Nutritional advice for nurturing moms

By Drum Digital
21 August 2014

Giving your child a solid nutritional foundation has a lifelong impact on his or her physical, mental and social development. A mother’s nutritional status both prior to and during pregnancy will have an impact on foetal growth, and it’s important for expectant mothers to consume adequate quantities of appropriate nutrients.

Giving your child a solid nutritional foundation has a lifelong impact on his or her physical, mental and social development. A mother’s nutritional status both prior to and during pregnancy will have an impact on foetal growth, and it’s important for expectant mothers to consume adequate quantities of appropriate nutrients.

FutureLife health products dietician Lara De Santana and FeedingMinds.org share nutritional tips for expectant and breastfeeding mothers:

Nutrition before pregnancy

Certain micronutrients, specifically iron and folate, have effects on pregnancy outcome that have been shown with relative consistency. Some observational studies suggest use of micronutrient-containing prenatal vitamins before and during pregnancy is associated with reductions in the risk of congenital defects, preterm delivery, low infant birth weight, and pre-eclampsia. The reason for recommending sufficient intake of folate prior to pregnancy is in order to ensure the body has a healthy level of this micronutrient from the very start of foetal development.  (Guideline: 400 mcg a day prior to pregnancy)

Nutrition during pregnancy

Folate plays a vital role in the neural tube (which becomes the brain and spinal cord) development of the baby. This development occurs in the early stages of pregnancy, which makes adequate levels of folate particularly important during this time. Folate occurs naturally in a wide variety of foods, particularly dark-green, leafy vegetables. Spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and liver are among the foods with the highest levels of folate.  At least five servings of folate-rich vegetables and fruit are recommended a day, both prior to and during pregnancy. Pregnant women, who are unable to meet their folate requirements by eating a sufficient quantity of foods naturally high in this micronutrient, are advised to eat foods fortified with folic acid or take folic acid supplements. A doctor or health professional should always be consulted with regard to the use of vitamin and mineral supplements. (Folate occurs naturally in food, and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin.)

The importance of eating a nutritionally balanced diet is important for everyone, but pregnant women need to ensure their intake of nutrients is sufficient to support their own requirements as well as those of their unborn baby. Listed below are selected nutrients and their related functions:

  • Protein: Plays a key role in the development of new tissue, cells, blood and bones.
  • Iron: High levels are required during pregnancy; often iron supplements are required.
  • Iodine: Involved in brain and nervous system development.
  • Folate: Vital in neural tube development.
  • Other important nutrients: zinc, calcium, and vitamins A and C.

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