Vital nutrients needed in pregnancy
Protein – your protein requirements increase by about 50% when you are pregnant. Protein can be gained from eggs, milk, fish, lean meat or cheese which contains the essential amino acids.
Calories – you will need about 500 more calories per day during pregnancy than the usual requirement of 2000 – 2500, especially when you are having a baby within a short time of a previous one, underweight or under stress. However, you should not be counting the calories deliberately, as you will get sufficient calories if you eat a varied diet.
Fibre & Fluids –There is a tendency to develop constipation as your pregnancy progresses. Overcome by eating plenty of raw fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, beans and fibrous foods everyday. Water is the best drink, it helps to keep your kidneys working well and avoid constipation.
Vitamins – The value of a varied and balanced diet of wholesome food is that you will take in high enough levels of vitamins without resorting to vitamin supplements. However, there are other women who doctors consider may benefit from supplements.
Minerals – If you eat a good diet, you are not likely to be deficient in minerals. Having said that, calcium and iron intakes need to be maintained and some doctors/ clinics routinely prescribe dietary supplements of iron and folic acid. Women who are nutritionally vulnerable, however, will certainly benefit from appropriate supplementation.
Calcium – Sufficient quantity of about twice your pre-pregnant intake is important from the time of conception because baby’s form teeth and bones from weeks 4-6. The calcium requirement will increase with your baby growth. Sources of calcium include dairy foods, leafy vegetables beans,lentils and nuts. Calcium cannot be absorbed efficiently without Vitamin D. Vitamin D is not found in great quantities in many foods and the best source is sunlight. Our body can make its own Vitamin D with the help of the sun! Calcium supplements will be useful if you are allergic to cow’s milk.
Iron – The large increase in blood volume means that extra iron is needed to make haemoglobin for the increased number of red blood cells. The more haemoglobin the blood contains, the more oxygen it can carry to the various tissues, including the placenta. Your iron reserves will also be needed by the baby to have in reserve for after the birth, because breast milk contains only traces of iron. Iron is quite difficult for the body to absorb. If women are iron-deficient when they become pregnant or develop a deficiency later on, iron tablet may be prescribed to prevent anaemia developing. If you suffer from indigestion and take medication, be careful about your iron intake; antacid medicines limit iron absorption. Be aware, that food cooked in iron pots absorbs iron, increasing the food’s iron content by some three to 30 times.
Folic Acids – is essential for the supply of nucleic acids needed by the dividing cells of the embryo. Our body cannot store folic acids and in pregnancy excretes 4 – 5 times the normal amount. Green leafy vegetables and nuts contain folic acids, however folic acid supplements should ideally be take for 3 months before you become pregnant and throughout pregnancy.
Salt – Maintain a sensible salt intake! Any excess salt in your blood is diluted during pregnany by the increase in body fluids.