As an expectant mother, it’s completely natural that you will want to do everything you can to ensure a healthy baby. What’s good to know is that with a little research on the right foods to eat when pregnant, and by applying what you learn, you are already taking a significant step in the right direction. Eating the right foods that will give your developing fetus all the essentials vitamins and minerals that he needs gives him a wonderful chance of developing normally and to full term. Conversely, consuming the wrong types of food, which is easily done, means that your baby has an increased possibility of developing birth defects such as spina bifida and other disabilities, as well as low birth weight, miscarriage, premature birth, and mortality.
Every day, a pregnant woman needs to have a high quality diet that roughly translates to 80 – 100 grams of protein, lots of fluids, a little salt, and calories sourced from a variety of natural wholesome food sources. A pregnant woman needs to increase her daily calorific intake by approximately 300 calories does eggplant have protein. The right foods to eat when pregnant will need to contain the correct blend of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fatty acids and folate. A good pregnancy diet will most likely be supplemented by prenatal vitamins that will be prescribed by your doctor. These prenatal vitamins are to be taken as part of a good pregnancy diet, and not as a substitute for one.
Some of the essential foods to eat when pregnant are as follows:
Fluids: As your bodily fluids increase during pregnancy, so does your daily requirement. Adequate fluid intake is essential to keep both mother and child hydrated which ensures that all toxins are removed as required. Staying hydrated also helps in the avoidance of early labour, promotes healthier skin for the mother and reduces the possibility of urinary tract infections, constipation and hemorrhoids. Fluids can be sourced from filtered water, fruit and vegetable juices, soups, caffeine-free and sugar-free drinks. However, filtered water is best.
Proteins are an essential part of any pregnancy diet. Proteins are the building blocks for a new body as they promote healthy cell wall development. Proteins can be sourced from many food sources, including eggs, pasteurised milk, cheeses, yogurts, poultry, beef, pork, fish, beans and nuts. The dairy products mentioned here are also excellent sources of calcium, which is essential for the fetal development of healthy teeth and bones. It’s important to note here that the body cannot store significant amounts of protein or calcium, so it’s important that your daily diet contains adequate amounts. Red meats, dark poultry, fish and eggs are also excellent sources of iron, which is essential for hemoglobin production, which the mother needs to generate more blood for the developing fetus.
Other foods to eat when pregnant include dark green leafy vegetables, spinach, broccoli, oranges and strawberries. These foods are excellent sources of folic acid, which is necessary for neural tube and brain development. Seafood such as canned light tuna, catfish, cod, pollack, salmon and shrimp are all excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential for the development of the baby’s verbal skills and behaviour patterns.
Vitamin D or the sunshine vitamin has received worldwide attention and its deficiency is of wide spread concern. Bones are the pillars of the human body. Vitamin D affects bone health, so new guidelines of recommended intake based on scientific research are constantly formed.
Role of Vitamin D
• Building and strengthening of bones is the primary function of Vitamin D. Proper absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus is crucial for the formation and maintenance of the skeletal system. Vitamin D promotes absorption of these minerals from the ingested food in the gut, re-absorption from the kidneys and maintains a steady flow in the blood. Normal mineralization and demineralization of the bone takes place with adequate levels of the vitamin.
• Studies suggest that fractures can be prevented by Vitamin D supplementation. It also helps build muscle strength. However, moderate doses of Vitamin D taken on a regular basis protects against falls and fractures. More research on why high single doses of the vitamin are not safe is required.
• Studies link Vitamin D deficiency to the incidence of heart diseases. There seems to be a higher risk of heart failure, cardiac arrests and cardiovascular disease with lower levels of the vitamin. Evidence suggests the important role of the vitamin in controlling blood pressure and preventing artery damage.
• In colder countries with less exposure to sunlight there are higher incidences of Vitamin D deficiency. Lower levels of Vitamin D increases the risk of cancer and multiple sclerosis. Some claims seem to be still in their infancy and require more research data for valid conclusions.
Sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a nutrient supplied through the diet and also a hormone synthesized in the body. Very few foods contain the vitamin naturally. The best dietary sources are the fortified foods and supplements (Vitamin D and health, Harvard School of Public Health).