Must-have food for moms-to-be
First Published Dec 18, 2020, 3:10 PM IST
The growing foetus in the womb requires adequate nutrition from the mother to grow and thrive optimally. Maternal nutrition is thus a key determining factor in reducing the risk of many birth defects in newborn babies. Ms Nabanita Saha, Chief Clinical Dietician, Manipal Hospitals, Old Airport Road, Bengaluru lists the vital food items that are must for a pregnant women's diet.
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 25% of Indian women of childbearing age do not receive appropriate nutrition.
Essential pregnancy nutrients such as iron, calcium, folic acid and iodine deficiencies are widespread among the Indian women.
A woman's body goes through several changes over her life and her nutritional requirement also changes to meet the demands of the body.
Pregnancy is one such stage, where the food she takes should be able to meet the optimal nutritional requirement of both herself and the growing baby.
A nutritious maternal diet is associated with improved risk of maternal and infant survival and reduced risk of several health complications in both the mother and the new-born baby.
For example, a poor diet can lead to anaemia, hypertension, gestational diabetes etc in the mother and complications of stillbirth, preterm birth, asthma, weak, fragile bones and serious brain and spinal cord defects in the newborns.
Though all vitamins and minerals are essential for a pregnant woman, some nutrients play a crucial role.
Proteins: Protein is important for building organs in the developing foetus, such as the heart and the brain. It is also required in building strong immunity and keep infections at bay.
Dairy products, tofu, pulses, fishes, eggs and meat are good sources of protein. A pregnant woman requires about 0.5 g of protein during the first trimester, 6.9 g during the second trimester and about 22.7 g of protein during the third trimester of pregnancy.
Iron: Iron is an important component of human blood and its deficiency is extremely common in pregnancy. About 50% of pregnant women in India suffer from anaemia. Low iron intake can lead to anaemia and associated complications such as the increased risk of infections, developmental delays, etc in the baby. The daily intake should be about 35 mg/day. Green leafy vegetables, jaggery, pulses, meat, etc are good sources of iron.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron and also helps to boost immunity. It is also essential for building strong bones. Citrus fruits, guava, gooseberries are good sources of vitamin C.
Calcium: Calcium is crucial for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth in the baby. Deficiency can lead to defective bone and teeth formation. The daily requirement of calcium is about 1200 mg/day and good sources include dairy products, leafy vegetables, broccoli, etc.
Folic Acid: Folic acid is one of the most important nutrients required in pregnancy to prevent serious brain and spinal cord defects in newborns. A pregnant woman should take 0.5 mg folic acid every day and good sources include green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, citrus fruits, etc.
Iodine: Iodine is also considered as an important nutrient to prevent mental retardation in newborns. The best source of iodine is common salt fortified with iodine.
Fat: Fats are good for the baby’s brain and eye development. It also helps to prevent preterm birth and low birth weight. The fat requirement in pregnancy is about 54-82 gm/day in the second trimester and about 57-85 gm/day in the third trimester.
It is important to choose healthy fats such as ghee and vegetable oils which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids over trans-fat and saturated fats to provide the baby optimal nourishment, without the risk of obesity and heart complications in the mother.
Other good sources of omega 3 fatty acids include flax seed, canola oil, soybean oil, fish oil, pulses, nuts and seeds. Refrain from overindulgence in cakes, bakery items and chips which are high in trans-fat. Also restrict the intake of fried foods, chicken skin, animal organs and egg yolks which are high in saturated fat.
* Try to include lots of fruits and vegetables of different colour every day. They are packed with fibres, vitamins and minerals
* Whole-grains such as wheat, jowar, brown rice, bajra are a good source of fibre, iron and vitamin B and also help to prevent constipation in pregnancy.
* Include 3-4 servings of dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and paneer every day
* Drink about 10 glasses of water every day to keep yourself hydrated
* Limit the intake of caffeinated drinks to prevent miscarriage or pre-term birth and large sea fish to avoid high mercury levels in the blood. It can interfere with normal brain development in babies.
* Avoid alcohol to prevent learning and behavioural problems in babies.
* Avoid unpasteurized food and raw meat to prevent infections and related complications in pregnancy.
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