March 10, 2014

Nutrition in pregnancy and lactation

When you're pregnant, eating healthy foods is more important than ever. You need more protein, iron, calcium, and folic acid than you did before pregnancy. You also need more calories. But "eating for two" doesn't mean eating twice as much. It means that the foods you eat are the main source of nutrients for your baby. Sensible, balanced meals will be best for you and your baby.

Get off to a good start with these pregnancy super foods.

Whole grains

Enriched, whole-grain breads and cereals are fortified with folic acid and iron and have more fiber than white bread and rice. Work whole grains into your day: oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich on whole-grain bread at lunch, and whole-wheat pasta or brown rice for dinner. 


Add black beans, white beans, pinto beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, and kidney, garbanzo, or soy beans to your diet. Try them in chili and soups, salads, and pasta dishes. Besides providing protein and fiber, they are also good sources of key nutrients, such as iron, folate, calcium, and zinc. 


Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your baby's brain and eyes, and salmon is a great source. Plus it provides protein and B vitamins. Salmon is also relatively low in mercury compared to other fish. Try it grilled, broiled, or on a salad. You can safely eat up to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish, such as salmon, per week. 


Eggs are versatile and a good source of protein that provides amino acids you and your baby need. They contain more than a dozen vitamins and minerals, including choline, which is good for baby's brain development. However, be sure not to eat undercooked or raw eggs.


Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are delicious snacks and taste great in pancakes and on top of cereal. Berries are packed with vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber.

Low-fat yogurt

One cup of plain, low-fat yogurt has more calcium than milk, is high in protein, and doesn’t have the added sugar of flavored yogurts. Dress it up with fruit or crunchy, whole-grain cereal. 

Most rapid brain growth occurs during the last 3 months of fetal life-with the infant’s brain tripling in size by the first birthday. The researchers believe that supplementing pregnant mothers with DHA may benefit brain and retinal development in their offspring particularly if born prematurely. Docosahexaenoic acid (commonly known as DHA) is an omega-3 essential fatty acid.

They point out that supplementing from mid-pregnancy to the 34th week is perfectly safe.

After birth, from 1 to 8 months of age, DHA continues to accumulate at a slower rate in the baby’s body. After about 2 years of age brain DHA practically reaches adult levels.

Since breastfeeding is the only source of nourishment for the newborn for the first 6 months of life, it is important to ensure that the breastfeeding mother has adequate stores of DHA as well. In another study, supplementation of infant formula with DHA during the first weeks of infancy was found to improve the mental function.

Major food sources of DHA

Fishes such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel; fish oil supplements, nuts, seeds, oils like soyabean oil, rapeseed oil, linseed oil, flaxseed oil, eggs and marine algae are rich in DHA.However, excessive cooking of these foods may destroy DHA.

DHA is available as a supplement in two common forms:-

• Fish oil capsules, which contain both DHA and EPA
• DHA from algae, which contains no EPA

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