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8 Nutrients Most Often Overlooked in Pregnant Mothers
Now that you’re pregnant, maintaining a nutritious diet to support your well-being throughout the trimesters and, more importantly, your newborn’s growth and development is more important than ever. On top of having a well-balanced and healthy diet, some common nutrients are most often overlooked in pregnant mothers. Let’s discover these nutrients and the best sources to get them.
Vitamin D plays a role in supporting bone health by helping the absorption of calcium. Recent studies have found an association between serum Vitamin D with increased risk of inflammatory markers, mortality, hyperglycaemia, higher blood pressure, depression and emergency caesarean section. These new findings have led to increasing attention towards the importance of Vitamin D adequacy in women during pregnancy and postpartum.
A research in Singapore has found that up to 40% of pregnant mothers during the second trimester in Singapore were Vitamin D inadequate despite living in a tropical country where adequate sun exposure is available all year round. It was found that those who were Vitamin D deficient among the Malays had higher fasting blood glucose while the Chinese and Indians had a higher risk of emergency caesarean section. Other research has found the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency to be higher among mothers with postpartum depression compared to mothers who did not. No doubt, these links are a concern.
Therefore, achieving adequate Vitamin D status is essential in pregnant mothers. Vitamin D can be obtained by supplements (not for everyone, seek advice from your gynaecologist or dietitian to determine if you are deficient before starting on one), food or even sun exposure. A general recommendation is to have 15 to 30 minutes of exposure to the sun where the face, neck, and all limbs are exposed at least twice a week. Some who are fairer may only need 15 minutes for each exposure, whereas others who may be of darker skin may need longer. Other than that, Vitamin D can also be found in food such as fortified cereals, fortified milk, shiitake mushrooms, salmon and eggs.
New research has also found that you can easily increase Vitamin D content in fresh mushrooms bought from the supermarket by leaving them under the sun for a while. This helps to encourage the mushrooms to produce more Vitamin D. Research has found this an easy way to increase Vitamin D in mushrooms and significantly improve Vitamin D intake and Vitamin D status through foods.
Omega-3 DHA is known to be anti-inflammatory, involved in supporting brain development, and has a potential protective effect on improving mood. There are also growing studies on how adequate intake of Omega-3 DHA through foods or supplements lead to a lower risk of preterm labour and increased birth weight in infants.
Local research has found that a lower ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 intake in women living in Singapore during the second trimester showed a higher risk of antenatal anxiety. Many studies have discussed adequate Omega-3 intakes and the potential protective effect on depression. Further studies still need to be done for it to be conclusive.
Nevertheless, Omega-3 DHA is still essential for your baby’s brain development and growth during pregnancy. Another interesting finding from Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) was that mothers with higher Omega-3 during pregnancy had minor weight retention during postpartum! That’s really good news and another reason for mummies to ensure sufficient intake of Omega-3 during pregnancy!
What about during confinement? Adequate Omega-3 DHA intake is still equally important during confinement as maternal intake is directly translated to Omega-3 content in breast milk. Therefore, finding a suitable confinement meal Singapore delivery service or confinement soup package Singapore catering service which serves Omega-3 DHA-rich foods like fish as frequently as two to three times a week is important.
Omega-3 DHA can only be found in marine sources, mainly seafood and algae. Plant-based Omega-3, like chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts, are generally in the form of Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA), which has a very poor conversion rate to DHA form known to be beneficial for the brain. The recommendation is to have at least 300mg of Omega-3 DHA daily. This can be achieved by having Omega-3 DHA-rich and low mercury fish, like mackerel, salmon, sardines and cod fish, for two to three times a week. Alternatively, you can take 300mg of Omega-3 DHA supplement per day.
Calcium is an essential nutrient in your everyday meal. An evergreen staple to the balanced diet plan and a proven one at that. It helps strengthen your bones, keeps your blood and muscles moving and helps your nerves send messages from your brain to the rest of your body. Having sufficient calcium intake helps to reduce your risk of pre-eclampsia, a hypertension disorder during pregnancy that can increase the risk of miscarriage.
Calcium is not only beneficial for your health, but it is also essential for your baby! How so, you may ask. During pregnancy, your baby’s bones and teeth develop drastically! Hence, calcium is vital for boosting your baby’s muscles, promoting heart development and encouraging nerve growth.
