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Nutrition During Pregnancy - A Healthy Diet

written by: N Nayab • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 5/24/2011

The proper development and growth of the baby in the womb requires the expectant mother to eat a balanced diet of nutrients, minerals, carbohydrates and fats. Learn more in this health and nutrition article.

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    Protein, Calcium and Iron

    Importance of Nutrition During Pregnancy The importance of nutrition during pregnancy is underestimated.An expectant mother requires a healthy and balanced diet, and a poor diet can have adverse effects on the fetus.

    The diet of pregnant mothers should include food that has protein, calcium, and iron.

    Protein

    The physical growth of infants depends on the proteins that the fetus gets while in the womb. Proteins also aid the production of amino acids and repair of cells in infants. Foods that contain proteins include cheese, yoghurt, milk, peas, all kind of beans, beef, pork, poultry, lamb, veal, kidney, and all kinds of fish and eggs. Experts have fixed the optimal quantum of protein consumption per day as 70 grams, which comes from two glasses of milk, a chicken breast, and two cups of yogurt, for example.

    Calcium During Pregnancy

    The developing baby needs calcium to grow strong bones and teeth, have a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles, and prevent blood clotting. Milk and milk products like cheese, butter and cream, spinach, broccoli, all kinds of nuts, eggs, and all kinds of fish are rich in calcium. The required quantity of calcium during pregnancy is 1,000 milligrams a day. A cup of low-fat yogurt provides for 414 milligrams, 8 oz. of skimmed milk or calcium fortified orange juice provides for approximately 300 milligrams, a cup of cottage cheese or a slice of calcium fortified bread provides for 150 milligram of calcium.

    Iron

    The baby in the fetus requires iron for making hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells. Iron is also an important component of myoglobin, a protein that helps supply oxygen to your muscles, collagen, a protein in bones, cartilage, and other connective tissue, and many enzymes. Iron also helps in the development of a healthy immune system. Meats of all types, but especially liver and kidneys, eggs, spinach, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and broccoli are good sources of iron. The recommended quantum of iron intake a day during pregnancy is 27 milligrams per day. 3 ounces of canned, drained clams provide for 23.8 milligrams of iron, whereas 3 ounces of dark roasted chicken provides for 1.1 milligram of iron.

    For more information on including iron in your diet when pregnant, please read Iron-Rich Foods to Eat During Pregnancy to Prevent Anemia.

    Image Credit: wikihow.com

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    Minerals

    The nutritional requirements during pregnancy includes minerals like phosphorous, copper, zinc, and manganese.

    Phosphorus

    Phosphorous helps in the formation of strong bones, teeth and muscles. It is also essential for muscle contractions, blood clotting, and normal heart rhythm. Good sources of phosphorous include seafood, cheese, eggs, milk, meat, onions and whole meal bread. The recommended phosphorous intake during pregnancy is 700 milligrams. An ounce of beef contains approximately 135 milligrams of phosphorous, whereas a medium hard-boiled egg contains 86 grams of phosphorous.

    Copper

    Copper is essential for the formation of the baby’s heart, skeletal and nervous systems, arteries, and blood vessels. Foods that contain copper include organ meats, such as liver, seafood, nuts, seeds, wheat bran cereals, whole grain products, and cocoa products. The ideal quantity of copper intake during pregnancy is 1 milligram per day, which is roughly equivalent to the quantity of copper in two baked potatoes.

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    Zinc

    Zinc is essential for the production, repair, and functioning of DNA. The best source of zinc is fortified cereals and red meat. Shellfish, Importance of Nutrition During Pregnancy poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products also contain zinc. The recommended daily intake of zinc during pregnancy is 11 milligrams. A cup of fully fortified breakfast cereal would provide for this quantity.

    Manganese

    Manganese is a mineral involved in the formation of bone and cartilage and plays a role in the development of the baby's inner and outer ears and helps certain enzymes function properly. Sources of manganese include peas, beans, wheat products, animal liver, apples, apricots, asparagus, bananas, bean sprouts, beet greens, broccoli, carrots, green beans, blackberries, raspberries, brussel sprouts, cherries, grapes, mango, mushrooms, papaya, peaches, pears, potatoes, pineapple, sweet potato, lettuces, spinach, and green leafy vegetables. The recommended intake of manganese per day during pregnancy is 2 milligrams, which a cup of cooked brown rice almost meets.

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    Carbohydrates and Fats

    Carbohydrates are sugars that provide fuel for the body to burn. They also play a role in other bodily functions such as blood clotting, cell communication, and development of the immune system. Rich sources of carbohydrates include sugar, breads, cereals, rice, potatoes, and pastas.

    Fat is a source of energy to the body and is required for the structure and functioning of living cells, and the transportation of vitamins. They aid in the development of the baby's nervous system development. However, too much fat becomes counter productive. The ideal fat consumption is around 30% of the daily food consumption, and that should be from essential fatty acids from oils or fish rather than animal sourced saturated fats. Good sources of such fat include margarine, plant oils, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, meats, oily fish, egg yolks, milk, cheese and butter.

    Expectant parents ignore the importance of nutrition during pregnancy at their own peril.

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    References

    1. "Eating." Well http://www.babycenter.com/eating-well-during-pregnancy Retrieved 2009-04-27
    2. Rush D, Stein Z, Susser M. (1980). "Diet in pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial of nutritional supplements."
    3. Somer Elizabeth (2002). "Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy: Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy: The Complete Guide to Eating Before, During, and After Your Pregnancy." Edition: 2, illustrated, revised. Henry Holt, 2002
    4. Thomson, A.M. (2007). "Diet in pregnancy. British Journal of Nutrition, 2007." Cambridge Universal Press
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    Disclaimer

    This article does not contain medical advice, and the author or the publisher does not intend to provide medical advice through this article. Do not initiate dietary changes based on information in this paper without first consulting a physician. The quantity of recommended dosages given in this article are approximate and the ideal recommended intake would vary among individuals.