should add to your grocery list, we want to highlight the nutrients that are crucial to the overall health and development of your baby.
Vitamins and Proteins to be Mindful Of During Pregnancy:
Folate and Folic Acid
Folate is a naturally occurring B vitamin found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate that occurs in supplements and fortified food. Both folate and folic acid are essential to pregnancy nutrition and can help prevent brain and spine abnormalities. This nutrient is especially important during the early stages of pregnancy and aids in red blood cell formation which helps promote healthy cell growth and function.
Calcium helps you and your baby maintain and develop strong bones and teeth. In addition, calcium aids your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems.
Like calcium, vitamin D also helps to promote healthy bones and teeth, but it is also a nutrient that may reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure beginning during pregnancy) and low birthweight. Pregnancy nutrition plays a crucial role when it comes to consuming vitamin D because experts suggest that this vitamin is best achieved through diet instead of supplementation.
Protein is essential for assisting in healthy development throughout pregnancy. Consuming healthy amounts of protein helps promote your baby’s growth.
Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen to your tissues, and this protein requires iron in order to supply oxygen to your bloodstream. During pregnancy, your body requires double the amount of iron so that you can supply oxygen to your baby as well. A lack of iron could lead to anemia that causes fatigue, and in extreme cases could increase your chances of premature birth, or postpartum depression.
Foods to Eat For Good Pregnancy Nutrition:
- Leafy greens
Leafy greens make up a good portion of most healthy diets and are essential to pregnancy nutrition. Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and kale can help provide many of the key nutrients necessary for an expecting mother’s diet. Spinach provides iron and folate, while broccoli and kale can help supply calcium for those who can’t consume dairy.
A superfood in pregnancy, beans contain the majority of vitamins and proteins crucial to well-balanced pregnancy nutrition. Beans are generally good sources of protein and iron, while dried beans also contain folate. For expectant mothers who follow a plant-based or vegan diet, beans are essential for a nutrient-rich pregnancy.
- Citrus fruits and juices
Another example of a food source that contributes to multiple nutrients necessary to optimum pregnancy nutrition is citrus. Citrus fruits are great sources of naturally occurring folate and vitamin D. Some fruit juices are even fortified with calcium, making them a great option to achieve ideal essential nutrients.
- Salmon and other fish with essential healthy fats
Fatty fish like salmon help promote bone strength by supplying vitamin D to both the mother and baby. Fish is also an excellent source of protein and iron for pescatarian pregnant women.
- Lean meat
Lean red meat and poultry can both provide high levels of iron and protein. Consuming lean meats helps maintain a healthy growth rate for your baby and can help keep you energized.
Eggs are an excellent supplement or alternative in pregnancy nutrition, as they are great sources of protein. For certain dietary restrictions, like vegetarianism, eggs can take the place of meat and fish.
- Dairy Products
Milk, cheese, and yogurt are the best absorbed sources of calcium. In order for you to build strength for your baby’s bones and teeth as well as your own, you should aim for about 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day.
Talk to A Midwife
At City of Oaks Midwifery, we believe in caring for the whole woman in all stages of her life. If you have any questions about your diet during pregnancy, what to include, or what to avoid, call (919) 351-8253 to make an appointment at our Raleigh, NC midwifery practice.