Key Nutrients for Pregnancy
At the moment of conception, a magnificent cascade of events begins to unfold. An intricate process of gene expression, cellular division and growth ensue to bring forth an amazing new human being. The following nine months will be a foundational time for this new life and will set the stage for health and wellness in the years to come outside of the womb.
The womb should be a place of nourishment and protection. Ideally, the womb should be ready to deliver essential nutrients to manage the process of cellular division and growth. By the time the first trimester is complete, every organ system of the body is present and working in the new fetus. The source of these valuable nutrients that help the entire process is provided solely by the mother’s diet. This is why a pre-pregnancy diet is so vital as well as the diet over the entire gestational period.
In a culture that has devalued food for convenient alternatives and drive-thru windows, we need to be intentional about providing the body with nutrient-dense foods that will build the health of our next generations. This means turning away from enriched, processed, and boxed foods filled with synthetic vitamins and preservatives. We must choose the whole foods found in nature that are full of the nutrients God intended the body to thrive on. For more specific information on a whole foods diet related to pregnancy, please watch our video...
The underlying reason a diet rich in whole foods brings health and vitality is that it supplies the body with vitamins and minerals in a natural usable form. Vitamins and minerals are often referred to as “co-factors” or “regulators” that assist at the cellular level for proper growth and bodily function. Enriched foods offer synthetic vitamins that are derived in a laboratory using coal-tar derivatives the body does not understand and is unable to use. A diet of whole foods is critical for proper formation of the fetus. This applies to any supplement taken during pregnancy. Most women know the importance of taking a prenatal, but it must be whole food based without any synthetic vitamins, preservatives or additives to be of any benefit to the body.
Here are just a few of the highly important nutrients the body needs for proper fetal growth that should be in every pre-pregnancy and pregnancy diet.
Vitamins & Fatty Acids
- Vitamin A. This is considered the “master control switch” of all cell differentiation within a growing fetus. Proper cell division and differentiation is driven by Vitamin A which prevents birth defects and promotes proper formation of organ systems. When Vitamin A was removed from the diets of laboratory animals, the effects were disastrous and led to a host of birth defects. Synthetic forms of Vitamin A to avoid include names such as Acetate or Palmitate. You can get Vitamin A from a whole food based prenatal which should always say "as Beta Carotene." The body converts Beta Carotene into Vitamin A in the body naturally. The highest known source of Beta Carotene and also one of the best nutrient-dense superfoods any mom can benefit from is spirulina. Spirulina has over 38x more Beta Carotene than carrots! You can also take a quality cod liver oil such as Green Pastures to get a direct source of Vitamin A into the body.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D becomes especially important during the third trimester for the proper skeletal growth of the developing fetus. Studies have shown that the mother’s level of Vitamin D drops rapidly in the third trimester when the majority of the baby’s skeleton develops. Synthetic Vitamin D is found in the form of Vitamin D2 and starts with "ergo" such as "ergocalciferol." You will see this on many boxed and packaged foods. Natural Vitamin D is Vitamin D3 and is called "cholecalciferol." Many newer quality vitamin D supplements are coming from sunflowers and lichen. Look for those as well. Recommendations are a minimum of 5,000 IU's daily (or higher). You can also get Vitamin D from butter or cod liver oil as well, such as Green Pastures. And of course one of the most enjoyable ways to build your body’s stores of Vitamin D is to get in the sun!
- Vitamin K. Known to be critical for proper formation of Calcium in bone tissue and keeping Calcium out of the soft tissues; Vitamin K is an essential part of a pregnancy diet. Synthetic Vitamin K is found in the forms of Vitamin K3, K4 or K5 or "menadione, " and this is very dangerous. Vitamin K1 is naturally occurring in green leafy vegetables like spinach or kale. Vitamin K2 is found in grass-fed animal fats and fermented foods, especially goose liver, cheese and, to a lesser extent, butter and egg yolks.
