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Important nutrition during pregnancy and best sources, specially for Indian mothers
Pregnancy can make a mother drastically alter her diet. Even if cravings lead her towards unhealthy foods, the thought of being responsible for her baby’s proper development and wellbeing makes a mother determined to maintain a balanced diet every day. Before pregnancy many of us know all about dieting and cutting calories, but rarely do we think of nutrients in the food everyday. Right?
So mamas, get ready to train yourself about the importance of various nutrients in your diet. It will then be easier for you to choose the right and healthy foods and you would be motivated to maintain a salubrious and nutritious diet throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Iron is the building block of cell formation so you need twice the amount of iron than normal. Iron is needed for organ and cell development of your baby. It helps to up your blood’s hemoglobin levels. Lack of iron can lead to pre-mature birth and a low weight baby. It is good to regularly check your level of iron.
Remember:Having iron and calcium-rich foods together may interfere with absorption of iron. If you are taking iron and calcium supplements, it’s a good idea to take them at different times. Iron does not get absorbed easily from non-veg products, therefore, to help absorption of iron, consume vitamin C.
Sources of Iron:
Dark leafy vegetables like fenugreek, spinach, broccoli also beetroot, pumpkin, tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, whole grains, beans, lentils.
Non veg: Chicken, mutton chops, fish
Fruits like watermelon, grapefruit, oranges, banana, strawberries, apple, figs, dates, raisins
Folic acid plays an important role in the production of red blood cells and helps your baby’s neural tube develop into brain and spinal cord. It’s very powerful in preventing neural-tube defects such as spina bifida (Spina bifida is a disorder in which part of the spine is exposed). It’s important to have folic acid in your system during early months when baby’s brain and spinal cord are developing. Because of its significance, most of gynecologists prescribe folic acid supplements to pregnant women even when you are just planning to conceive. Even though you are taking folic acid supplements, you should try to eat folic acid rich foods.
Sources of folic acid:
Fortified cereals, tofu or soya paneer, peanuts and peanut butter (Many women are allergic or might develop allergy to peanuts during pregnancy)
Dark green vegetables viz. spinach and fenugreek, bottle gourd, beans, mushroom, corn, cauliflower, brinjal
Non veg: liver, egg yolk
Fruits: Musk melon, berries, oranges
Dry fruits: Almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts, sesame seeds
Vitamin B12 is needed for proper brain functioning of both the mother and the baby.
Sources of Vitamin B12:
Tofu, Sprouted beans (Pregnant mothers should always eat well cooked sprouted beans not raw), cheese, skimmed milk, fortified cereal.
Non-veg: Liver and poultry products, fish (specially crab and shellfish), eggs
Amino acids compose protein and are the building blocks of body cell so they help in cell and muscle development in both you and your baby. Proteins keep blood sugar stable. Protein intake should increase in the second and third trimester for having a healthy baby.
Sources of protein:
Nonveg: Eggs, chicken, lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy products,
Veg: Beans, nuts, edamame and quinoa (you can buy edamame at imported food grocery shops).
Fibers are needed for a healthy digestive system and to avoid constipation. Foods which contain fiber also contain more nutrients and fewer calories and such foods are digested slowly.
Sources of fiber:
Whole grains such as wheat, oats, brown rice, beans, vegetables viz. broccoli, cabbage, carrots, French beans, green peas and spinach
Cooked vegetables are better than raw veggies for digestive process.
Fruits – pear, berries, apples
Vitamin A is important for the growth of lungs, heart, kidney, eyes, bones, nervous system. Vit A prevents infection and fight fat metabolism. It also helps in postpartum tissue repair.
Please note: Intake of Vitamin A must be controlled because it may cause damage to embryo. Pregnant women should not take vitamin A supplements.
Sources of Vitamin A:
Carrots, sweet potatoes, dark green vegetables, mangoes, tomatoes,
You need vitamin C to fight infection, repair tissues, heal wounds, improve absorption of iron, and for growth of bones.
Lack of Vitamin C results in impaired mental development.
Sources of Vitamin C:
You need Vitamin D to maintain the proportions of calcium and phosphorus.
Lack of Vitamin D can cause diseases viz. rickets, skeletal deformation, abnormal bone growth, delayed physical development.
Sources of Vitamin D:
Nonveg: Fish (salmon/rawas, mackerel/bangda, catfish, sardines and tuna.) Egg Yolk
(Note: Mackerel/bangda is high in mercury. This fish could be harmful if taken in high amount)
Calcium is needed for your baby’s bone and teeth development, for the growth of a healthy heart, nerves and muscles and to develop a normal heart rhythm and blood-clotting abilities. Also you need it to keep your bones strong. Calcium also helps your muscles and nerves function well. In case of deficiency of calcium in your diet, your baby will draw it from your bones, which may impair your own health later on. That is why most of the women get bone problems within a few years after delivery. Sometimes in a few months mother’s bones become weak. It’s best to avoid calcium deficiency during pregnancy to maintain your own good health in future. The calcium intake of women in India is considerably below the recommended level. Owing to calcium deficiency during pregnancy and lactation, the baby may have poor skeletal formation. Calcium supplementation during the second half of pregnancy may reduce the incidence of pregnancy induced hypertension and pre-eclampsia. If we analyse the nutritive value of coarse grains, we find that ragi and jowar are rich in calcium. You should consider your high calcium requirement in future especially for breastfeeding your baby.
Sources of Calcium:
Dairy products: Milk, Curd, Cheese
Broccoli, spinach, green leafy vegetables, tofu, beans, oranges, fish, almonds, sesame seeds.
Note: Adequate amount of vit D is needed for absorption of calcium.
Choline is a chemical similar to the B-vitamins but it is not an official B-vitamin. It helps prevent problems in baby’s spinal cord and brain, called neural tube defects, and enhances brain development.
Mothers need choline to have strong bones. Choline also helps to prevent high blood pressure.
Sources of Choline:
Cooked egg, salmon, chicken, broccoli, cauliflower
(For more information: http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/nutrition/a/choline.htm)
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
DHA is one of the omega-3 fatty acids. It is required for baby’s brain development and vision development.
Best Food Sources:
Salmon (Indian fish: Rawas), blue crab, tuna fish, fortified eggs
Water helps you and your growing baby build new cells and deliver nutrients. Your body gets rid of internal toxic build up because of water. Drinking adequate water will also save you from urinary tract infections which are common during pregnancy. Water keeps your body hydrated. Dehydration can lead to a high risk of early labor. Remember you need 8-10 glasses a day. Sipping on coconut water or fresh orange juice would also help.
Remember the famous belief : You are what your mother ate during her pregnancy.
Hope the information in this article would help you select the right diet during pregnancy.