A knowledge about the nutrients required during pregnancy helps to plan a proper meal. Actually the nutrient need has to be met before conception.A women who is well nourished at the time of conception begins her journey into motherhood with reserves of several essential nutrients so that the fetus grows with adequate supplies of nutrients and the mothers health is not affected.
Time and again the importance of nourishment in pregnancy is emphasized as the infants who are well nourished in the womb have a better chance of entering this world in good physical and mental health.Undernourished mothers give birth to undernourished and low birth weight babies who may be premature and fall prey to a whole range of illness and disease in their lifetime.
Each country has certain specifications which are followed to calculate the nutrients required. Also the condition of the mother at the time of conception also decides the type of nutrient required in larger quantity. So I am just giving a overview of the type of nutrient , the role they play in pregnancy and the food stuffs that are rich in that particular nutrient.
1. Energy :
The caloric needs of a pregnant woman increases in the later part of the pregnancy. The increased need for calories is to support the growth of fetus, placenta, development of maternal tissues, and to meet the increased basal metabolic rate.Basal metabolic rate is the base rate at which the body consumes energy for the basic metabolic functions like maintaining the body temperature, repairing tissues, pumping blood etc. During pregnancy this basal metabolic rate increases as there is additional work has to be done for the growing fetus and the due to the increase in the mothers body weight.
Normally, pregnancy calls for the weight gain of the mother .The fat that is accumulated in the body acts as the energy reserve. When there in a deficient intake of calories, this fat is used up for energy and thus protein is spared for tissue building.
While choosing foods rich in calories, one must opt for nutrient based calorie rich foods and avoid those with empty calories[ ie without any nutrient ]. Carbohydrates are the major sources of energy and it is available in two forms – Simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates are found in rice, sugars, potato, pasta , some dairy products etc. These provide a quick burst of energy.Complex carbohydrates are essential in pregnancy.These take a longer time to break down.Vegetables, whole grain pastas, bread, beans etc fall into this group. Try to include more of green leafy vegetables like spinach etc, bran muffins, brown rice, whole wheat pastas and bread, sweet potato in the diet.
Protein is required in larger quantity during pregnancy to meet the demands of
- Growing fetus
- Enlargement of the uterus, placenta, mammary glands
- Increased maternal circulating blood volume
- For the formation of amniotic fluid
- Storage reserves for labor and lactation
- Transfer of amino acids [ building blocks for proteins] from the mother to the fetus.
If the protein in the diet is insufficient during pregnancy, there is increased risk of of pregnancy disorders, the fetus grows at the expense of the body, meaning the fetus takes the protein from the mothers stores, maximum growth of the fetus cannot be achieved, number of cells in the tissues may be less especially in the brain.
When calorie and protein deficiency occur together, it takes its toll on the mothers and the lil ones health.
Protein of high biological value is better suited during pregnancy.Milk, meat, egg, pasteurized cheese, yogurt, tofu, cottage cheese, peanut, peanut butter are good sources of protein.
Read more about protein here.
Disclaimer : This post is written to be a guideline and is not a medical advice. For further doubts and clarification consult your Dietitian / Gynecologist.
Earlier in this series on pregnancy: