Some of the absolute essential nutrients which need to be included in the pregnancy diet plan are – Folic Acid, Iron, Calcium, Protein, Vitamin C, Fiber and Water.
Folic acid: Folic acid is the most vital nutrient pregnant women need. This is needed for the development of baby’s nervous system, especially in the first few weeks. Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects (defects of the spine, brain, or their coverings) and other birth defects like cleft lip and congenital heart disease. By consuming at least 4 milligrams (mg) of folic acid every day before getting pregnant and during the first three months of pregnancy, you can help reduce the risk of these defects. Folic acid is found in dark-green leafy vegetables (like spinach or kale), liver, yeast, beans and citrus fruits, and in fortified cereals and bread. Please note that Folic acid is easily lost while cooking, so steam green vegetables or eat them raw.
Iron: Iron is needed to fuel hemoglobin production for you and your baby. Iron also helps build bones and teeth. A shortage of iron can cause a condition called anemia. If you have anemia, your doctor will give you iron supplements to take once or twice a day. You can help prevent anemia by eating more iron-rich foods like potatoes, raisins, dates, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, whole-grain breads and iron-fortified cereals.
Calcium: This is vital for the healthy development of your baby’s bones and teeth, which start to form at about week eight. You will need about double the quantity of calcium than is normal. At least three servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese is essential to meet expectant mother’s calcium needs. Apart from diary products, good sources include leafy, green vegetables. Diary products are also high in fat, so if possible choose low fat varieties such as skim milk. The recommended daily amount of calcium during pregnancy and breast feeding increases significantly from 800-1200mg.
Protein: Try to eat a variety of protein rich foods, because your needs increase during pregnancy. Vitamin B6 is needed for the proper utilization of protein. Fish, meat, nuts, peas, beans and diary foods such as milk and eggs all supply protein, but animal sources can also be high in fat, so limit your intake of these and choose lean cuts of meat whenever possible.
Vitamin C: This will help to build a strong placenta, enable your body to resist infection and aid the absorption of iron. It is found in fresh fruit and vegetables and supplies of the vitamin are needed daily because it cannot be restored in the body. A lot of vitamin C is lost by prolonged storage and cooking, so eat fresh produce and steam green vegetables or eat them raw.
Fiber: This should form a large part of your daily diet, since constipation and piles are common in pregnancy and fiber will help prevent it. Besides rich sources like fruits and vegetables, brown rice, nuts, cereals including oats, beans, peas and pulses etc are good sources of fiber.
Water: Water carries the nutrients from the foods you eat to your baby, and also helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, excessive swelling, and urinary tract or bladder infections. Most importantly, drinking enough water, especially in your last trimester, prevents you from becoming dehydrated which can then lead you to have contractions and premature, or early labor. Pregnant women should drink at least six to eight glasses of water per day. You can drink juices for fluid, but they also have a lot of calories and can cause you to gain extra weight.
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