Furthermore, calcium-based foods make for good confinement snacks too. It helps you reduce your risk of brittle bones in later years. Examples of foods that are rich in calcium are milk, cheese, dairy foods, soy milk, soy products and black sesame seeds.
During pregnancy, it is wise for mothers to consume diets that are rich in iron. This is because your body would require twice the amount of iron compared to a non-pregnant woman. Iron is an essential nutrient needed to form haemoglobin, the protein component of your red blood cells, which transport oxygen to your tissues.
Moreover, the lack of iron in your diet at this stage would lead to iron deficiency anaemia. This a condition which could be severely harmful to the pregnant mother as it could cause premature births, low birth weight for the baby and postpartum depression.
Also, iron-rich food is relatively easy to obtain as it is abundant such as lean red meat, poultry, fish, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, prune juice, dried beans and peas. Do remember to take fruit with these meals as vitamin C increases the absorption of iron intake.
Besides that, avoid having dairy, tea or coffee with these meals, as calcium and caffeine reduce iron absorption in these foods. If you do, take these foods 2 hours before or after meals.
It is worth keeping Vitamin B12 in mind during pregnancy when getting or preparing food for yourself. While this nutrient is not mentioned as frequently as the other nutrients on this list, it is more important and equal.
Vitamin B12 is vital for your nervous system. This nutrient, alongside folic acid, is essential in preventing Spina Bifida, a condition that affects the baby’s spine and is usually apparent at birth. Moreover, this nutrient effectively prevents birth defects in your baby’s central and spinal nervous systems. So what are the foods that are rich in vitamin B12? They are red meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
Folate/ Folic Acid
It is worth mentioning that you are recommended to consume at least 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Based on the study by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, most prenatal vitamins contain this amount of folic acid. Folic acid supplements are generally recommended to take three months before conception and the first three months of pregnancy.
Folate is essential because it prevents NTDs (Neural Tube Defects) such as Spina Bifida. In addition, this nutrient is also vital for the development of your baby’s nervous system. Plus, folate is easily accessible as a natural nutrient, especially in green leafy vegetables, legumes and beans.
Consumption of iodine is key to a healthy pregnancy. It is important because it contributes to producing maternal and fetal thyroid hormones that regulate the development of the fetal brain and nervous system.
It is also worth noting that your needs to increase substantially during pregnancy to ensure enough supply to the fetus. The recommended amount of iodine you should consume ranges between 220mcg/ day. This is essential for proper fetal growth and prevents cognitive or psychomotor impairments. Common food sources of iodine are seaweed, fish, shellfish and iodised salt.
Like folate, choline is involved in brain development in infants. Choline is a nutrient developed by the liver. It is a type of B vitamin. It is known to play a role in the brain and spinal cord development during pregnancy, cognitive function in infancy and even prevent cognitive decline in the elderly. Until recently, the role of choline as part of a healthy and balanced diet has been largely overlooked.
Choline’s adequate intake recommendation for pregnant women is 450mg/day by the Institute of Medicine. Interestingly, eggs are the main source of choline from food! Having two eggs daily can achieve up to 60% of recommended adequate intake.
And yes, we already know what you are thinking. The yolks must be eaten to enjoy these nutrients as it is found in the yolks and not the whites. This may be an unpopular recommendation since egg yolks are associated with higher cholesterol. However, this should not concern pregnant mothers with no high cholesterol or heart issues.
Large epidemiological and clinical studies have found that dietary cholesterol from eggs does not increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases in healthy people. Other beneficial nutrients that can only be found in the egg yolk and not the egg white are Omega-3, Folate, Lutein Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. These nutrients are fat-based, therefore only found in egg yolks and not egg white. Other foods that contain some choline can also be found in salmon, broccoli, cauliflower, beef, soybeans, chicken, fish and potatoes.
During postpartum, choline is still essential for the same reasons. So if you’re looking for one that incorporates such foods, Tian Wei Signature is a Singapore confinement meal delivery service that provides meals with eggs, salmon, broccoli and cauliflower frequently throughout the 28 days. Moreover, to keep it interesting for mummies, all these ingredients are prepared in a mixture of traditional and fusion flavours. No more boring confinement meals!
On top of all of this goodness, our confinement meals are also MSG-free and breastfeeding-friendly to help improve your postpartum recovery and breast milk production! Learn more about Tian Wei Signature confinement meal Singapore packages by clicking on the “Book Now” button at the top right corner of this page now!