Getting nutrition right in pregnancy is crucial.
shows you how to get all you need from food you love.
By Sally J. Hall
Pregnancy is an amazing time of change in your body and your nutritional needs will change not just once but continually and even after the birth, especially when you’re breastfeeding.
We should, in theory, be able to get all we need from our diet but in these days of fast food, ready meals and intensive farming, it may not always be possible. So we’ve put together an easy checklist so you can see where to get those vitamins and minerals you need plus we have quick and easy ways to boost your intake. We’ve also spoken to top dietary experts who offer some specific advice on your pregnancy nutrition. So get eating the best mix of foods, to keep you and baby bouncing.
A strengthens immune system, keeps skin healthy.
Eat carrots, red, yellow and green fruit and veg, dairy, eggs and oily fish. Liver and pate, though good sources, should be avoided.
E great for healthy eyes, the skin and a healthy immune system.
Eat plant oils (olive oil), nuts, seeds and wheat germ in cereals.
C protects cells, maintains connective tissue and helps wound healing.
Eat oranges, red and green peppers, soft fruits, broccoli, brussels sprouts and potatoes.
K is necessary for blood clotting, wound healing and healthy bones.
Eat green vegetables, vegetables oils and cereal grains.
D regulates calcium and phosphate. Mostly taken in from sunlight on the skin.
Eat oily fish, eggs, cereals.
B12, B, FOLIC ACID (you should take 400mcg daily).
Eat milk, eggs, fortified cereals, wholegrain bread, and rice, a wide range of fruit and vegetables and pulses.
IRON makes red blood cells, prevents anaemia
Eat meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit, especially apricots, wholegrains, cereals and dark green leafy veg. You should avoid liver during pregnancy, however, because it can be too high in iron.
OMEGA 3 found in Fish oils or flax oil contains a rich source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which contributes to brain and eye development.
Eat oily fish (avoid fish that might be mercury contaminated like marlin and swordfish). If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can obtain DHA and EPA through vegetable oils like linseed oil.
CALCIUM builds bones and teeth, helps muscle contractions, especially the heart and helps blood to clot normally.
Eat dairy products, green veg, soya beans, tofu, nuts, bread and fish like sardines and pilchards, where you eat the bones.
We need a small amount of minerals such as selenium, Magnesium, sodium, potassium and others, in the body. Eat a wide range of foods.
Ask the Experts
We asked two experts their nutritional tips for pregnancy. Top fertility & pregnancy expert, Zita West runs the Zita West Clinic, London’s most famous holistic fertility clinic. Helen Ford is a top nutritionist at the Glenville Nutrition Clinic, run by Dr. Marilyn Glenville, a leading advisor in nutritional health.
‘How do I get a healthy diet?’
We all wonder how what we eat affects our unborn baby. Though most are aware that alcohol and smoking can harm our baby, we may not be so knowledgeable about vitamins and minerals. Zita West says that even before conception, we should be aware of our diet, to give our baby the best possible start.
“Anyone thinking about conceiving should take three months’ ‘preparation’ time, the time it takes for the follicles to develop and release an egg,” she says. “The environment in which eggs develop is crucial.”
And if you have had problems with mood swings or tiredness, good food choices really could make all the difference.
“Diet and lifestyle changes can help with hormone balance and energy levels, so you’ll be in the best shape to cope with pregnancy,” West continues. “A good diet should include protein, which ‘builds’ your eggs, essential fatty acids which help with hormone production and a healthy immune system, slow release carbohydrates for energy and B vitamins and folic acid for cells.”
Once you know you’re pregnant, most of us pay attention to the “can and can’t” eat lists but should we target specific nutrients at different points of pregnancy to help baby develop?
“The right nutrients, the right amount, at the right time are required for your baby’s organs to develop to their full potential,” says West. “This means your baby will rely not on what you have in any one day but on supplies of nutrients that you stockpile even before you are pregnant.”
Helen Ford states that nutritional advice can help with pregnancy problems. “Common pregnancy symptoms include nausea, cystitis and cramps,” she says. “Following an alkaline diet (fresh fruit and vegetables, minimal animal protein and sugars) can help these conditions. Adding a probiotic like NHP Advanced Probiotic to help support
a healthy urinary tract and magnesium can also be very beneficial.”
Other symptoms can be eased with food. “Traditional remedies like ginger may reduce nausea, which for some is not confined to the first trimester,” says Ford. “Balancing blood sugar is also key to alleviating nausea, which involves eating little and often with sufficient protein and avoiding refined carbohydrates”
Does stress affect nutrition?
So how much does the grind of daily life take its toll on our bodies? Studies show that stressed people have higher levels of cortisol, which isn’t good for baby. West explains: “Stress depletes the body of nutrients for hormonal production, vitamin B and zinc. Alcohol and cigarettes are also stressors and deplete the body’s nutrients.”
Eating for the Third Trimester
It seems we should also pay attention to how the needs of our babies change as they grow and develop. “From 28 to 40 weeks there is rapid development of the baby’s brain, so they require DHA and Omega 3,” West states. “As it’s difficult for a women to manufacture Omega 3, fish oils are the best source. Also important is vitamin D. Many women are deficient in it.”
Helen Ford agrees. “Different stages of pregnancy put different demands on the body, so dietary adjustments are key. Women with specific requirements like vegan, vegetarian or gluten free diets need to ensure they are eating enough protein, essential fatty acids and fibre, for example. Protein and fats are particularly important for the developing baby.”
If you follow social media, there’s a new substance to avoid or embrace almost every week. Recently there has been a lot about magnesium. So should we all be concerned about our levels? Ford thinks we should.
“Magnesium is important in pregnancy for supporting hormones, reducing stress and reducing risk of pre- eclampsia,” she says. “It is nicknamed ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ for its calming effect on mother and baby.” This seems good reason to be aware but there’s more. “It is also a muscle relaxant,” Ford explains, “so may help alleviate cramps, common during the last trimester. It aids smoother contractions!” It may be difficult to know if you are deficient but signs include muscle weakness, cramps and twitching.
Ford advises: “Ensuring a good intake of dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds will provide a good amount of magnesium but supplements would be a way of optimising levels. It is possible to check women have sufficient magnesium via a simple blood test.”
“We would encourage pregnant women to come and see a qualified nutritionist to ensure they are eating a varied and nutritious diet,” says Ford. “This is particularly important, as there is so much confusing and conflicting advice around eating during pregnancy. We can also offer testing to see if there are any key deficiencies and then correct them through dietary changes and nutritional supplements.”
Zita West Clinic, London
W: zitawest.com T: 020 3613 2266
Marilyn Glenville, London and Tunbridge Wells
marilynglenville.com T: 01892 515905