Essential Nutrients During Pregnancy
Your body's demand for vitamins, minerals and trace elements increases during pregnancy. While food contains only small amounts of these nutrients, their importance is enormous.
Nutrients, which are present in foods in extremely small amount, are called micronutrients — ‘micro’ means ‘small’. They are measured in milligrams (mg) or micrograms (µg = one thousandth of 1 milligram). Despite only being present in small amounts, micronutrients play an important role for both mum and baby.
Folic acid, known as the "pregnancy vitamin", is a vitally important B-vitamin for the metabolism, cell division, cell regeneration and is involved in the production of tissue.
It’s particularly important to get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid per day — especially in the first few weeks of pregnancy — as it can reduce the baby’s risk of defects. Folic acid is naturally present in foods such as spinach, asparagus, egg yolk and whole wheat bread. But since the body's demand doubles during pregnancy, your doctor will prescribe you folic acid as a precaution.
Iron ensures a smooth oxygen transport in the blood
Since baby needs blood for their own circulation, the mother's blood volume increases during pregnancy.
Her body's demand for iron increases too — from 15 to 30 micrograms. Your body is much better at absorbing iron from animal foods than plant foods, so low-fat meat and lean cooked ham are an important part of a balanced diet during pregnancy.
Did you know that you can improve the absorption of iron from plant foods, like whole wheat products and legumes, by combining them with a source of vitamin C? We recommend drinking a glass of orange juice with whole wheat muesli or bread for breakfast. Potatoes are also a source of vitamin C which can improve the absorption of iron from leafy green vegetables.
Iodine is an essential trace element, necessary for the production of thyroid hormones in the mother.
These are important for regulating energy metabolic processes and also support the development of the central nervous system. The body's demand for iodine increases during pregnancy, Therefore, you should try to eat fish once or twice a week until the end of your pregnancy. Saltwater fish such as pollock and cod are good sources of iodine.
But be sure not to increase your sodium consumption during pregnancy.
Eating fish once or twice a week also provides you with much needed long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP). The scientific community attributes special importance to these fatty acids, especially during the final months of pregnancy. They are important for the development of the baby's brain, nervous system and eyesight. Fatty fish like salmon, herring and mackerel are rich in LCPs.
Calcium plays an important role in the development of your baby's skeleton. Although extra calcium consumption isn't necessary during pregnancy, studies show that the average person typically gets too little of it.
Your body will compensate for a lack of calcium for the baby by using your bones as a source. Therefore, it is recommended that you increase your consumption of low-fat milk and dairy products while pregnant. Mineral water that is high in calcium (> 150mg/l) can also help you get enough of this important nutrient.
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