What Nutrients You Absolutely Need When Pregnant

Wondering whether you’re getting the nutrients you need during your pregnancy? Find out five nutrients you should be getting and how to get them.

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Pregnant woman's belly, apple and orange


Pregnant woman's belly, apple and orange

Photo by: Andrei Zametalov

Andrei Zametalov

Pregnant woman's belly, apple and orange

During pregnancy, it can be hard to know if you’re getting enough of the “right” foods (especially when morning sickness and changing taste buds can make your regular diet unpalatable).

If you’re confused about what you should be eating, here’s a good place to start — after all, what goes in your body is now feeding you as well as someone new. These five nutrients offer specific things that you always need, but they are particularly important during pregnancy.

Folic acid: It’s recommended that all women of childbearing age get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. That’s because this vitamin is critical during the first few weeks of pregnancy as your baby’s nervous system is developing. Shortfalls of folic acid can lead to neural tube defects. It’s also necessary to help you produce red blood cells. You can find it in lentils, beans, citrus fruit and juice, broccoli, spinach and other leafy greens. Enriched grains, such as bread and pasta, are also fortified with folic acid.

Protein is made of amino acids — your body’s “building blocks.” When your body is repairing itself, growing or pregnant, your protein needs increase. It’s recommended that pregnant women get 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. A 130-pound woman would need at least 65 grams of protein a day. (For reference: A 3 ounce piece of chicken breast has 25 grams of protein, 1 cup of low-fat yogurt has 12 grams of protein and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has 8 grams of protein).

9 Lean Proteins You Should Be Eating
Vegetarian Protein Sources
Why You Need Protein

Iron: Your iron needs almost double during pregnancy. Iron helps carry oxygen to cells. While pregnant you should get 27 milligrams of iron a day. Because many women fall short of that requirement, the CDC recommends a daily supplement of 30 milligrams of iron to pregnant women. To help boost your iron intake through food, consider beans, spinach, blackstrap molasses, red meat, edamame and fortified cereals.

Omega-3s: Omega-3 fatty acids are long-chain, fluid fats that are important for the optimal functioning of all cells. That’s why Omega-3s are particularly important during pregnancy when your baby is building new cells every day. Some research has linked prenatal intake of Omega-3s (particularly DHA) to improved cognitive abilities in children.

9 Ways to Get More Omega 3s in Your Diet

Calcium: When you’re pregnant, your body becomes more efficient at using calcium, which is why your daily needs technically stay the same as when you’re not pregnant (1,000 milligrams). But here’s the key: When you don’t get enough calcium through diet, your body removes calcium from your bones, which can weaken your skeleton over time. Plus, calcium deficiency is linked to preeclampsia.

8 Ways to Get More Calcium in Your Diet

Kerri-Ann is a registered dietitian who writes on food and health trends. Find more of her work at kerriannjennings.com or follow her on Twitter @kerriannrd or Facebook.

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