Your body has increased nutritional needs during pregnancy. Although the old saying of ‘eating for two’ isn’t entirely correct, you do require more micronutrients and macronutrients to support you and your baby. The needs for most nutrients are increased during pregnancy to meet the high demands of both the growing fetus and the mother, who herself goes through a period of growth to carry the child and prepare for lactation.
Eating smaller amounts of food more frequently also has the benefit of helping with some of the uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy, including nausea and heartburn. The focus should be on increasing the consumption of nutrient-dense foods and minimizing empty-calorie foods that may provide the extra energy needed but do not provide micro-nutrients that are needed in much higher amounts compared with increased caloric needs. A variety of factors may alter the woman’s need for additional calories, with the level of physical activity being the most influential, just as it is for nonpregnant women.
Important Nutrients needed in Pregnancy
PROTEIN: Healthy fetal development is dependent on the availability of adequate protein, which provides the basic building blocks necessary for the formation of enzymes, antibodies, muscle, and collagen. Collagen is used as the framework for skin, bones, blood vessels, and other body tissue.
LIPIDS & FATS: The mother-to-be must include enough fat in her diet to meet the needs of her growing baby. Lipids, including sterols, phospholipids, and triglycerides, which are primarily made up of fatty acids, are another basic building material of body tissue and integral to body functioning.
CARBOHYDRATES: Dietary carbohydrate is broken down to form glucose, also known as blood sugar. The rapid growth of the fetus requires that ample amounts of energy in the form of glucose be available to the fetus at all times.
VITAMIN-A: Vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin, and beta-carotene, which can be used in the body as either an antioxidant or a precursor to vitamin A, are critical during fetal development because of their involvement in growth, vision, protein synthesis, and cell differentiation.
VITAMIN-D: Vitamin D may be obtained through diet and supplements. Vitamin D is necessary to help build and maintain strong bones and teeth and is very important during fetal development for this reason.
CALCIUM: Although calcium is also necessary for proper bone formation in conjunction with vitamin D, the RDA/DRI for pregnant women is the same as it is for non-pregnant women: 1,000 mg/day for women over 18 years old.
FOLATE: Folate, also known as folic acid, plays an important part in reducing the risk of neural tube defects.
IRON: Iron works with sodium, potassium, and water to increase blood flow. This helps ensure that enough oxygen is supplied to both you and your baby.