Pregnancy Nutrition: Foods to Grow a Healthy baby

Ask about pregnancy nutrition, and you’ll almost certainly receive a detailed shopping list of needs for the baby. Don’t eat uncooked fish, unpasteurised cheese, sushi, runny eggs. Be wary of listeria, make sure you up your fresh veggies, down your caffeine, take folate. When we consider optimal pregnancy outcomes, we’re pretty aware of how deficiencies can affect pregnancy, and the heath of the growing baby. What’s less common is to highlight the specific nutritional needs of the mother, who is also experiencing a period of rapid growth, development and change. But it is possible to prioritise you too, ensuring both you and your babe are nutritionally covered. So let’s unpack it all.

Nutrients to support foetal growth and development

Your growing babe relies heavily on you for all of its nutritional needs, so it’s best to be prepared. Eating a well balanced diet is helpful advice, but what does this actually entail? Here are some key nutrients to make sure you’re across:

Folate

The most talked about nutrient in prenatal nutrition, is famous for its ability to reduce the risk of neural tube defects and spina bifida. Almost all medical professionals will recommend a supplement of this nutrient, but it’s usually the cheapest synthetic form- folic acid- which appears in most multivitamins. It’s best to consider an activated form, such as methylfolate or folinic acid instead, to ensure the nutrient can actually do its job.

A pile of green leafy vegetables on a green background

Food sources of folate:

  • Edamame
  • Lentils
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Avocado
  • Egg
  • Citrus fruits
  • Liver
  • Any fortified grains (it’s mandatory to fortify commercial bread with folate and iodine in Australia).

Choline

This nutrient is critical in pregnancy, but is absent from most prenatal vitamins currently on the market. Choline ensures optimal brain and cognitive development for the baby, and low intake during pregnancy can increase the risk of both neural tube defects and cleft palates. Vegetarians and vegans are more likely to be low in choline- so make sure your prenatal supplement contains a lot of it.

Top food sources of Choline:

The richest dietary sources are in animal products;

  • Eggs
  • Meat (esp. liver)
  • Dairy

Vegan sources include;

  • Peanuts
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Chickpeas
Eggs in all their forms, cooked, raw, shelled, powdered

Selenium

Including antioxidants such as Selenium in prenatal nutrition, can have a significant impact on the neurodevelopment of the foetus, and improve overall pregnancy outcomes.

B vitamins

Including vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12- this group of Bs is also known as ‘B Complex’, and they’re important for healthy foetal brain development. Deficiency can be associated with difficulty conceiving, and increased risk of early pregnancy loss.
New research involving Vitamin B3 reveals it has the potential to treat molecular deficiencies which can cause miscarriages and birth defects. This landmark discovery has been likened to the revolutionary breakthrough made last century that confirmed folate supplements can prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects in babies. This is kind of huge.

Top food sources of B vitamins are found in animal products.

  • Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Eggs

Vegetarian food sources of B vitamins

  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Oats
  • Whole grains

Top food sources of Selenium

  • Seafood
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs

Vegeterian food sources of Selenium

  • Nuts (particularly brazil nuts)
  • Seeds
  • Pulses

Iodine and zinc

These minerals are important nutrients to adequately consume when pregnant, as severe deficiency is associated with some congenital abnormalities.

The best food sources of iodine all come from the ocean.

  • Fish
  • Seaweed/ nori/ wakame

Protein containing foods are the richest food sources of zinc.

  • Red meat
  • Shellfish
  • Wholegrains

Magensium

Adequate intake of magnesium is needed for normal embryonic and foetal development. Supplementation has been advised to decrease the chances of poor foetal growth.

Great food sources of magnesium

  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Wholegrains
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Seafood
  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa

Find more articles in our journal.

Visit our shop to find out more about The Prenatal supplement to help support a healthy pregnancy.

moode bottle
Visit our shop to find out more about The Prenatal supplement to help support a healthy pregnancy.

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