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Nutrients that need special attention during pregnancy

Tác giả : admin | 23:11 10/08/2019 | 1528 Lượt xem

A healthy varied diet is important for you and your baby. The following nutrients are particularly important:

  1. folic acid
  2. iron and vitamin C
  3. calcium and vitamin D
  4. omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

1. Folic acid

Folic acid is an important vitamin for a healthy pregnancy. It helps prevent conditions such as spina bifida and other neural tube defects (NTDs) – problems that can affect the baby’s spine. Spina bifida and NTDs are caused when the neural tube, which will become the baby’s spine, does not form properly in early pregnancy.

Folic acid is most important in the months before becoming pregnant and the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy.

During this time you need to take a tablet that contains 400 micrograms (400µg) of folic acid every day.

If there is a family history of spina bifida or NTDs or if you are taking medication for epilepsy, your doctor will need to prescribe a higher dose of folic acid.

Folic acid for pregnancy

Start taking folic acid tablets today if you are planning a pregnancy or if you are pregnant and have not yet started taking folic acid. It is also a good idea to take folic acid tablets if there is any chance that you might become pregnant – even if you are not planning a pregnancy now.

Continue taking folic acid tablets until your first appointment at the maternity hospital. Your doctor or midwife can tell you whether you need to continue taking folic acid after this time.
You can buy folic acid tablets over the counter from your chemist or you can get them free of charge on prescription from your doctor if you have a medical card.

You can also get folic acid directly from your diet. You should eat foods rich in folates (the form of folic acid found in food) every day as well as taking folic acid tablets.

Good sources of folates

  • Green vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and spinach
  • Beans and peas
  • Some fruits, such as oranges
  • Yeast or malt extract

Some brands of bread, breakfast cereal, milk and other foods may have folic acid added to them. Read the packaging to check.

2. Iron and vitamin C

Iron is important to help make the extra blood needed by you and your baby. Vitamin C is also important and it helps your body use the iron from food.

Good sources of iron

  • Red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork
  • Chicken and fish

Iron and vitamin C for pregnancy

Other (non-meat) sources of iron

  • Eggs
  • Breakfast cereals with added iron
  • Pulses, such as beans, peas and lentils
  • Dried fruit, such as prunes and apricots
  • Green vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach.

Aim to eat iron-rich foods every day.

If you do not eat meat, make sure you include non-meat sources of iron every day combined with food rich in vitamin C to help your body use the iron.

You may also need iron tablets, particularly if you have had a baby in the last year or two. Ask your doctor or midwife to advise you.
Some foods, such as high-fibre cereal, milk, tea and coffee, reduce your body’s ability to use iron. Try not to have these at the same time as you take iron tablets or eat foods that are rich in iron.

Good sources of vitamin C

  • Citrus fruits, such as orange
  • Kiwis
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes
  • Juice made from fruits rich in vitamin C
  • Potatoes
  • Peppers
  • Green vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and spinach

vitamin C for pregnancy

Include at least 2 servings of fruits or vegetables rich in vitamin C as part of your 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day.

Examples of a serving include:

  • 1 medium-sized fruit, such as an orange
  • 2 small fruits, for example 2 kiwis, or
  • 1 glass of fruit juice.

When preparing vegetables, be careful not to over-cook them, as this reduces the amount of vitamin C they contain.

One good way to combine vitamin C and iron is to try drinking a glass of orange juice with cereal or a boiled egg. This helps your body make the most of the iron in these foods.

3. Calcium and vitamin D

Calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D helps your body to use the calcium from food.

Calcium and vitamin D for pregnancy

Good sources of calcium

  • Milk
  • Hard cheese, such as cheddar
  • Yogurt

Calcium may be added to some brands of breakfast cereals, bread, orange juice and Irish flour. Read the packaging to check.

Only small amounts of calcium are found in dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage.

Eat at least 5 servings of calcium-rich food each day when pregnant and breastfeeding.

calcium for pregnancy

Examples of one serving include:

  • 200ml (1/3 pint or an average glass) of milk,
  • 30g (1oz or a matchbox size piece) of hard cheese, and
  • 125g (4oz pot) of yogurt.

You can make sure you include calcium by having:

  • milk as a drink or on cereal,
  • milk-based drinks, such as milk shakes,
  • soups made with milk,
  • sauces made with milk or with natural yogurt added,
  • cheese as a snack or in a sandwich, or
  • cheese added to savoury dishes, such as pizza.

Choose low-fat dairy products – they have the same amount of calcium as higher-fat products.

Only use pasteurised milk, and dairy products such as cheese, butter or yogurt made from pasteurised milk.

If you use soya alternatives to dairy foods, choose those with added calcium.

Good sources of vitamin D

  • Oily fish, such as herring, mackerel and sardines
  • Egg yolks
  • Small amounts of everyday sunlight – vitamin D is made in the body when skin is exposed to sunlight

vitamin D for pregnancy

Some brands of milk, breakfast cereal and margarine may have vitamin D added to them. Read the packaging to check.

If you are dark skinned, get no exposure to the sunlight or do not eat foods rich in vitamin D, ask your doctor or midwife if you need to take vitamin D tablets.

4. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for developing your baby’s brain and eyes.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for pregnancy

Good sources of fatty acids

  • Oily fish, such as herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout
  • White fish, such as cod and whiting
  • Some vegetable oils, such as rapeseed (canola), flaxseed, linseed and walnut – used in small amounts when cooking
Omega-3 fatty acids for pregnancy

Black slate table with product rich in omega 3 and vitamin D. Written word omega 3 by white chalk.

Other sources of fatty acids:

  • Meat, chicken and eggs
  • Seeds, such as sunflower, safflower, pumpkin and sesame
  • Vegetables
  • Wholegrain breads and breakfast cereals

Aim to eat 1 portion of oily fish each week. A portion is a piece of fish weighing 90g (3oz). If you do not eat oily fish, include other sources of omega-3 and omega-6 in your diet from the list above.

White fish is also good for you. Eat 1 portion of white fish such as cod or whiting each week.