Pregnant women are often told, ‘You are eating for two.’ No, this doesn’t mean that you can double your calories and freely feast on blueberry cheesecake. You actually only need about 300 extra calories a day. However, you do need to double your commitment to getting the right vitamins and minerals. These will play an important role in your baby’s development, and even help ease some of the uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms. Here’s what you need to take, and where to get them.
Pregnant women need at least 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day. Your baby needs it for healthy bones and teeth. Calcium also helps dilate your blood vessels, increasing oxygen delivery. According to a study by the World Health Organization, this significantly reduces your risk for pre-eclampsia and pre-term delivery. Milk and milk products like cheese are the best sources for calcium, but you can also get it from sardines and spinach.
2. Folic acid
This plays such an important role in baby’s development that doctors recommend taking supplements the moment you hit child-bearing age or are planning to conceive. It helps prevent neural tube defects by 70% and affects DNA development and enzyme function. It can be found in green leafy vegetables and orange juice.
Iron is important in creating red blood cells, and has been known to lower the risk for pre-term delivery and lower birth weight. Doctors often prescribe higher levels of iron supplements for pregnant women who have diabetes mellitus. It can prevent anemia and fatigue. Get it from red meat, fish and poultry, as well as whole-grain cereals and bread.
4. Vitamin A
This Vitamin, found in liver, green and yellow vegetables, and milk and eggs will help your baby develop healthy bones, skin and eyesight.
5. Vitamin C
Pregnant women are more prone to infections, because hormones suppress the immune system. Vitamin C can help boost your body’s defenses, so you protect yourself (and your baby!) from disease. The body also needs Vitamin C in order to process iron. Get it form citrus fruit as well as broccoli.
6. The B Vitamins
Many of the B vitamins perform crucial functions during pregnancy. Vitamin BI plays a big role in the development of your baby’s brain and organs (including the kidneys, heart and liver). Vitamin B5 helps form red blood cells, and is needed to metabolize protein, carbohydrates and fat. Vitamin B12 is crucial for a properly working nervous system. And Vitamin B6 has been known to ease morning sickness!
Get the vitamins form eating whole grain cereals and pasta, nuts, chicken, beef, pork, eggs, potatoes, spinach, soybeans, and milk. Vegetarians may need to take an amino acid supplement (talk to your oby-gynecologist about what products are safe for you to use).
6. Vitamin D
The body needs vitamin D in order to use calcium and phosphorus. It can be found in milk and fatty fish, and is absorbed by the skin each time you go out into early morning sunshine.
7. Vitamin E
This vitamin not only helps your baby’s muscle development, it can also help you achieve that ‘pregnancy glow.’ It’s a wonder-vitamin for the skin, and you need it now more than ever: pregnancy hormones can trigger acne outbreaks, and your ever-expanding tummy puts you at risk for stretch marks. Get Vitamin E from fortified cereals, vegetable oil, and nuts.
Protein is extremely important in the production of cells and amino acids. Get it from meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, beans and nuts. However, try to get your protein intake from lean cuts of meat. Fat is more difficult to digest, and will worsen your sleepiness, constipation, and general lethargy.
Zinc helps in enzyme and insulin production, which your body needs in larger amounts during pregnancy. Get your daily recommended allowance from meat, oysters, milk and dairy products.
Your metabolism goes up during pregnancy. Your heart works harder and pumps blood faster. Your muscles are carrying more weight. With all that going on, you need more energy—and carbohydrates are still the best source. However, get ‘healthy carbs’ like whole wheat or brown rice. These release energy more slowly and efficiently (so you don’t get the sugar-high and sugar-crash) and are less likely to lead to gestational diabetes.