Healthy eating is a must during pregnancy. Here are some important nutrients and foods to add to the diet to help ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Maintaining high levels of omega-3fatty acids is essential during pregnancy. Omega-3 is used for fetal development. It can also lower the risk of pre-eclampsia, prevent low birth weight, and lower the risk of pre- and post-partum depression. To complicate matters, many good sources of fatty acids, like raw, rare and smoked fish, should not be eaten by pregnant women. Pregnant women need about 800 mg of omega-3 per day.
To get enough omega-3, consider eating fatty, cooked fish like anchovies and salmon. One four-ounce serving of salmon, for example, has 1,500 mg of omega-3. It's fine to take supplements as well. Fish oil supplements should not smell fishy.
Folic acid (or folate) is vital to blood production. During pregnancy, the body creates extra blood to feed the fetus and placenta. Pregnant women should take at least 400 mg of folic acid a day. A dearth of folic acid can cause severe birth defects, like spina bifida, where the spinal cord is exposed.
Good sources of folic acid include spinach, asparagus, citrus fruits, and beans. Many wheat-based foods like bread and cereal are enriched with folic acid as well. In fact, the manmade form of folic acid may actually be easier for the body to absorb than naturally-occuring folates. Consider looking for a cereal enriched with at least 400 mg of folate.
For naturally occurring folic acid, consume asparagus. Four stalks contain 20 percent of the daily requirement of folates. Offal lover? Three ounces of beef liver contains 45 percent of the daily requirement. If youâ€™re not a fan of liver, try spinach. A cup cooked spinach has half of your daily folic acid needs.
Youâ€™ll need to increase calcium intake during pregnancy. Calcium is used to build fetal bones, meaning that women need to take in extra calcium to ensure their own bone health. Pregnant women should consume 1,000 mg of calcium a day.
Good sources of calcium include milk and dairy products like cheese as well as tofu, spinach, almonds and sardines. A single cup of yogurt will supply 500 mg of calcium. A cup of firm tofu has 250 mg of calcium, and three ounces of sardines supplies 325 mg.
Donâ€™t skip vitamin D. Recent studies show that high levels of vitamin D greatly reduce pregnancy-related risks, including pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes. Doctors now recommend that pregnant women take at least 4,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D a day.
Foods highest in vitamin D include herring, salmon, oysters and tofu. A [three-ouncefilet of salmon has about 800 IU, give or take. (Avoid swordfish even though one serving provides 700 IU, as swordfish may be high in mercury and should be avoided during pregnancy.) Wild salmon has more vitamin D than farmed salmon. Three ounces of trout has 645 IU. Most women, however, will have to take vitamin supplements to get enough vitamin D, especially if they are vegetarian or vegan. One would have to be a major fish-lover to obtain 4,000 IU through food alone.
Protein is important for uterine and blood supply growth as well as fetal development. Make sure to consume about 100 grams a day.
You can obtain protein from numerous sources, including meat, fish, eggs, tofu, beans and nuts. Three ounces of chicken supplies 27 grams of protein, half a cup of tofu has 20 grams, a cup of cottage cheese has 14 grams and a cup of lentils has 18 grams.