Organic produce is grown in healthy soils and often has higher nutritional value. Where possible, it is recommended to eat organically grown fruit and vegetables and free-range organic animal products. Naish (1999:27) states the popular myth of ‘eating for two’ is a misconception and rather that women really need to eat ‘nutrients for two’.
Pregnant women require about 70g of protein per day (whereas a non-pregnant woman requires about 46g/day). This increase is needed to support tissue growth of both the foetus and mother. Good sources of protein can be found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy foods. Legumes, grain, nuts and seeds are also important (Haas, 2006:570).
During the first trimester, the energy levels increase only slightly because there is little tissue growth. In the second and third trimesters, a lot more growing is done and consequently energy requirements are increased. On average, pregnant women require an additional 1500kJ. This amount depends on how active the woman is or if she herself is still growing (adolescence).
Vitamin A is increased by 70µg/day to allow the foetus to store it and because it helps with maintaining healthy eyes, skin, bones and blood tissue.
Folate is crucial during pregnancy. This nutrient is needed for the development of the nervous system, red blood cells and the growth and reproduction of other cells. It is wise to increase levels to at least 600mcg daily in order to help prevent congenital neurological defects. Folate can be found in leafy green vegetable, whole grains, yeast, fish, dairy foods and organ meats (Haas, 2006:571).
It is important to get at least 1000mg of calcium daily. Calcium is essential for building healthy bones and teeth. Good sources are; fish, milk, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, sea vegetables, whole grains and many vegetables (Haas, 2006:570).
Zinc is needed to help develop the immune system of the foetus. It is also essential for growth and enzymatic activity. It is found in the same foods that iron is in (see below).
Due to the increase in maternal tissue, the need for iron also increases. The mother’s blood volume has to increase by about 50% during pregnancy and therefore iron is needed to help build blood cells in both the mother and foetus. It can be difficult to obtain the 27mg of iron from diet alone, so a supplement is often prescribed. Foods that contain iron include; animal sources such as beef liver, red meats, eggs, chicken and salmon. The vegetable sources containing iron are; seaweed, brewer’s yeast, molasses, millet, prunes, raisins, mushrooms, chard, spinach and many nuts and seeds (Haas, 2006:571).
Other important nutrients:
Vitamins D, E, K, C and all the B’s are also very important during pregnancy. Also, the minerals iodine, magnesium, sodium and phosphorus are important to be aware of.
- Haas, E (2006), “Staying Healthy with nutrition”, Celestial Arts, California.
- Kowalewski, F (2008), “Nutrients application- USDA nutrition database”.
- Naish, F & Roberts, J (1999), “The Natural way to a better pregnancy”, Doubleday, Australia.
- Reavley, N (1998), “Vitamin etc”, Bookman Press Pty Ltd, Australia.
- Rolfes et al (2006), “Understanding normal and clinical nutrition”, Thomson Wadsworth, United States of America.