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Nutrients for better pregnancies

Protein, omega-3s and minerals are among the nutrients that matter most for healthy moms and babies, but some women can’t get enough of these taking a prenatal vitamin alone.

If children are our future, then maternal nutrition is the soothsayer. Moms devote plenty of time to making sure their children get the right nutrients. But women, too, need a solid nutritional foundation to help ensure both fertility and a healthy pregnancy.

Protein—“Proteins supply important amounts of essential amino acids for fetal development,” said David Corcoran, dairy business manager, Bioriginal Food & Science. “Making new muscle and tissue as well as special signaling molecules require adequate amounts of these essential amino acids.” The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an increase in daily protein intake of 1 g in the first trimester, 10 g in the second trimester, and 31 g in the third trimester.

Omega-3s—Essential fatty acids (EFAs) come in the form of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is an essential nutrient for both pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Iron—Iron has long been known for its role in preventing anemia, but a growing body of evidence shows the mineral is also involved in brain development and cognition during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Choline—Choline is an essential nutrient involved in several biological processes. “Its principal role is metabolism, but also membrane construction in the brain and nervous tissues,” explained Merete Lindberg Hartvigsen, pediatric research scientist, Arla Foods Ingredients. “The role of choline in neuronal development makes it critical during pregnancy.” Selenium—Adequate selenium intake is essential for the health of women both during and after pregnancy. Low selenium levels may be responsible for up to 36 percent of cases of preeclampsia—a dangerous pregnancy complication marked by high blood pressure.

Calcium—During pregnancy, fetuses need up to 330 mg of calcium daily to support their developing skeleton. If a mom-to-be doesn’t get enough—either through food or supplements—her body will pull calcium from her own bones to ensure the fetus gets what it needs.

Learn more about the important nutrients mothers need during pregnancy and beyond in INSIDER’s Maternal Health Digital Magazine

A former food editor, Marygrace Taylor (marygracetaylor.com) is an award-winning health and nutrition writer specializing in natural living. She writes for consumer and trade publications including Prevention, FITNESS and Food Service Director, and is the co-author of the cookbook “Allergy-Friendly Food for Families.”

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