When a woman becomes pregnant, her diet can feel overly restrictive with a long list of foods not to eat. While this list may contain some of your favorites, such as sushi, deli meat, and raw sprouts, it’s better to focus on the foods you can and should be eating because of the valuable nutrients they contain. To support the health and growth of the little one in your belly, here are the most important nutrients to consume during pregnancy.
Folic acid, or folate, is among the best nutrients that you can get when you’re pregnant because this type of B vitamin supports your baby’s brain and spinal cord development. It is also known to help prevent birth defects. You can get folic acid from food by eating leafy green vegetables, beans, and citrus fruits. Many doctors recommend taking a prenatal vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic each day in addition to a regular diet.
Iron is also essential during pregnancy, and in fact, pregnant women need twice the amount of iron as women their age who are not expecting. By getting your recommended 27 milligrams per day, you help get more blood supply and oxygen to your baby and reduce your risk of anemia, which can be especially problematic during pregnancy because of the fatigue it causes. Poultry, fish, peas, and cereal fortified with iron are all good sources of iron.
Calcium is the nutrient that helps build strong bones and teeth, and this goes for your baby too. A pregnant woman’s calcium needs are greater too during these formative nine months and are at about 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Yogurt, milk, kale, broccoli, and juices fortified with calcium are all good sources of this nutrient.
Vitamin D is the perfect complement to calcium and required right alongside it during pregnancy. This vitamin is essential in promoting bone strength in your baby, and the general recommendation for pregnant women is 600 IU per day. Fatty fish like salmon, fortified orange juice, and eggs are good sources of vitamin D, as well as safe exposure to natural sunlight.
Pregnant women also require a healthy amount of protein in their daily diet to help build up baby’s brain, heart, and other organs. Protein supports overall growth of a baby in each trimester. Meat, fish, dried beans, and nuts are all good sources of protein.
Although you may be craving cookies or chocolate, it’s important to focus on healthy fats rather than the fats from sweets during pregnancy. The omega-3 fatty acids of DHA and EPA are especially good to consume during pregnancy for the baby’s eye, nerve, and brain development. To get your omega-3s, make sure to stick to low-mercury fish, such as salmon or tilapia. The American Pregnancy Association recommends that pregnant women eat about two to three servings (eight to 12 ounces total) of fish per week.
Zinc helps to grow tissues in the body, which makes this an important nutrient to remember while you’re pregnant. Pregnant women need about 11 milligrams of zinc per day to also support their immune systems. You can get the zinc you need from turkey, pork, nonfat yogurt, and cashews.