By Olamiotan Afolabi
Food consumption during pregnancy is not about eating a delicious meal, it is about having the essential nutrients needed to keep you and your baby healthy. Pregnancy is a critical period of time in the life cycle of a woman where she is responsible not only for her own well-being but also that of her developing foetus, a regular medical check up should go with healthy diet consumption. Eating food that contain the important nutrients will not only keep you healthy but will also promote your baby’s (foetus) growth and development.
When choosing or planning your diet, make sure you focus on food that contain the essential nutrients needed. Although some women lost their appetite during pregnancy most especially during the first trimester. However, it is advisable to look out for food you find most palatable and that contain the right nutrients.
The most important nutrients to look out for during pregnancy include Folate or folic acid also known as vitamin B9, Iron, calcium, vitamin D, Iodine and vitamin A
Number one and most important is folate. Folate or folic acid (vitamin B9) is a group of B vitamins, it is known as folate when it is found naturally in food such as green leafy vegetables and as “folic acid” when it is added to food or user as dietary supplement.
This vitamin is very important for a pregnant woman because it help in the prevention of birth defects known as ” Neura tube defects” such as spinal bifida. Spinal bifida is one of the most common birth defects, it occurs in the first weeks of pregnancy when the brain and spinal cord are forming.
Folic acid is also important for the formation of baby’s nervous system, red and white blood cell in the bone marrow, converting carbohydrates into energy, in the production of DNA and RNA, it also help to promote the proper growth of the foetus. Example of food rich in folate or folic acid are; vegetables such malabar spinach, green beans, cabbage, mushrooms, sweet corn, broccoli, lettuce. Some fruits also contain good amount of vitamin B9 such as, Avocado, grape fruit, and orange. Legumes like soya beans, peas, lentils, beans, nuts are also contain folate. Eggs are also good source of vitamin B9.
Women with family history of neural tube defects, diabetes, body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, a pregnant mother who had a previous pregnancy affected by a neural tube defects have an increase risk of having a pregnancy affected with neural tube defects are advised to take a higher dose of folic acid at about 5mg daily.
Number two is Iron. One important mineral you will need to increase during pregnancy is iron, it is used by the body to make red blood cells. Pregnancy increases your blood supply by 50percent, that is why iron consumption should be increased because an increase in blood supply means that you will need more red blood cells and more iron to make those blood cells.
A pregnant woman will need extra iron for the growing baby and placenta, especially in the second and third trimesters. It also needed in the stage of pregnancy to make more blood to supply oxygen to the body, the deficiency of iron in the body cause Anaemia (a condition in which the blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells), it is the most common blood condition for pregnant women to develop easily. This could put the mother and the baby at a higher risk of several complications including headache and weakness for pregnant women, premature birth, low birth weight and infant mortality.
Iron are found in food like; lean red meat (3mg), cereal (20mg), beans, spinach and poultry.
Number three, is calcium. Calcium is another dietary mineral which the body needs for the development, growth and maintenance of bone, it also help muscle contraction. A pregnant woman needs regular calcium intake to build strong bones and teeth, to develop a healthy heart, nerves and muscles.
Consuming enough calcium during pregnancy supports healthy functioning of the circulatory, muscular and nervous system and also reduces your risk of hypertension and preeclampsia (a condition with abnormal state of pregnancy characterized by hypertension and fluid retention). You and your baby need calcium for strong bones and teeth, it is needed about 1000- 3000mg daily. Calcium can be found in good like dairy products like cheese, milk and yogurt, it is also found in green and leafy vegetables like spinach.
Iodine is also a vital mineral needed during pregnancy. It is a type of mineral that is naturally found in the earth’s soil and ocean waters,many salt water and plant based foods contain iodine and this mineral is most widely available in iodized salt. Iodine is needed by the body to make thyroid hormones which help your body use and store energy from food. It is necessary during pregnancy to help the baby’s nervous system develop, the nervous system consists of brain, spinal cord and nerves
A pregnant woman needs 220mcg of iodine everyday, it is advisable to eat foods that have iodine because not all prenatal vitamins contain iodine. Babies whose mother had anniodine deficiency during pregnancy are more likely to grow up with low IQ’s and other intellectual delays. Iodine is found in fish, milk, cheese and iodized salt.
Another essential nutrient useful for pregnant woman is Vitamin D. It is a nutrient we eat and a hormone our body make, also a fat soluble vitamin that had long been known to help the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus both which are important for bone formation. Research has shown that vitamin D help control infections, reduce inflammation and also reduce cancer cell growth.
Vitamin D helps to keep your baby’s bone, teeth, kidneys, heart and nervous system to develop. Low vitamin D during pregnancy leads to low birth weight, neonatal hypocalcemia, poor postnatal growth, bone fragility and increased incidence of autoimmune diseases. Cod liver oil, oily fish, dairy products like milk and cheese, orange juice, eggs and sunlight exposure are good source of vitamin D that play important roles in the body of a pregnant woman.
Another fat-soluble vitamin that plays important role in the body of a pregnant women and their foetuses is vitamin A also known as retinoids . This vitamin contributes greatly to the development of one crucial and extraordinary part of your baby’s body (the eyes), it is also important for their immunity and skin cell production, it also help in building baby’s natural stores in preparation for the first few months of life.
A low level of vitamin A can affect your baby’s immune function after birth leaving them note susceptible to infections and illness. Retiniod comes in two forms. One, as Retinol ( a form of vitamin A that come from animal derived foods like cheese, yogurt, and eggs). Two, as Beta-carotene (a plant derived form which the derived into vitamin A, examples are carrots, oranges, sweet potato and apricots).
Lastly,on pregnancy diets is water. Water is an important substance that should be consumed frequently in higher quantity in time of pregnancy. Drinking water is important as your blood volume increases during pregnancy, it helps to keep you hydrated preventing constipation and urinary tract infections. Water contains no calories and does not provide energy neither does it increase the body weight.
During pregnancy,blood volume increases by about 45%, your body will channel hydration to your baby but a situation with low water consumption, you may become dehydrated and experience symptoms like anxiety, tiredness, memory reduction, headaches and bad mood. Nutritionally, it is recommended to take at least 2-3litres of water daily. However it can also come from dietary sources such as fruit and vegetables like Orange, water melon, cabbage, apple , pineapple, cucumber and vegetables like water leaves, spinach , scent leaves and tomato.
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