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Taking good care of your body is a must during pregnancy. By taking care of yourself, you are also ensuring the good health of the developing child in your womb. Having good, nutritious food is perhaps the most important thing to do during pregnancy.
Importance of Nutrition during Pregnancy
Your food is the only source of nutrition for the growing foetus, it will assist in the development and functioning of all critical organs of the baby. Your body needs approximately 300 calories extra to maintain a healthy pregnancy. It is thereby essential to understand your body’s nutritional requirements during pregnancy in detail and ensure that your diet has a healthy mix of proteins, vitamins, iron, calcium and other minerals.
Your Weight Change and Calories
Weight change associated with intake of excess calories during pregnancy is natural and anticipated. Since you have to support another life, the food intake habits need to change as well in order to provide nutrition to the baby. There are certain myths associated with the pattern of food consumption and its output during pregnancy which are not correct.
1. Myth: Intake of supplements can replace the regular diet.
While intake of supplements is highly recommended and prescribed by the doctor during pregnancy, one cannot substitute normal food intake with supplements. Women who are conscious about weight gain might use supplements as an alternative to regular food, which is not a healthy practice.
2. Myth: Vitamin supplements can be taken anytime and do not require a doctor’s prescription.
While the chances of Vitamin supplement having side effects are rare, they should not be consumed during pregnancy unless and until recommended by the doctor.
3. Myth: Supplements can be taken in any quantity as they have a beneficial effect on the body.
The body requires only a certain amount of vitamins and minerals each day and exceeding that quantity can cause toxicity due to overdose and hence, supplements should be taken only in quantities as prescribed by a doctor.
4. Myth: Weight put on during pregnancy is impossible to shed after delivery.
5. Myth: The food intake needs to double as there are two people dependent on it.
In reality, your calorie intake needs to increase only by 300 calories to support the baby. However, the nutritional value of your food should be appropriate.
During pregnancy, people share many experiences and thoughts about what is right and what is wrong. It is always better to consult a certified professional before believing any hearsay or following any recommendation.
Essential Nutrients during Pregnancy
Having a well-defined diet plan during pregnancy is of utmost importance. Not only does the food consumed need to include the necessary nutrient, it also needs to have them in the correct, sufficient quantities. It is not possible to find all the nutrients in a single food source and it needs a combination of food items to fulfil the daily nutrition requirement.
Following is a list of essential nutrients which will provide nutrition for a pregnant woman.
Pregnancy Nutrition Chart
|Nutrient||Benefits||How much to consume (per day)||Need for supplements||Food Sources|
|Chromium||Essential for stimulating protein synthesis in developing tissues.
Also helps in regulating blood sugar levels.
|30 mcg||No||1 tbsp. Peanut butter – 41 mcg
1 slice whole grain bread – 16 mcg
100 grams broiled skinless chicken – 25 mcg
|Calcium||Important for the growth of strong bones and teeth and development of healthy heart, muscles and nerves.
Also helps in developing heart rhythm and blood clotting.
|1000 mg||No||250 ml skim milk – 302 mg
½ cup rice – 300 mg
3 corn rotis (makke ki roti) – 150 mg
250 ml calcium fortified orange juice – 300 mg
|Fluoride||Important mineral for the formation of teeth of the baby during pregnancy.||3 mg daily||No||A medium apple – 0.093 mg
Fluoride fortified products can also be consumed
|Copper||Helps in formation of the heart, skeletal, nervous system, arteries and blood vessels||1 mg daily||No||1 cup cooked kidney beans(Rajma) – 0.56 mg
1 cup cooked brown rice – 0.51 mg
|Folic acid||Helps in synthesizing DNA and normalize brain function. It is an important component of spinal fluid and helps close the tube which houses the central nervous system||600 – 800 mcg||Yes||½ cup lentils – 179 mcg
½ cup cereal – 146 to 180 mcg
|Iodine||Helps in development of nervous system and boost metabolism||220mcg||No||Salt fortified with iodine is a good source.|
|Magnesium||Helps in building and repairing of tissues, regulate insulin and blood sugar levels and helps build strong bones and teeth.||350 to 360 mg||No||1 cup spinach: 87mg
Dried pumpkin seeds: 152 mg
|Iron||Makes red blood cells, helps in the formation of bones and teeth and supplies oxygen to the cells.||27mg||Yes||½ cup lentils – 3.3 mg
½ cup spinach – 3.2 mg
¾ cup cereal fortified with iron – 1.8 mg
|Manganese||Helps in development of pancreas and synthesis of carbohydrates and fats.||2 mg||No||1 cup cooked brown rice – 6.9 mg
1 cup cooked oatmeal – 0.95 mg
1 cup cooked black beans – 0.76 mg
|Pantothenic Acid||Regulates adrenal activity, helps in the production of antibodies.||6 mg||No||1 hard-boiled egg – 1.1mg
1 cup non-fat milk – 1 mg
|Phosphorous||Helps to develop blood clotting, normal heart rhythm. Also helps in the formation of strong bones and teeth.||700 mg||No||1 cup cooked pinto beans – 273 mg
1 cup cooked black beans – 241 mg
1 cup non-fat milk – 247 mg
|Potassium||Aids energy metabolism, enhances muscle activity and contractions.||2000 mg||No||1 baked potato – 845 mg
1 cup raisins – 575 mg
10 apricots (dried) – 482 mg
|Riboflavin||Promotes good vision and healthy skin development. Important for muscle, bone and nerve development.||1.4 mg||No||1 cup nonfat yoghurt – 0.5mg
½ cup boiled mushrooms – 0.2 mg
|Thiamine||Assists conversion of carbohydrates into energy and is essential for brain development.||1.4 mg||No||1 tablespoon brewer’s yeast: 1.3 mg
1 cup split peas: 0.4 mg
|Vitamin A||Enhances cell growth, development of the eye, increases metabolism, aids bone growth and fat metabolism.||770 mcg RAE (retinol activity equivalent)||No||1 baked sweet potato – 1,403 mcg
1 raw carrot – 433 mcg
1 cup boiled spinach -1,146 mcg
|Vitamin B6||Helps develop brain and nervous system and formation of new red blood cells.||1.9 mg||No||1 medium banana – 0.7 mg
1 medium baked potato – 0.7 mg
1 cup chickpeas – 0.6 mg
|Vitamin C||Important for production of collagen and tissue repair. Helps in formation of strong teeth and bones.||85 mg||No||Orange juice
1 cup strawberry – 84.5 mg
½ cup boiled broccoli – 58 mg
1 tomato – 23.5 mg
|Vitamin D||Aids in the building of bones and teeth.||10 mcg||No||1 cup milk – 2 mcg
250 grams salmon – 8 mcg
|Zinc||Helps in the formation of skeleton, nervous system and circulatory system.||11 mg||Yes||1/3 cup toasted wheat germ: 4.7 mg|
These are the most important set of nutrients which are required to be consumed by a pregnant woman to ensure proper growth and development of the baby. Consuming these nutrients in sufficient quantities is also necessary to ensure that it imparts the desired benefits.
Having nutritious food is a necessity during pregnancy. Since the whole process of pregnancy is complex, it requires a lot of strength on the part of the mother to be able to take good care of the growing foetus and provide all the required nourishment for its growth and development.
Following a strict diet plan will not only give you the necessary strength to carry your baby, but all provide the life support to the foetus to develop its organs and grow into a healthy baby, ready for delivery.
Before finalising on a dietary plan, you need to consult your doctor about the same and get it ratified. Also, it is advised to consume supplements only after they have been prescribed by the doctor.
Also Read: Healthy Foods for Pregnancy