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We all know about the foods to avoid when you’re pregnant, but what about the ones you should be piling up on your plate?
What you eat now has a direct impact on your health and your growing baby’s wellbeing, and taking a prenatal multivitamin alongside a balanced, healthy diet will ensure you get the essential spectrum of nutrients needed to nourish growth and development.
Nutritionist and health journalist Louise Pyne says there are seven pregnancy superfoods that offer some additional, extra-special benefits including a mix of vitamins, minerals and other goodies to boost your baby’s brain, bones, vision and more.
Dairy products such as natural yoghurt are full of calcium, necessary for building your baby’s bones, teeth and nerves. From week 12 of your pregnancy, cartilage develops into bone, with joints forming in your baby’s arms, legs, fingers and toes.
During months five and six he’ll start wiggling the limbs he’s been building. In the third trimester his needs are even greater as his bones are growing at a rapid rate. Nature senses this extra demand and you need to absorb more calcium from food during your pregnancy.
A 100g tub of yoghurt provides about 125mg calcium – almost a fifth of your recommended 700mg daily intake.
2/7 Sweet potato
This starchy vegetable can support your growing baby’s eyesight, as it’s full of vitamin A. From week 19 of your pregnancy, your baby’s brain starts to build specialised centres responsible for his sensory organs, so make sure that sweet potato is on your menu from this point.
Experts recommend a 40 per cent increase of vitamin A during pregnancy, and you need to get the majority of it from plant-based food, rather than animal products.
Dairy products, like yoghurt, provide calcium which is necessary for building your baby’s bones, teeth and nerves.
Walnuts are the ultimate pregnancy nut, and nibbling on a handful will boost your baby’s brain health. Brain growth speeds up during the second half of pregnancy, and during the third trimester the brain triples in weight.
To build all these cells, your body needs omega-3 fats, and walnuts are a superior source compared with other nuts. They also contain protein and fibre.
Add two tablespoons of chopped walnuts to your cereal or porridge every morning.
Choose natural rather than roasted or salted, which are high in unhealthy hydrogenated oils and sodium.
4/7 Pumpkin seeds
The power nutrient in pumpkin seeds is zinc. Best known for its role in boosting male fertility, zinc is also essential for your growing baby. It supports cell growth and DNA synthesis, the process of cell division that determines traits passed down from parents, such as blood type and eye colour. Adequate levels are also linked to a healthy birth weight.
Two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds provide more than 2mcg of zinc, almost a third of the recommended daily amount, so snack on the seeds at least three times a week for an extra boost.
Pregnant and hungry? Stock your fridge with these seven pregnancy superfoods.
Iron helps manufacture haemoglobin, the protein component in your baby’s red blood cells.
Haemoglobin carries oxygen around your baby’s body to help ensure a healthy birth weight.
One of the easiest ways to get a hefty dose of iron is to eat spinach.
Your blood volume increases by almost half during pregnancy, peaking at 34 weeks, and your baby absorbs the majority of his iron stores from you.
At this point in your pregnancy, you’ll need 30mg of iron a day – double the recommended level prior to pregnancy.
So spinach, along with a nutrient-dense diet and a pregnancy multivitamin, will help you get there.
Always steam your spinach to keep its nutrients intact and pair it with a food rich in vitamin C, such as roasted carrots, to help your body absorb the maximum amount of iron from your portion.
Lentils are loaded with folate, the B vitamin that’s super-important in early pregnancy. You might know it as folic acid in its supplement form.
A 400mcg daily intake of this vitamin when you’re trying to conceive and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy can reduce the risk of neural tube abnormalities such as spina bifida. And topping up with lentils, in addition to your folic acid supplement, will help your levels.
7/7 Kiwi fruit
Vitamin C helps manufacture collagen, a protein component of skin, cartilage, tendons and bone.
By week seven, your baby may only be the teeny size of a blueberry, but the cartilage in his limbs has already started developing.
This means stocking up on foods rich in vitamin C, like kiwi fruit, will significantly help support his growth.
A study has found that vitamin C is also involved in brain health.
Kiwi fruit will help boost your bub’s brain development.
Vitamins and supplements during pregnancy
Nutrition plays a key role in supporting the wellbeing of both would-be and expectant mothers and their babies. A healthy diet incorporating fresh foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables can help lay the foundations for a healthy pregnancy.
A woman’s nutritional needs change as she tries to conceive, falls pregnant and begins breastfeeding. A supplement may be required to meet the increased daily requirements for key vitamins and minerals.
During pregnancy, the recommended daily intake for key nutrients such as iron, folic acid and iodine can rise by at least 50 percent and breastfeeding women have an elevated daily need for folic acid and iodine.
It is recommended that women trying to conceive and in the early stages of their pregnancy consider a folic acid supplement to reduce the risk of neural tube defects including spina bifida.
Women who are trying to conceive, pregnant and breastfeeding should also consider an iron supplement to help prevent iron deficiency and an iodine supplement to support baby’s brain health.
A pregnancy multivitamin like Natalis may help as it is formulated to support women in achieving their increased nutritional requirements across their journey to motherhood.
Just as you need to check with your doctor before you take any medicines while pregnant, it’s best to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
A pregnancy supplement can helo meet the increased daily requirements for key vitamins and minerals.