With a baby on board, you’ll need to pay extra attention to your pregnancy diet. Besides folate, two nutrients, in particular, get a lot of attention and with good reason too - Iron and Calcium. Read on to find out why they’re so critical for your nutrition during pregnancy, how much you should be having, and how to increase your intake of these nutrients in this dietary pregnancy tips special.
Why Are Iron and Calcium Important During Pregnancy?
When you’re pregnant your blood volume increases by anywhere between 30% and 50%. Iron is essential to produce the additional haemoglobin or blood for your body as well as your baby’s. It plays a crucial role in enabling adequate oxygen supply from the lungs to other parts of your body as well as your baby’s. If you develop an iron-deficiency, it could result in iron-deficiency anaemia which in turn makes you experience fatigue and general weakness and could even cause premature birth or a smaller than average baby.
Calcium is the building block for your baby’s teeth and bones. What’s more, this nutrient helps keep your blood’s clotting mechanism working. It is also needed to regulate muscle contraction (and that includes regulating your heartbeat). It also plays a key role in message transmission from your brain - via the nerves - to various parts of your body.
How Much Iron and Calcium Do I Need During Pregnancy?
While you’re pregnant, aim to get a minimum of 35 mg of iron every day as part of your pregnancy diet. Even after your baby arrives, it is important to ensure you get adequate iron, though 21 mg is enough for adult women and 27 mg for teen mothers.
During pregnancy (and as long as you are breastfeeding your baby after the birth), you’ll need about 1200 mg of calcium daily.
Iron-rich Foods For Pregnancy
Try to get this nutrition during pregnancy naturally via a balanced diet. Consider adding these iron-rich foods for pregnancy to your meals:
- Chicken or other poultry
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, beetroot greens
- Lean red meat
- Seafood like tuna, mackerel, prawns
- Dried beans and peas like channa, rajma, and daals
- Sweet potatoes
- Dried fruit like raisins, figs, prunes, dates, dried apricots
- Iron-fortified cereal, iron-fortified flour, iron-fortified bread, and iron-fortified pasta
Your body better absorbs iron if you eat these foods along with some foods containing vitamin C. So pair your meat, fish, or beans and peas with some tomato or a citrus fruit or any other vitamin C-rich food like bell peppers.
Calcium-rich Foods For Pregnancy
Here are some calcium-rich foods suitable for pregnancy diets:
- Dairy products like yogurt/dahi and cheese
- Dark leafy greens (kale and mustard greens or sarson). Spinach/palak has calcium but this is less easily absorbed
- Ladies Finger/Bhindi
- Soya beans and soy milk
- Fish - like sardines
Note - Avoid excessive sodium intake from salt - sodium is known to increase the calcium-loss via your kidneys.
In some cases, dietary intake of the nutrients may not be adequate to meet your growing need for these essential nutrients. If that’s the case, your doctor may prescribe some supplements to be taken for the duration of your pregnancy continuing to when you are nursing your baby, or for a shorter time period based on your needs. Always consult your gynaecologist before popping any supplements.
Don’t go it alone as a new mum. Learn more from the vibrant MamaXpert community with our blogs and features that tackle the most common as well as some not-so-common issues that pregnant women and new mothers experience.