Natural Foods for a Healthy Pregnancy and Baby
Congratulations on your pregnancy – the most amazing miracle that will ever happen to you!
You want to have the healthiest, happiest pregnancy possible for you and your baby. What you put in your body now will effect both of you and can have an impact on the future health of your child.
Natural foods during pregnancy are easy to incorporate into your diet and will give you energy and help you enjoy being pregnant instead of just wishing you could sleep until your baby is born!
Eating a balanced diet is a great way to get the right amount of vitamins needed for pregnancy. It is important to focus on several nutrients to ensure both your and your baby’s health, including calories, protein and fats. To optimize the health of your child, you need to optimize your health first. It is critical to meet your requirements for all nutrients. However, there are a few that are particularly important.
Calories: Although the pregnant mother is “eating for two,” it is important to remember that the growing baby is still quite small and does not need as many calories as you may think. During the first trimester it is recommended that you consume an additional 100-300 calories each day. During the second and third trimesters aim to consume about 450-500 calories more than you would need if you were not pregnant.
Protein: Requirements begin to increase as your baby grows larger. Women in their second and third trimester need 1.1g/kg each day (about a 25 gram increase compared to recommendations for non pregnant women).
Vitamin D: This vitamin is necessary to increase intestinal absorption of calcium, maintain the mother’s bone mineralization, and to avoid hyperparathyroidism (which can manifest as low calcium absorption and retention, high phosphate levels, osteoporosis, and kidney stones). The sun, cod liver oil, and sublingual liquid vitamin D supplementation are the best sources of vitamin D.
Iron: Your needs for iron are increased during pregnancy. A minimum of 27mg each day is recommended. If a mother has iron-deficiency anemia, both her and her infant will suffer adverse effects such as low maternal weight gain and hypothyroidism, as well as a low birth weight for the infant. Iron will allow for the flow of oxygen to increase in the mother’s body and the placenta.
Folate: This micronutrient is essential for both placental and fetal growth. Folate is a coenzyme for many metabolic processes and critical to the proper development of the neural tube. A woman planning to conceive should begin supplementing with 400-1000 mcg daily at least 1 month before pregnancy. This recommendation continues throughout pregnancy and during breastfeeding. Spinach, green vegetables, citrus fruits, and liver are excellent sources of folate. Check to see if your medications disrupt folic acid absorption.
Essential Fatty Acids: Linoleic (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic (omega-3) fatty acids are critical for all humans because of the body’s inability to produce them. These essential fatty acids are precursors to many other fatty acids that are all very important to healthy growth and development of the central nervous system. 1-3 tablespoons of an omega oil supplement such as cod liver oil, flax, or hemp seed, will ensure healthy development of the child and support the mother.
Vitamin C and bioflavonoids: These nutrients can be very beneficial to protecting the health of the mother and baby. Vitamin C and bioflavonoids are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients that work to protect both veins and capillaries, which are particularly stressed in a mother who is carrying about an extra 30lbs. However, you must be careful with high vitamin C supplementation, as the newborn baby can go through withdrawals and develop scurvy if the high consumption does not slowly decline in the weeks before birth. When increasing vitamin C intake, it is important to increase bioflavonoid intake in a 3:1 ratio (C to bioflavonoids). Take up to 8 grams of vitamin C.
Calcium: Dietary calcium requirements remain the same as in nonpregnancy because calcium absorption naturally increases during pregnancy. 1200mg/day is recommended for women above 18 years. Low dietary intake of calcium may be a major cause of pregnancy-induced hypertension and eclampsia. Calcium supplementation can protect you and your child from lead toxicity. Lead can cause neurologic damage, kidney damage, and reproductive toxicity. Moreover, the growing baby is rapidly producing more and more bone, so calcium, vitamin k, potassium, and magnesium are also important to include in your diet.
Magnesium: If you are supplementing with 1200mg calcium, a 900mg magnesium regimen will be beneficial. The 1.5 ratio of calcium to magnesium will ensure proper electrolyte balance, pH regulation, and proper absorption of calcium.
Yikes – Nausea can be brutal in the first few months of your pregnancy and a recipe including ginger, lemon and turmeric can alleviate morning sickness in conjunction with vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is crucial in helping your body regulate hormones and you need only 1.9 milligrams (mg) of this vitamin a day to help make antibodies, red blood cell and neurotransmitters to meet the needs of their developing baby. Foods that include B6 are: Bananas, avocados, nuts, green beans, fish, cauliflower and lean meats.
Through your pregnancy your nutritional needs change but the following foods eaten throughout healthy pregnancy will have a very positive benefit:
- Incorporate nutrient dense, whole foods such as legumes, meats, eggs, both saturated and unsaturated fats, vegetables, and fruits. These whole foods will provide a diverse range of nutrients that are all influential in the baby’s growth and development.
Here is a link about how to use specific foods as prenatal vitamin requirements: http://holisticsquid.com/the-outlandish-alternative-to-prenatal-vitamins/