Pregnancy is a very wonderful experience for women. This experience is as enriching as it is challenging and taxing. It is imperative that women have the best knowledge to keep their nurturing body healthy and fit. This is a known fact that pregnancy requires the mother’s body to have additional nutrients and dietary nourishment. As a matter of fact, a pregnant woman requires an additional 500-calorie in a day from the 2nd trimester onwards.
This addition is not just a requirement for pregnant women but the lack of it can hamper the baby’s development. Complications like excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, etc. may arise due to the over-intake of foods.
Mentioned below are some important information about balanced diet and nutrition for a healthy pregnancy:
1. Proteins & Calcium:
The growing foetus requires extra protein and calcium for healthy growth. Hence, pregnant women should consume dairy products. These products are also a powerhouse for vitamins B, zinc, and magnesium. One great dairy product which is especially fantastic for pregnant women is Greek yogurt.
Greek yogurt is filled with probiotics along with calcium. However, note that women with lactose intolerance might find it hard to digest dairy products. In this case, probiotic supplements can be of great help and aid in curbing problems like gestational diabetes, vaginal infections, etc.
Another very important aspect of a healthy and balanced diet is the food group of “Legumes”. This food group includes peas, lentils, soybeans, peanuts, and chickpeas.
The food group of Legumes is a great source of fibre, iron, calcium, Vitamin B9, and protein. B9, for those of you who are unaware, is a wholesome vitamin nutrient which is a must for pregnant women in their 1st trimester. However, the lack of awareness surrounding B9 results in a lot of complications.
One such complication is foetus, which may develop the risk of having neural tube defects and the baby might be born with low birth weight. Gynecologists also stress on this fact and state that babies are less prone to infection if they’ve been nourished with legumes in the womb.
3. Vitamin A
Vitamin A, to no one’s surprise, is a vital nutrient that is needed by everyone, especially pregnant women. One of the best and tastier sources of consuming Vitamin A is through sweet potatoes. This delightful vegetable is rich in beta-carotene which gets changed into vitamin A.
Vitamin A fosters growth in the foetus and ensures proper foetal development. Thus, any gynecologist will advise a pregnant woman to increase her intake of Vitamin A. However, it is important to know that plant-based Vitamin A is a much healthier option as opposed to meat-based Vitamin A, which can lead to toxicity.
4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Not enough pregnant women consume foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This nutrient, particularly the long-chain omega-3 acids which are DHA and EPA, is essential for pregnant women. A great source of omega-3 fatty acid is salmon or any other seafood. This also facilitates the growth of foetus’ brain and eyes.
However, pregnant women are mostly asked to restrict their seafood intake. This can be attributed to contaminants found in fatty fish. That’s why many women skip this nutrient altogether. However, just 2-3 meals of fatty fish will suffice their bodily needs of EPA and DHA. Salmon is recommended for this purpose due to its additional sources of vitamin D.
5. Eggs & Lean Meats:
The ultimate protein comes from eggs and lean meat. Eggs are a sufficient powerhouse of every little nutrient that a pregnant woman might need. With just a calorific intake of 77, eggs are high in protein and pack several vitamins and minerals.
Eggs also provide for Choline needs in your body which facilitates many body processes along with brain development. Choline is, however, heavily under-consumed food. And the lack of Choline in pregnancy may put the foetus at a higher risk of neural tube defects. One portion of the egg can provide 113 mg of Choline.
As for lean meats, beef, pork, chicken, etc. are amazing sources of high-quality protein. Beef and pork, in addition, are high in Choline along with iron and Vitamin B. All of these nutrients are needed during pregnancy. These lean meats also facilitate for haemoglobin which is imperative for delivering oxygen to the body. This is particularly needed by pregnant women in their third trimester.
If this is not looked after, pregnant women may develop anaemia, which increases the chances of the premature birth of a baby and low birth weight.
6. Green Leafy Vegetables:
Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, etc. contain heaps of nutrients required by pregnant women. Green leafy vegetables facilitate various nutrients such as Vitamin K, C, A, iron, calcium, and potassium.
Moreover, broccoli and other leafy greens like spinach are high in antioxidants. They contain such plant compounds that boost the immune system and digestion. They prevent constipation due to their high fibre content. Note that constipation is pretty common among pregnant women.
Out of all the mentions in this, we need to give a special mention to berries. These little dollops are packed with amazing nutrients and minerals. They have high water content, good carbs, fibre, vitamin C and antioxidants. Their level of Vitamin C is paramount for iron absorption in the body and boosting the immune system. Pregnant women really need these nutrients for the betterment of their health and their baby’s health. Berries also regulate the spikes in blood sugar with their low glycaemic index value.
Pregnant women, more than anything, need a balance of every food mentioned here. On top of that, superfoods like supplements can never hurt. It is crucial to note that excess of anything can have adverse effects. Hence, the quantity of every food consumed by a pregnant woman must be checked by her gynecologist. It should be such that any allergies of the woman are not aggravated. Rest assured, both, mother and the baby will have a happy and healthy growth.