Eating right for two
Cathy Carlson-Rink, RM, ND
To ensure women receive essential nutrients during their pregnancy, key supplements can also be a good addition to a healthy whole food diet.
In a world of complex food choices, I narrow my basic nutritional advice for moms-to-be to a simple recommendation: real, whole foods. To ensure pregnant women receive essential nutrients, key supplements can also be a good addition to a healthy whole food diet.
Although pregnancy only requires 300 extra daily calories, the need for protein, essential fats, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc increases dramatically. Here are some important things to include in your diet when pregnant.
Pregnancy is a time of growth, making amino acids and protein especially important. A pregnant woman’s need for protein increases to 50 grams daily. Choose organic sources of protein to avoid exposure to pesticides, hormones, and other chemicals that can be found in nonorganic meat and dairy.
Fats provide essential fatty acids (omega-3 and -6) needed for optimum reproduction and cell membranes for the placenta. Some studies have indicated that supplementing with essential fatty acids during pregnancy may help prolong gestation, even among women at high risk of preterm birth.
Maternal DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) intake during pregnancy may aid infant visual and cognitive development. A 2003 study published in Pediatrics tested children whose mothers had supplemented with DHA during pregnancy and lactation. At four years of age, these children scored higher on standardized intelligence and achievement tests than children whose mothers had not supplemented with DHA.
High fibre diets are linked with lower rates of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. My general rule for patients is to avoid anything white (sugar and flour). Sources of complex carbohydrates include vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and whole fruit.
Take a high quality multivitamin/mineral with folic acid while you are pregnant to provide significant benefits for you and your baby. It may help to reduce the incidence of maternal high blood pressure, childhood cancers, and birth defects.
Only one in five women begins her pregnancy with adequate iron levels. Iron deficiency is linked to miscarriage, low birth weight, preterm labour, postpartum depression, and iron deficiency in infants. A 2003 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that using a low dose iron supplement of 20 mg per day from the 20th week of pregnancy onward reduced anemia and iron deficiency at delivery and postpartum without side effects.
Probiotics used during pregnancy and breastfeeding have been shown to improve the immunoprotection of breast milk and significantly reduce eczema in infants for the first two years of life. Nutritious whole foods and key supplements can help to support a healthy, happy pregnancy.