The Most Important Nutrients during Pregnancy

By Tara Gidus

Part of Pregnancy Cooking & Nutrition For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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.