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Top 3 Nutrients Needed During Pregnancy: Do You Know What They Are?

written by: Robin Reichert • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 12/11/2009

A discussion about the three most vital nutrients needed during pregnancy and why they are so important.

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    Every woman desires to have a normal and healthy baby. Consuming the right nutrients is essential when your baby is developing inside you. Eating a healthy selection of foods and taking a good prenatal vitamin can help you obtain the most vital nutrients your body requires during pregnancy. There are three very important nutrients that every mom-to-be needs to make sure she gets in her diet, which are omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D with calcium, and folic acid.

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    Vitamin D with Calcium

    Calcium is needed for the formation of strong teeth, bones, nerves, muscles, and heart. Calcium may diminish fetal exposure to lead, and it may help pregnant women avoid pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH) and lessen the possibility of complications during pregnancy. Your blood provides the calcium that your baby requires. Calcium that is not used is stored away in your bones to get the body prepared for the big job of breastfeeding.

    It is suggested that pregnant women should consume about 1000 mg of calcium every day, and pregnant teens require 1300 mg per day, as noted by the Mayo Clinic. Foods with a lot of calcium include dark leafy greens, legumes, seeds, nuts, and milk products. Also, simply drinking two cups of milk per day will meet the calcium requirements during pregnancy. Calcium is best absorbed when vitamin D is present, while some vegetables like rhubarb, spinach, and chard can hinder the absorption of calcium. Stress may also reduce the absorption of calcium, so find ways to reduce stress. Try some light swimming, yoga, and get an occasional massage.

    If you are unable to drink cow’s milk, there are many other kinds of milk that are calcium fortified with vitamin D such as rice milk, goat’s milk, soy milk, and orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Look for beverages that have vitamin D and calcium already in them. Optimal food sources of vitamin D include things like yogurt, egg yolk, salmon, and most milk products. The most natural source of vitamin D is the sun, of course. When your body is exposed to the sun, your body then creates vitamin D. For those living in northern climates, the sun may be hard to come by, so it’s imperative to supplement with a prenatal vitamin or consume foods with these nutrients.

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    Essential Fatty Acids

    There are three main types of essential fatty acids (EFA’s) that your body needs during pregnancy: omega-6, omega-3, and omega-9. You can find them in soft margarines and vegetable oils, fatty fish, seeds, and nuts. You must get essential fatty acids from your food, because your body is unable to produce adequate amounts of these fats. So, go ahead and sprinkle seeds and nuts on your salad or make a delicious salmon dinner to get your allotted amount of EFA’s.

    There are certain kinds of omega-3 fats, called EPA and DHA, which are necessary for the normal development of your baby’s brain, immune system, nervous system, and eyes. In fact, according to Mercola.com, it has been recently discovered that Omega-3 fats are critically important for the total formation of the human brain when a woman is pregnant and into the first couple of years of life.

    Fatty fish, such as salmon, are an excellent source of EPA/ DHA. Other ideal sources are foods that are enriched with DHA, such as milk products, eggs, and supplements with EPA/DHA. However, talk to your doctor or nutritionist regarding the right supplements to take and always verify the expiration date for freshness.

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    Folic Acid

    Folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, is part of the vitamin B family. This nutrient is especially significant within the first month of pregnancy when the baby’s brain, skull, and spine are developing. Folic acid can help avert serious abnormalities and birth defects, such as spina bifida.

    Folic acid is plentiful in legumes, fortified cereals, oranges, and leafy green vegetables. According to Mayoclinic.com, you need at least 800 micrograms of folic acid or folate before you get pregnant, and if you are pregnant, take a good prenatal vitamin with no more than 1 mg, but be sure to consult with your doctor to see what will work best for you.

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    References

    Pregnancy diet: Essential nutrients when you’re eating for two-MayoClinic.com

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pregnancy-nutrition/PR00110

    Mercola.com: Vital Role of Essential Fatty Acids for Pregnant and Nursing Women

    http://www.mercola.com/beef/omega3.htm