Feeding your body the right nutrients while pregnant will ensure that both yourself and your bub will be healthy throughout and at the end of your pregnancy. BioCeuticals dietitian, nutritionist and mum-of-two Belinda Reynolds shares her top tips on the nutrients you should be eating when pregnant to keep mum and bub healthy.
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Vitamin D is important in maintaining health in expecting mothers and their baby. Mums who are deficient in Vitamin D are at an increased risk of giving birth to Vitamin D deficient babies. Why is this a problem? Vitamin D plays a role in the functioning of the brain, the immune system, the bones and muscles just to name a few areas. Mums are more at risk of infection if vitamin D deficiency is present, as is her new born child. Bone and muscle development will be compromised in a D deficient child, and due to the role of vitamin D in also modulating immune function, there may also be a heightened risk of allergic conditions. Because unprotected sun exposure that is required for vitamin D synthesis in the body is not recommended due to associated risks – a supplement can be necessary. Overweight women and those who are not regularly outside are more at risk of deficiencies in vitamin D.
Iodine plays an essential role in thyroid functioning (it is a key building block for the production of thyroid hormone), and thyroid function is required to support healthy nervous system and brain development in the foetus. It is therefore important to be consuming sufficient iodine through the diet, or use a supplement if you’re struggling to achieve this. Sources of iodine include seaweed (e.g. sushi), oysters, cranberries, salmon, eggs, also other seafood, and iodised salt.
Recently, a lot of media attention has focused on vitamin B3’s importance when planning for pregnancy.
The truth is, all B vitamins play a role in supporting a healthy pregnancy and developing foetus. The B vitamins largely work together as a team to deliver optimal benefits to the body. Therefore simply supplementing with only one is not going to promote overall health. For example, vitamins B2 and B6 play a role in helping to activate folate so that it can do its job, while vitamin B12 is essential for one of the key reactions in the body that takes place utilising folate. Vitamins B3 and B2 also play a key role in supporting energy production that is required to power a huge number of reactions that keep the body functioning. The richest food sources of Vitamin B include green leafy vegetables, certain nuts and seeds, avocado, fish, poultry and eggs. With support of a health care practitioner, consider a multi B rather than simply taking a single nutrient (unless of course you have been prescribed a product to target a specific dysfunction/imbalance in your system).
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids, such as those found in oily fish, virgin olive oil, certain raw nuts and avocado, are important for health. The long chain omega-3 fats found in fish have specifically been shown to support the brain and nervous system development of the growing foetus and new born (emphasising fish oil’s benefit during breastfeeding). These oils are also anti-inflammatory and support many aspects of health, including that of the heart and skin.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
The good bacteria that live on and within our body play a vital role in sustaining our overall health. In fact, studies have linked a desirable balance of bacteria in the gut to the health of our immune and digestive function, positive mood and even fertility. Imbalances of this bacterium in our body, particularly during pregnancy and breastfeeding could be associated with increases in risk of allergies and asthma development in babies. Additionally, imbalances contribute to increased risks for mothers in terms of developing urogenital infections, such as thrush, vaginosis and mastitis during and after pregnancy. Therefore, foods rich in sources of fibre that sustain the good bacteria are essential, or using probiotic supplements can be useful in many cases (e.g. following antibiotic use), just be sure to seek the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner to ensure you’re using the best option for you.