You’re pregnant, and you’ve been trying to eat healthily, but you just don’t know what to do. All the conflicting information is making it hard to make sense of what’s best for your baby. The Importance of Nutrition During Pregnancy will help you understand how diet can impact your baby’s development and provide guidance on how to eat during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is an important time to boost your baby’s development and prepare them for life outside the womb. Even before a baby is born, prenatal care can begin to address potential issues that may arise later on. Pregnant women should consider discussing their diet with their doctor. A healthy diet — one that is rich in key nutrients — can help support fetal development and prepare your baby for life outside the womb.
A well-nourished pregnancy ensures that your baby gets all the important nutrients they need to develop and grow.
In this article,
We’ll discuss the importance of nutrition during pregnancy. And also outline the best sources of protein, folic acid, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Read on to learn more about the benefits of a healthy diet and the specific nutrients your baby needs during pregnancy.
Why Is a Healthy Diet Important During Pregnancy? – Importance of Nutrition During Pregnancy
For pregnant women, the recommendations for a healthy diet become even more important. Nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy can lead to developmental issues for the baby, including low birth weight, smaller than normal head size, an increased risk of stillbirth, and a higher risk of childhood cancer.
Infants born to mothers who were lactose intolerant had galactosemia, or were anemic as a result of low iron stores were at increased risk of developing metabolic bone diseases, such as osteoporosis. These infants also showed reduced blood flow to the brain and reduced ability to process oxygen at birth.
While it is important to gain weight during pregnancy to support your growing baby, you should also pay attention to the macronutrient distribution of your diet. A majority of the calories you consume should come from carbohydrates, as fat is a more concentrated source of calories with few vitamins and minerals.
Read more about Why nutrition is important during pregnancy?
The Basic Requirements
During pregnancy, your body undergoes significant physiological and metabolic changes. These changes require you to consume more calories than usual and, in some cases, change your diet to provide essential nutrients for fetal development.
To support fetal development and gain the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, you should aim to eat a balanced diet that contains:
At least 150 grams a day
50 grams a day Fat: 20 grams a day
Vitamins, and minerals:
At least two of the following: Vitamin A, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Nicotinamide), Vitamin B5 (5-Methyltetrahydrofolate), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9 (Folate), Vitamin B12
Protein is an important food during pregnancy, so what are the best sources of protein?
Protein is essential for the health of your growing fetus and is found in a wide variety of foods. Good sources of protein during pregnancy include lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Eggs are one of the best sources of protein during pregnancy. Eggs contain high amounts of choline, which is necessary for brain development, as well as selenium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. You can get the recommended amount of protein in a healthy egg by eating just one egg a day.
Folic Acid and Neural Development
Folic acid is a B vitamin that is crucial to the development of the baby’s neural system. This system includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerve tissues. Neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida, are typically linked to a lack of folate (B-9) in a woman’s diet. That is found in enriched bread, pasta, and grain products. Folic acid is essential during pregnancy because it helps the body produce and maintain new cells.
Studies have shown that women who take folic acid before becoming pregnant have a reduced risk of having a child with a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida. This is one of the best examples of the importance of a healthy diet during pregnancy. The recommended daily allowance of folate before conception is 400 micrograms (mcg).
Iron and Red Blood Cell Production
Pregnant women need more iron than normal because the increased blood volume and rapid growth of the baby cause the body to lose iron more rapidly than normal. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and the health of your immune system. It is also necessary for the growth and development of the baby. However, an abundance of iron in the body can cause anemia. During pregnancy, the need for iron increases by about 30%, and an iron-deficient diet could lead to iron deficiency anemia in the mother and/or the baby.
Good sources of iron during pregnancy include:
- Lean meats
- Iron-fortified cereals
Zinc for Brain and Eye Development
Zinc is a mineral that is important for the development of the brain and eye tissue. The developing baby relies on the placenta for adequate zinc intake, so it is recommended that you take zinc supplements during pregnancy as well. The recommended daily allowance of zinc during pregnancy is 11 milligrams (mg).
Good dietary sources of zinc during pregnancy include:
- Whole-wheat bread and pasta
- Legumes (such as beans and peas)
Omega-3 fatty acids for Heart Health
Studies have shown that a fish-rich diet during pregnancy reduces the risk of having a baby with a congenital heart defect. This is one of the best examples of the importance of nutrition during pregnancy. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that are precursors for prostaglandins, chemicals that regulate blood pressure.
The only plant-based omega-3 fatty acid present in significant amounts is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Although ALA is found in plant-based foods such as walnuts and flaxseeds. It must be converted by the body to the more biologically active form, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), found in fish and fish oils.
Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy include:
- Canola oil
- Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, sardines, lake trout, and lake whitefish
Vitamins and Minerals for a Healthy Pregnancy – Importance of Nutrition During Pregnancy
A healthy diet that meets the basic requirements for calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals is essential for fetal development.
Vision, bone development, healthy skin, immune system. Vitamin A is essential during pregnancy as it helps the developing fetus’ eyes to develop. Retinoic acid is a form of vitamin A that the body uses to create new cells. Retinol is the active form of this vitamin that the body uses to create new cells and promote healthy skin and eye development.
Help the body uses the energy Vitamin B helps the body use the energy from nutrients. Such as folic acid and vitamin B helps promote healthy skin, hair, and nails.
A powerful antioxidant that promotes healthy skin, teeth, bones, and connective tissue.
Helps the body absorb calcium, and promotes healthy bones and teeth. The body produces this vitamin in response to sunlight, but it’s important to remember that the skin needs protection from the sun too.
Promotes healthy teeth and bones, muscle, and nerve function.
Important for red blood cell production and oxygen transport in the body.
Aids muscle and heart function, keeping the nervous system, heart, and muscles working properly.
Helps regulate the body’s water balance, and is important for the body’s electrolyte balance.
Zinc is a key mineral in the growth of neurons and for maintaining eyesight. It is important to include zinc-rich foods into your diet if you want optimal mental development during pregnancy or when breastfeeding. These food sources maybe eggs, beef, nuts/seeds – especially walnuts!
A healthy diet during pregnancy can support fetal development and prepare your baby for life outside the womb. This article has provided the importance of nutrition during pregnancy. And also a list of foods that you should consider eating during pregnancy. Try to eat a variety of healthy, nutrient-rich foods throughout your pregnancy.
Keep in mind that the nutritional needs of a growing baby change over time. Talk to your doctor about how you can best support your baby’s development and continue to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet throughout your pregnancy.