Why is Diet Important in Pregnancy?
- A pregnant woman needs to pay special attention to her diet during pregnancy. This is because the main source of nourishment for the growing and developing baby comes directly from the mother. To ensure that both are receiving adequate nutrition, it's imperative to follow a healthy diet plan.
- Dieting during pregnancy does not mean restricting calories but eating nutritious food. So that baby's growth and development is optimized, avoiding harmful effects of under nutrition.
A diet that lacks key nutrients may negatively affect the baby’s development and hamper growth. Poor eating may also increase the risk of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia of pregnancy in the mother. It could also lead to complications during labor.
To maximize prenatal nutrition, daily diet should include 3 to 5 servings from the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and dairy products.
1. Essential carbohydrates:
The body’s main source of energy for pregnancy comes from these. More than half of a woman's carbohydrate intake should come from whole grains and breads.
Whole grains are an important source of energy in the diet, and they also provide fiber, iron and B-vitamins.
Oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta or breads and brown rice, potatoes, breakfast cereals, rice, noodles, maize, millet, yams are all excellent sources of carbohydrates.
The developing baby needs plenty of proteins to help build important organs in the baby. They are especially required during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
a. Good protein sources are lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, cheese, milk and nuts. These foods contain B vitamins and iron needed in pregnancy.
b. Fish and some other sea food are a good source of lean protein. Some fish, including salmon and sardines, also contain omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat good for the heart. Try to eat not more than two portions of fish a week. One of which should be oily fish such as salmon, sardines or mackerel.
Calcium is essential for building strong teeth and bones in the baby and to ensure normal blood clotting in the mother.
Since the developing baby needs calcium, it will draw it mother if needed. This could weaken bones causing osteoporosis later. An intake of at least a 1000 mg of calcium is required if this is to be prevented.
Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese and yogurt. Calcium is also found in green vegetables, seafood, beans, dried peas, calcium-fortified juices and foods, sardines or salmon with bones. Also, some leafy greens like kale and bok-choy.
A pregnant woman needs more Vitamin C, calcium, folic acid and iron than a woman who is not expecting. Pregnant women need at least 70 mg of Vitamin C daily. This can be obtained by including fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, guava, and honeydew in one's diet. Vegetables rich in Vitamin C are broccoli, tomatoes, and Brussels sprouts.
They are important in pregnancy. Folic acid is a B vitamin that is crucial in helping to prevent birth defects in the baby's brain and spine, known as neural tube defects. A good source of folic acid are dark green leafy vegetables and legumes, such as black or lima beans, black-eyed peas, and veal.
It may be hard to get the recommended amount of folic acid from diet alone. For that reason a daily vitamin supplement is prescribed. It contains 400 mg of folic acid per day, for at least one month before conceiving and 600 mg during pregnancy.
Pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron a day, which is double the amount needed normally. This is required to make more blood to supply the baby with oxygen. Good food sources of iron are meat, poultry, dried peas and beans, and spinach. Getting too little iron during pregnancy can lead to anemia.
5. For better absorption of the mineral, include a good source of vitamin C at the same meal when eating iron-rich foods. For example, have a glass of orange juice at breakfast with an iron-fortified cereal. In India, expectant mums are routinely prescribed iron supplements from the fourth month of pregnancy. Calcium supplements are also added from the second trimester.
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