It is important to consume an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals when pregnant. This ensures benefits for both the mother-to-be as well as for her child. The big question is which vitamins and minerals are important and in which food sources can they be found? This article will shed some light on these questions as well as give the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for each micronutrient discussed.
Folic acid plays a vital role during pregnancy as it leads to the prevention of your baby to form neural tube defects. An increase in folic acid will be experienced as foetal and placental size increases. A folic acid deficiency during pregnancy can be experienced due to decreased intake (such as with vomiting or inadequate intake), Alcoholism, and smoking.
Food sources: leafy green vegetables such as spinach, Citrus fruits, beans, breads, cereals, rice.
This vitamin is considered to be an essential vitamin to consume during pregnancy as it cannot be produced in appropriate amounts than what is needed during pregnancy in order to meet metabolic demands. Choline is important as it is needed for structural integrity of cell membranes, cell signalling and nerve impulse transmission.
Food sources: Eggs, liver, peanuts, meat, poultry, fish
Vitamin B6 has been used to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It also leads to increased needs during pregnancy due to its involvedness in the synthesis of nonessential amino acids in growth.
Food sources: Fish, beef liver, organ meat, potatoes, starchy vegetables
Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium balance during pregnancy. Adequate intake also leads to enhanced immune function and brain development. Low levels of Vitamin D have been shown to be linked to preeclampsia as well as neonatal hypocalcaemia.
Food sources: Tuna, mackerel, salmon, beef liver, cheese
There are various hormonal factors that strongly influence calcium metabolism in pregnant women. Calcium plays an important role in both the mother-to-be and her baby’s skeletal metabolism which is why it is important to consume an adequate amount.
Food sources: Milk, yoghurt, sardines, broccoli, cheese
Phosphorus is found in a wide variety of food sources therefor a deficiency is uncommon; however a deficiency can result from excessive vomiting (hyperemesis gravidarum). A deficiency can be life threatening as phosphorus plays an important role in energy metabolism.
Food Sources: milk, milk products, meat, lentils, nuts, grains
Due to an increase in blood supply from mothers, iron needs during pregnancy greatly increases. An adequate amount of Iron is necessary in order to prevent iron deficiency anemia which could lead to complications for both the mother and her baby. Even if a pregnant woman is consuming a well-balanced diet, it is still recommended that she consumes at least 30mg of Ferrous Iron in a supplement form.
Food sources: Liver, meat, fish, eggs, pulses, beans, nuts, seeds
Increased blood supply from pregnant women can lead to an increased excretion of sodium from the kidneys. It is important to consumed iodized salt which will be discussed later. Excessive restriction of sodium during pregnancy is not recommended as it can be disadvantageous to both the mother-to-be and her baby. It is important to note that a lot of foods consumed daily already contains sodium therefor it is important to read nutritional labels.
Adequate magnesium intake reduces the chances of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy as well as intrauterine growth restriction. It is advised to consume a magnesium supplement even though a balanced diet is being consumed.
Food sources: beans, nuts, wholegrains, green leafy vegetables
Iodine plays an important role in foetal development and a deficiency can cause developmental delays or even cretinism. According to South African Law, all table salt must be fortified with iodine. There are salt products that do not contain iodine such as Himalayan salt. Remember to always look at the packaging to see if the product contains iodine
Food sources: table salt, eggs, fish
LK Mahan, S Escott-Stump. Krause’s Food and Nutrition Therapy. 12th edition. P173-177.