Foods during pregnancy should be focused on for better health of the mother and baby. Eating right is a must at any point in your life, but more so during the period of maternity because you are eating for two. Contrary to popular belief that you need to eat more when pregnant, gynecologists always suggest eating light and eating healthy. Not only do you need to eat well for yourself (nobody wants to stay hangry!) you also need to make sure your baby gets the right nutrients and taking supplements is always a good way of ensuring this.
Here’s a list of the most important nutrients you should consume generously to ensure a healthy baby and a happy you:
Folic Acid Rich Foods During Pregnancy
Folic Acid is also called Vitamin B9. It plays a vital role in the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. It is also essential in pregnancy due to its role in the development of the fetus brain and spinal cord.
The recommended amount is 400-600 mcg of folic acid, to prevent neural tube defects in the fetus. Most often, folic acid supplements are also given when planning a pregnancy. This particular supplement is highly recommended for the preconception phase. You can get folic acid rich foods during pregnancy from natural sources like green leafy vegetables, beans, oranges, strawberries, and avocados. Since it is difficult to say how much folic acid is consumed through food alone, supplements are recommended for up to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Iron Rich Foods During Pregnancy
Iron is one of the most essential nutrients for the body. It is also extremely important during pregnancy. Iron is used to supply oxygen to the whole body and also passed on from mother to fetus. Iron deficiency in the mother can lead to pre mature birth and low birth weight. It is therefore recommended that mothers who are iron-deficient be supplemented with 27 mg of iron. Natural sources of iron are green leafy vegetables, legumes, beef, poultry, pork, and seafood. You can add these foods during pregnancy for brain development in your regular diet.
Calcium Rich Foods During Pregnancy
Calcium is another nutrient which is essential to your diet. It helps in the formation of bones, teeth, enamel, nerves, and muscles and to develop the blood clotting process in the fetus. In the mother, it prevents the erosion of bones, increases bone strength, and maintains optimal blood pressure throughout pregnancy. If deficient, a supplement of 1000 mg of calcium is recommended per day. Calcium can also be taken in the form of milk, cheddar and paneer, ragi and yogurt. Low-calorie versions of these products are recommended to maintain an ideal and light diet. Besides this, greens such as spinach, kale, and okra; fish; soy; and tofu are rich sources of calcium.
Vitamin D Rich Foods During Pregnancy
Vitamin D is absolutely essential for the absorption of calcium from the food we consume. Vitamin D is widely recommended during pregnancy, especially if the mother is found to be vitamin D deficient. This is because vitamin D from natural sources like mushrooms, salmon, tuna, fortified milk, orange juice, eggs, yogurt, cheese, beef, and pork does not help in increasing vitamin D stores. Therefore, supplementing vitamin D up to 600 IU (international units) is required. Adequate vitamin D intake during pregnancy helps prevent growth retardation, skeletal deformities, and low birth weight.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid (DHA, EPA)
Omega 3 fatty acids are necessary for our heart health, joints health, healthy brain development and for proper development of structural cells. Usually, 1000 mg is recommended. Natural sources include fatty fish, fortified foods, algae, nuts, seeds and eggs. You can also supplement with fish oil capsules to fulfill your Omega 3 intake, as recommended by your doctor. However, make sure to check that nothing else has been added to the supplement.
Protein Rich Foods During Pregnancy
Protein is essential for providing amino acids, which function as building blocks in the body. It is one of the recommended foods to eat during early pregnancy found in common food sources such as legumes, soy, eggs and poultry products, seafood and dairy.
With this, it is also important to keep in mind what is required in the pregnancy diet. It is necessary that you have a well-balanced meal at all times during pregnancy. Rather than eating excess of high calorie food, eat nutrient rich foods in moderation and just a “little extra” in pregnancy. This not only helps maintain pregnancy weight but also keeps those food cravings at bay. Moreover, mothers-to-be, today feel more reassured when supplements are given to them. But it is pertinent to remember there is nothing like complete dietary and lifestyle modification. This does not mean that you follow a special diet just for your pregnancy and revert to your old eating habits after delivery. This would mean making changes to your diet to include nutritious food and exercise, to stay healthy always!
With this, it is also important to keep in mind that nutrients and supplements most often go hand in hand. Never forget to keep your doctor in the loop from the preconception stage all the way to birthing for the best nutrients and supplements.
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