How important is nutrition in pregnancy?

Nutrition is very important during pregnancy for the optimal support of the fetus and the mother’s health. Research has shown that inadequate consumption of vitamins and minerals in pregnancy, as well as high consumption of foods or beverages with refined sugar, increase the incidence of low-birth-weight infants. You do not need to go on a special diet, but it’s important to eat a variety of foods to get the right balance of nutrients that you and your baby need.

Choose a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables, proteins, starchy foods (not refined), and dairy (not unpasteurized or made from unpasteurized milk). Iron, folic acid, zinc, iodine, vitamins, and minerals, such as magnesium, selenium, copper, and calcium should be included in your diet and in this post, you will find a relevant list of foods that have in abundance these nutrients. Choose foods and drinks with less added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium (salt). Limit processed food and refined grains, which are in foods like biscuits. A diet that severely restricts any macronutrient class should be avoided.

Your healthcare provider may recommend supplements, such as folic acid and iron to ensure a favourable birth outcome with fewer pregnancy complications. Keep always in mind that supplements do not intend to replace a balanced diet.

Sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, pulses, poultry, beans, and nuts. Make sure poultry, burgers, sausages, and whole cuts of meat such as lamb, beef and pork are cooked very thoroughly until steaming all the way through. Check that there is no pink meat and that juices have no pink or red in them. Please also note that you should avoid increased intake of oily fish, considered to have high levels of mercury, such as salmon, shark, swordfish, herring and ling. Liver and partially cooked eggs should also be avoided.

Foods that boost your micronutrient status

Red meat, beans, such as red kidney beans, nuts, dried fruit, fortified breakfast cereals, soybean flour, shellfish, spinach, legumes, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, turkey, broccoli, tofu and fish are rich in iron. Iron is important for your baby’s growth and brain development. During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases, so you need more iron for yourself and your growing baby.

Asparagus, eggs, leafy greens, citrus fruits, brussels sprouts, seeds, wheat germ, papaya, bananas and avocados contain folate. Folic acid contributes positively to the development of your baby’s nervous system and neural tube early in pregnancy.

Moreover, zinc can be found in foods above such as meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy and eggs.

Seaweed, cod, dairy, shrimp, tuna, and lima beans contain iodine, which is needed for thyroid hormone synthesis and normal neurodevelopment of fetus.

Many of the aforementioned foods are high in minerals and vitamins, thus find below some more: soymilk, watermelon, milk, yogurt, cheese, mushrooms, potatoes, orange juice, citrus fruit, strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkins, mangoes, leafy green vegetables, yogurt. Vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) help promote the development of the baby’s teeth and bones and are essential to many enzymes that perform metabolic activities, such as cell signalling.

References

Black, R. E. (2001). Micronutrients in pregnancy. British Journal of Nutrition85(S2), S193–S197. https://doi.org/10.1079/bjn2000314‌

MedlinePlus. (2019). Pregnancy and Nutrition. Medlineplus.gov; National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/pregnancyandnutrition.html

Marshall, N. E., Abrams, B., Barbour, L. A., Catalano, P., Christian, P., Friedman, J. E., Hay, W. W., Hernandez, T. L., Krebs, N. F., Oken, E., Purnell, J. Q., Roberts, J. M., Soltani, H., Wallace, J., & Thornburg, K. L. (2021). iThe Importance of Nutrition in Pregnancy and Lactation: Lifelong Consequences. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology226(5), S0002-9378(21)027289. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2021.12.035

Stanford Children’s Health. (2019). Stanfordchildrens.org. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=nutrition-during-pregnancy-85-P01227

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