Whether you’re trying to conceive, or currently pregnant, you want to ensure you’re fueling your body properly for your growing baby, or growing baby-to-be. While there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to becoming a mom, one thing we know for sure is that proper nutrition is hugely important.
Along with our beloved fiber, there are several vitamins and minerals that become even more important in pregnancy. A lot of these you may already be getting from your regular diet, but there could be some gaps you want to fill in. If there’s any time to be focusing on your nutrition, it’s now!
Here, our Director of Nutrition shares her recommendations for promoting fertility and a healthy pregnancy.
PRE-PREGNANCY: WHAT TO EAT FOR FERTILITY, AND WHAT TO AVOID
Before you become pregnant, you want to make sure that you’re nourishing your body properly. Think about this as the time to set yourself up for the most successful, healthy pregnancy possible. By focusing on these specific nutrients, you can promote fertility and start consuming more vitamin and mineral-rich foods.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids from consumption of salmon, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils in moderation are also beneficial for fertility, as they improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation. (i)
2. Iron from plant sources, known as non-heme iron, can help to improve fertility. These foods include spinach, beans, tomatoes, beets (i)
3. Increase sulfur-rich foods for a glutathione boost. Glutathione is essential for fertility because it protects the follicles during replication. The health of a woman’s eggs is dependent on glutathione activity, leading to stronger, healthier embryos. Glutathione levels increase with consumption of sulfur-rich foods, like onions, garlic, broccoli, kale, asparagus, bok choy, cabbage, and watermelon. (ii)
While you’re focusing on those nutrients, there are some things you will want to avoid; studies have shown there are certain foods can have a negative impact on fertility. These include trans fats, processed red meats, white potatoes, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Trans-fats, processed red meats, and sugar can lead to higher insulin levels which can cause metabolic disturbances and decreased ovulation (i).
DURING PREGNANCY: 5 IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS
Folic Acid – The RDA for folic acid increases from 400 mcg of dietary folate equivalents (DFE) to 600 mg DFE during pregnancy to support fetal and placental growth, maternal erythropoiesis and DNA synthesis. This is especially important in the first trimester. While supplementation with a prenatal vitamin is encouraged, it’s also important to consume nutrients through real foods because it’s better absorbed. Foods such as spinach, kale, arugula, edamame, beans, beets, avocado, asparagus, eggs, broccoli, and brussels sprouts are good sources of folic acid (iii)
Iron – The recommendation for iron during pregnancy nearly doubles, from 18 mg/day to 27 mg/day. An estimated 42% of pregnant women worldwide are iron deficient. Foods highest an iron include spinach, shellfish, and red meat (iv).
Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 is important for healthy growth and development of the fetus. B12 stores last longer than most other vitamins, so it is important to maintain good intake of foods high in B12 prior to pregnancy. The RDA for B12 in pregnancy increases slightly to 2.6 mcg. Adequate B12 while pregnant is also essential for cognitive development and motor function of the infant. Foods highest in B12 are fish, beef, milk, eggs, yogurt, cheeses, and some nutritional yeasts (v).
Choline – Choline supports fetal brain development and reduce risk of neurological defects. The RDA for choline in pregnancy is 450 mg/day. Choline is also integral to development of a healthy placenta and may affect fetal responses to stress. Foods high in choline include eggs, cauliflower, fish, mushrooms, dark leafy greens, shellfish, and asparagus (vi).
Water – I often refer to water as the forgotten nutrient! If you don’t drink enough water, now is the time to start. Our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water, and this number increases during pregnancy to support the fetus. Adequate hydration is especially important during pregnancy. Increasing your water intake with adequate fiber will ensure you stay regular throughout your pregnancy. F-Factor recommends 3+ liters a day to ensure adequate hydration for mom and baby, and prevent swelling associated with pregnancy.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Don’t overthink it! A diet of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and lean proteins will provide the essential nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy, just make sure to aim for variety and you’ll check all the boxes.
- i. Chavarro, J., Willett, W., & Skerrett, P. J. (2009). The fertility diet: Groundbreaking research reveals natural ways to boost ovulation & improve your chances of getting pregnant. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- ii. Adeoye O, Olawumi J, Opeyemi A, Christiania O. Review on the role of glutathione on oxidative stress and infertility. JBRA Assist Reprod. 2018;22(1):61‐66.
- iii. Folate: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/
- iv. Iron: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional
- v. Vitamin B12: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/
- vi. Choline: Fact Sheet for Health Professions. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/