Essential nutrients to prioritize during pregnancy
Here are 10 essential nutrients that you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough of while pregnant. All perform some real nutritional magic to help you and Baby grow and stay healthy in some very specific ways:
Folate and folic acid
- What it does: Folate – and its synthetic form, folic acid – is a B-vitamin, and helps Baby’s nervous system develop in immensely important ways. Specifically, it helps prevent neural tube defects, which are defects of the brain and spinal cord.
- Where you can find folate and folic acid: Naturally occurring folate can be found in leafy greens, beans, nuts, eggs, and citrus fruits. However, because it can be hard to meet your daily recommended levels of folate when pregnant – 400 to 800 mg – just by eating food alone, it’s recommended that all expectant mothers take prenatal vitamins which contain folic acid, the synthetic form of folate.
- What it does: Calcium helps to build Baby’s bones and teeth as well as helps to regulate your circulatory, muscular, and nervous systems.
- Where you can find calcium: Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are by and large the best sources of calcium, but it can also be found in dark leafy greens, eggs, tofu, and fish.
- What it does: Vitamin D partners with calcium to help Baby’s bones and teeth grow good and strong, and it also helps with skin and eyesight.
- Where you can find Vitamin D: Fatty fish is a phenomenal source of Vitamin D, and it can also be found in fortified milk and juice as well as eggs. Vitamin D is also produced in the body when you’re exposed to sunlight.
- What it does: Protein helps you and Baby grow and develop in major ways. It helps with fetal tissue growth – including the brain – with your breast and uterine growth, and even helps to boost your blood supply.
- Where you can find protein: Protein can be found in lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy as well as beans, nuts, soy products, seeds, and peas.
- What it does: Iron is used to make hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body, delivering it to tissues and organs. When pregnant, you need much more iron than you did prior so that both you and Baby can get enough oxygen. If your iron levels are low, you run the risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia.
- Where you can find iron: Iron can be found in lean red meat, poultry, fish, beans, peas, dark leafy greens, and fortified cereals.
- What it does: Vitamin C and iron actually have a very important partnership, because Vitamin C makes it easier for your body to absorb iron, especially iron that comes from plants. Vitamin C also helps build strong bones and teeth, helps build healthy blood cells and blood vessels, and helps boost immunity.
- Where you can find Vitamin C: Vitamin C can be found in a number of fruits as vegetables, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, peppers, and broccoli.
- What it does: Iodine is hugely important for Baby, helping with brain and nervous system development as well as to prevent developmental, cognitive, and hearing issues. It also helps with healthy thyroid regulation.
- Where you can find iodine: Iodine can be found in fish, seaweed, dairy, poultry, eggs, potatoes, beans, as well as iodized salt.
- What it does: DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that helps with Baby’s brain and visual development and can help reduce your risk of health disease.
- Where you can find DHA: These good fats can be found in fatty fish – like salmon or tuna – and even in enriched or fortified eggs.
- What it does: Zinc helps with Baby’s cell growth and brain development, and can help boost your immune system. Zinc is also linked with a lowered risk of low birth weight and preterm delivery.
- Where you can find zinc: Zinc can be found in lean red meat, poultry, fish, pork, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, dairy, and fortified cereals.
- What it does: Choline helps with healthy bone development and helps to prevent high blood pressure.
- Where you can find choline: Choline can be found in lean red meat, poultry, fish, pork, eggs, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Pregnancy diet: Focus on these essential nutrients.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, February 15 2015. Retrieved September 8 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-nutrition/art-20045082?pg=1.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Nutrition During Pregnancy.” American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, April 2015. Retrieved September 8 2017. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Nutrition-During-Pregnancy.