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Top 6 Essential Nutrients for Pregnancy and Good Food Sources for Them

According to the 2018 statistics by the WHO, eight million infants around the world are born with a serious congenital disorder(birth defect) every year. These birth defects include down syndrome, heart conditions, cleft lip and cleft palate, fragile X syndrome, cerebral palsy, and spina bifida. You can check about Fragile X Syndrome life expectancy here. While the courses of these defects remain unknown, taking a diet poor in essential nutrients during pregnancy has been determined to be a key risk factor. 

Babies who are not yet born need many nutrients to help their bodies develop all the necessary functions, tissues, and organs (including the brain) they require to be complete and function normally. While all nutrients are important during pregnancy, the following essential nutrients remain more important for the development and growth of the baby; Vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, DHA(Docosahexaenoic acid), iron, and iodine. Having said that, here are the food, some food sources rich in the individual nutrients: 

1.Vitamin D

Salmon good source for Vitamin D
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Vitamin D has a wide variety of sources. These sources include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), dairy products (milk and cheese), soy milk, cereals, orange juice, beef liver, and egg yolks. To fulfill your higher Vitamin D needs during the prenatal stage completely, make sure you eat on a diet that is heavy on the above foodstuffs. The good news is that they are readily available online and in traditional grocery stores near you. To shop for them conveniently online, Home Chef, Hello Fresh, and Sun Basket can be great places to start. 

2. Folic Acid

 Folic acid is an extremely essential nutrient during pregnancy, as it plays a crucial role in the formation of the neural tube. Apart from that, the nutrient helps with the proper and healthy formation of the brain, keeping potential brain defects like spina bifida and anencephaly at bay. 

As far as some of the rich sources of it go, broccoli, leafy green vegetables(kale, cabbage, spinach, and spring greens), peas, kidney beans, and chickpeas are some of the everyday foods experts recommend. 

The good news is that Hello Fresh offers several meal kits that are big on folic acid. One of them is the sweet & spicy broccoli-pepper stir-fry over ginger lime rice with candied peanuts & crispy onions. Frankly speaking, this meal is hearty, saucy, delicious, and a great folic acid source like no other. 

Besides Hello Fresh, Home Chef is another incredible online entity that delivers mouthwatering meal kits developed with folic acid in mind. One of their top-rated kits is chicken with tiger sauce and snap peas, which comes complete with all the ingredients and recipes you’ll need to make your own dish. 

Never heard about any of these online meal delivery services before? If so, don’t worry. Here’s an independent comparison between them. It compares and contrasts the meal variety, pricing, shipping, delivery, packaging, and ease of ordering, among other important aspects. 

3. Calcium

Spinach is a good source of Calcium
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Like other essential nutrients above, calcium plays a major role in your baby’s development during pregnancy. For example, the mineral helps strengthen the developing teeth and bones of your unborn one. Apart from that, it promotes nerve, heart as well as muscle development.

Care to know about some of the great food sources of calcium? Well, dairy products such as milk and cheese, bony fish like pilchards and sardines, and green leafy vegetables, for instance, spinach, kale, curly, and okra are just but a few. Other foods are fortified-flour-made bread and other foods, not to mention calcium-added soya drinks.

4. DHA

 Similarly, DHA is another essential nutrient that’s extremely crucial during pregnancy. That’s because this special omega-3 fatty acid is required to develop your baby’s eyes and brain. As such, you need about 200 mg of it daily for that.

With that said, foods that are rich in DHA include fatty fish( like salmon, mackerel, and sardines), seafood(like oysters and shrimp), and vegetables(algae and seaweed). Legumes such as kidney beans alongside nuts like walnuts are good sources of this type of omega-3 fatty acid.

5. Iron

Baked potatoes is a good source of iron
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Under normal circumstances, your body requires iron to synthesis hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The role of this protein is to transport oxygen to all tissues. However, during prenatal development, your body needs to supply oxygen to its tissues alongside the baby’s tissues. It, therefore, needs to make more hemoglobin to allow for that. Hence you require more iron for this process. 

To ensure your body obtains the right amount of the mineral, you should eat foods that are high in it. These foods include tofu, cashew nuts, lentils, beans, and baked potatoes. Other good sources of iron are fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, other dark green leafy vegetables, and whole grains oatmeal, brown rice, alongside whole cornmeal. 

6. Iodine 

Iodine is responsible for the normal function of the thyroid gland. On the other hand, the gland regulates body temperature, heart rate, and metabolic hormones, among other key body functions. During pregnancy, this mineral helps with the formation of the baby’s thyroid gland system. As such, taking sufficient amounts of it during pregnancy can go a long way in ensuring your baby’s thyroid gland system’s healthy development.

The list of iodine-rich foods consists of dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, fish such as tuna and cod, and seafood, for instance, shrimp and seaweed. Iodized salt is also a good source of iodine.

 Final Thoughts

During pregnancy, a woman needs the following essential nutrients more than at any other stage in her life; vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, DHA, iron, and iodine. These nutrients will ensure your baby develops healthily, lowering its risk of developing potential birth defects like the above. The best way to get these nutrients sufficiently is to eat on a diet that entails foods that are high in them. These foods include fatty fish, seafood, leafy green vegetables, and fortified cereals. You should also make sure that your body gets enough iodized salt with nothing more to add. Good luck with that.

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