The health of the mother is one of the most important factors in determining the health of the baby throughout its life.

It is important to focus on a variety of key nutrients to ensure both mother and the baby’s health, including calories, protein, carbohydrates and fats. To optimize the health of the baby, the mother needs to optimize her health and meet her requirements for all nutrients, as it ensures that the baby growing inside of her will also receive the optimum nutrition. Nutrient deprivation during pregnancy can severely impact the long-term health of the growing baby and its mother.

Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) occurs if the mother does not provide sufficient levels of all essential nutrients necessary for her child, resulting in insufficient growth and development. With IUGR, a limited supply of glucose will result in a breakdown of protein, since vital organs such as the brain, which requires a large amount of glucose, will instead use protein-derived ketones as an energy source, which in the short term is not harmful, but over a longer period can deprive the muscles and organs of the protein they need to be strong during the child’s adult life.

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Although the pregnant mother is “eating for two,” it is important to remember that the growing baby is still quite small and does not need as many calories as you may think. During the first trimester it is recommended that you consume an additional 300 calories each day.  During the second and third trimesters aim to consume about 400-500 calories more than you would need if you were not pregnant.

best foods to eat while pregnant

Protein

Most women need 80+ grams of protein every day for healthy pregnancy. Protein is made up of the amino acids that build your baby’s adorable face and every cell below it. Your baby’s brain, in particular, needs these raw materials to transform itself into the amazing gift that will help your baby breathe, walk and talk. Some research shows lower risk of preeclampsia and other complications with adequate protein, and some women report less morning sickness when they consume a higher amount of protein. The best sources of protein are organic meat, fish, beans, lentils and eggs.

Fats

This is often the biggest hurdle for many women, but consuming adequate fats is absolutely vital to baby’s organ and brain development. While a baby is in the womb, the brain grows more rapidly than in any other stage of infant or child development and as up to 60% of the brain is fat, it is an essential nutrient as part of baby’s growth. Women should focus on healthy sources like meat (including red meat), butter, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil and nuts.

Carbohydrates

Glucose is the primary energy source for the growing baby and one of the best sources for this is vegetables and fruits, which also offer a variety of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre that are helpful during pregnancy such as:

Iron

The needs for iron is increased during pregnancy.  If a mother has iron-deficiency anemia, both her and her infant will suffer adverse effects such as low maternal weight gain and hypothyroidism, as well as a low birth weight for the infant.  Iron will allow for the flow of oxygen to increase in the mother’s body and the placenta. There are two forms of dietary iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron is derived from haemoglobin that transports oxygen in blood. It is found in animal foods that originally contained hemoglobin, such as red meats, fish, and poultry. Your body absorbs the most iron from heme sources. Iron in plant foods such as lentils, beans, and spinach is nonheme iron. Our bodies are less efficient at absorbing nonheme iron, but most dietary iron is nonheme iron.

Vitamin C can be very beneficial to protecting the health of the mother and baby.  Vitamin C is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient that works to protect both veins and capillaries, which are particularly stressed in a mother who is carrying an extra weight and is also necessary for the body to make collagen, a structural protein that’s a component of cartilage, tendons, bones, and skin in babies. Citrus fruits are especially high in vitamin C, but leafy greens and many other fruits and vegetables are excellent sources.

During pregnancy, water may be one of the most underutilized nutrients. After conception, water demands increase as a woman’s blood volume actually increases and her body has to supply fluid to replenish the amniotic fluid the baby is in. With thirst an unreliable indicator, symptoms of dehydration so vague, and drinks that may dehydrate, every pregnant woman needs to increase her fluid intake. Drinking enough water can help fight off morning sickness and also helps prevent constipation and make sure mother and baby are properly hydrated.

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