One of the key nutrients in pregnancy that you’ve probably heard a lot about already is folate, also referred to as folic acid, or Vitamin B9. This is critical for your baby’s development from one month prior to pregnancy, so your health care professional will always recommend supplementation of this key nutrient as part of a pre-natal multivitamin supplement. Top folate-containing foods include eggs, lentils, sprouts, green leafy vegetables and beans.
Iron is another key nutrient for pregnancy and it’s recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council that your iron needs double during pregnancy. Top iron-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, red meat, tofu, pumpkin seeds and pine nuts.
Vitamin D is vital to ensure the absorption of calcium, however many Australians are Vitamin D deficient. Sunlight is th ebest source of Vitamin D. There are few Vitamin D-rich food sources, so supplementation may be necessary. Vitamin D-rich foods that are safe for pregnant women are mushrooms, egg yolks, cheddar cheese and Vitamin D-fortified milk.
Calcium requirements increase in pregnancy, particularly in the second and third trimesters, and your body is clever enough to increase its absorption of calcium from the food that you’re eating. Food sources of calcium include almonds, green leafy vegetables, dairy products and broccoli.
Protein needs increase significantly during pregnancy, especially in your third trimester. High quality protein sources include eggs, lean meat, tofu, legumes and nuts.
Cravings - What do they mean and how to manage them
Approximately 50-60% of pregnant women will experience cravings, and the reasons for this aren’t really understood. It’s a popular theory that you crave nutrients your body needs, but this isn’t supported by research. It’s possible that hormonal changes may influence taste and smell which can lead to cravings. It’s perfectly okay to indulge your cravings, as long as these foods aren’t known to be potentially harmful to pregnant women such as soft cheeses and raw fish. Just watch your portion control if you’re craving processed foods or foods that are high in sugar.
Sometimes pregnant women can crave non-food items such as dirt, freezer frost and ice. This can be associated with iron deficiency, so it’s a good idea to talk to your health care professional if you are experiencing these types of cravings.
The following nutrients are in high demand after you give birth and while you are breastfeeding. A lack of these nutrients won’t usually affect the quality of your breastmilk, but it can impact on the quantity of breastmilk you are able to produce.
Vitamin E provides antioxidant protection for both mother and baby. Newborns have low stores of Vitamin E as it doesn’t cross the placenta easily, therefore receiving it through the breast milk is important. Almonds, apricot oil, avocados, peanuts and wheat germ are good sources of Vitamin E.
Vitamin AVitamin A is important for your baby’s eye and skin health and protects against infections. Top food sources of Vitamin A are egg yolk, apricots, green leafy vegetables, fish liver oils and sweet potatoes.
Iodine deficiency is common in Australia and pregnancy can put a strain on your iodine stores, therefore it’s important to ensure that enough iodine is consumed for both you and your baby. Iodine is important for normal thyroid function, and physical and mental development. Top food sources of iodine are iodised salt, mushrooms, pineapple, dark leafy green vegetables and sunflower seeds.
Vitamin C is necessary for the development, growth and repair of skin, bone and connective tissue and maintains healthy teeth and gums. It also assists iron absorption. Vitamin C-rich foods include strawberries, broccoli, citrus fruit, capsicum and potatoes.
Zinc builds a strong immune system, is important for wound healing and supports growth and development. Zinc-containing foods include wholegrains, fish, ginger, oysters and pumpkin seeds.