- Folate. One of the many important B-Vitamins is folate which plays an essential role in pregnancy. It is widely known for the production and replication of DNA. New DNA is required for new cells. Because the fetus is always growing, it constantly requires cell division that cannot take place properly without adequate levels of folate. Folate is critical for healthy birth weight. Also, the mother must expand her blood supply, and folate plays a vital role in this function. If deficient, this can lead to pre-eclampsia and other conditions. Synthetic folate can be identified on labels as "folic acid." Many are advised to take folic acid during pregnancy. However, there are no natural forms of folic acid; the body must synthesize it. The body uses natural sources of folate and converts it into usable folic acid. The top ten folate-rich foods are garbanzo beans, liver, pinto beans, lentils, spinach, asparagus, avocado, beets, black-eyed peas, and broccoli. It is easy to get natural folate in a quality whole food prenatal vitamin.
- DHA. An omega 3 fatty acid, DHA is necessary for the formation of neurons and the synthesis of essential brain lipids. The fetus hordes DHA from the mother during gestation. DHA can be obtained from cod liver oil and other fatty fish, egg yolks and algae. Krill oil is an excellent source of DHA. A deficiency in DHA is frequently linked to postpartum depression in women, so it is great to take throughout the pregnancy and post-natal period.
These are just a few of the critical nutrients necessary for proper fetal development and keeping mom healthy during, and after, the birth. A good whole food based prenatal will cover these and will also provide other must-have nutrients such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, other B-Vitamins, including valuable minerals.
One critical component often overlooked for good health during pregnancy are minerals. The body uses minerals as building blocks for forming bones, joints, ligaments and other tissues. We have all heard that Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, Iron and other minerals are paramount to our health, and it is even more so during pregnancy. Deficiencies in Zinc, Calcium, and Magnesium have been linked to post-partum depression. To ensure proper mineralization and optimum health for pregnancy, we encourage the following supplements:
- Electrolytes. If you have lived on the standard American diet, void of mineral-rich foods, it would be wise to consider efforts to re-mineralize the body with electrolyte minerals. Particularly for women with back to back pregnancies and multiple births, mineral deficiencies can be exacerbated. Quintessence Optimum Mineralization, also known as "Quinton" minerals, are based on the research of Dr. Quinton. Dr.Quinton was a French researcher in the late 1800's that discovered ocean water had the same mineral composition as human blood. By supplementing diluted amounts of these minerals in women, he saw tremendous results with fertility, healthy pregnancies from women who had formerly miscarried, an increase in healthy babies from women who had babies with deformities and overall better health and well-being of both mother and child. We recommend taking QuintEssential Optimum Mineralization 3.3 during pregnancy.
- Calcium and Magnesium. For a more targeted approach during pregnancy, consider supporting the body with extra Calcium and Magnesium. Magnesium helps with relaxation, sleep, cramps and relieving stress. Magnesium chloride by Health and Wisdom is an excellent way to get an absorbable form of magnesium through either a bath or a foot soak. This can be life-changing for a pregnant momma. An absolute must-have for any pregnancy! Calcium plays a significant role in building tissue; supplementing during pregnancy can keep mom from being depleted after birth. Look for a plant-based source such as MegaFood Calcium.
- Trace Minerals. Trace minerals provide the spark of life the body needs for cellular communication, proper cellular function and a variety of metabolic processes: such as growth and development. Due to modern farming practices, our food supply is deficient in trace minerals. Therefore they should be supplemented, especially during pregnancy. Try an easily absorbed plant-based form such as Inner Vitality by Morningstar Minerals. Derived from decomposed plants, this rich mineral source provides every trace mineral the body needs. Women notice more energy, less fatigue, and overall better mood.
- Iron. Anemia is common during pregnancy due to the high increase of blood production to support the growth of the baby. Iron-deficient Anemia and Pernicious Anemia (B-12 deficiency) are avoided by taking a product that contains both plant-based Iron and plant-based Vitamin B-12. We do not advise taking elemental iron forms, such as ferrous sulfate which can lead to constipation. Instead, try MegaFood Baby & Me Prenatal.
More than ever we are in need of these vital nutrients to produce healthy future generations. Empower yourself by reading labels, avoid dangerous synthetics and fill your cupboards and refrigerator with a bounty of God’s healing foods and whole food supplements! Learn more on our Pregnancy & Childbirth resource page and sign-up for our Pregnancy email list.