The Most Important Nutrients during Pregnancy
Some nutrients are more important than others during pregnancy, because they play a vital role in your baby’s development. The following table lists the most essential nutrients for pregnancy, in order of importance. It also clues you in to why each nutrient is so critical, how much of it you need to get per day, and where you can find it in your food.
|Nutrient||Why It’s So Important||Amount Needed||Foods That Have It|
|Folate/folic acid||Needed early on to develop neural tube of brain and spinal cord||600 micrograms (mcg)||Legumes (beans), leafy greens, asparagus, oranges, strawberries, avocado|
|Iron||Helps form hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood||27 milligrams (mg)||Beef, poultry, pork, seafood, enriched grains, blackstrap molasses, legumes (beans)|
|Calcium||Necessary to build bones; also helps maintain healthy blood pressure||1,000 milligrams||Milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified foods, green leafy vegetables|
|Zinc||Good for your immunity and for cell growth in your baby||11 milligrams||Beef, poultry, pork, seafood, enriched grains, nuts, seeds, peas, legumes (beans)|
|Choline||Assists in the development of baby’s nervous system, brain, and neural tube||450 milligrams||Egg yolks, beef, soy, avocado|
|Vitamin D||Helps build bone and protect the immune system||600 international units (IU)||Fortified foods, fish, supplement|
|Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA, EPA)||Important for healthy brains (DHA) and beneficial for structural cells (EPA)||1,000 milligrams||Fatty fish, algae, fortified foods, enriched eggs, supplement|
|Fiber||Helps aid digestion and prevent constipation||28 grams||Whole grains, legumes (beans), fruits, vegetables|
|Protein||Provides the amino acids that make up the building blocks of cells||71 grams||Beef, poultry, pork, seafood, eggs, dairy, legumes (beans), nuts, seeds|
If you find yourself struggling to get the nutrients you and your baby need from your diet alone, consider supplements. A prenatal vitamin provides a lot of the essential nutrients you need. Read the label to see whether it also contains the omega-3 fatty acid DHA; if it doesn’t, take a DHA supplement. Also consider having your doctor check the level of vitamin D in your blood and take a supplement if your levels are low.