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 and should be taken at least three months prior to conception as part of a quality Vitamin B supplement. At True Medicine we are able to assess your body’s capacity to convert the inactive form of B9 into the form needed by your and your baby’s body. Sometimes other forms will be more beneficial for you and these may be part of a pre-natal multivitamin supplement. Top folate-containing foods include organic 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. Iron needs increase dramatically during the second trimester.
Vitamin D is vital to ensure the absorption of calcium and also for a healthy immune system, however many Australians are Vitamin D deficient. Sunlight is the best 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, organic egg yolks, cheddar cheese and some fish oil.
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, sesame seeds and tahina, and broccoli. It is not recommended to supplement with off-the-shelf calcium as these are often inferior and absorb poorly, which can lead to deposition in tissues (kidneys, blood vessels, as bone spurs).
Protein needs increase significantly during pregnancy, especially in your third trimester. High quality protein sources include organic eggs, organic meats, tofu, legumes and nuts. If you choose not to eat animal protein, ensure that you are well informed on how to combine vegetables and legumes in order to get sufficient protein.
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. Sweet cravings have been linked to a magnesium deficiency, so it is always best to seek the guidance of a naturopath or nutritionist.
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 breast milk, but it can impact on the quantity of breast milk 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 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, carrots, beetroot 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. It is highly recommended to have your iodine levels checked by your naturopath prior to conception and throughout pregnancy to avoid deficiencies. Top food sources of iodine are seaweads, kelp, nori, 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 organic 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 organic whole grains, fish, ginger, oysters and pumpkin seeds.