When you begin to think about having a baby, your health is a great place to start! A healthy lifestyle, supplemented by adequate nutrition, physical activity, and prenatal vitamins can help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications, birth defects and chronic diseases for your future little one. Read on, as I break down the importance of the vitamins and minerals in a prenatal vitamin and highlight my favorite foods in a variety of nutrient categories. Oh yeah…and you don’t need to be pregnant to be taking a prenatal vitamin; I recommend it to women of childbearing age and even postpartum to keep vitamin and mineral levels high! Remember that if you are carrying multiples, these recommendations will increase. Talk to a fertility specialist or a registered dietitian about your specific recommendations.
Folic acid– Just 400-600 micrograms each day of folic acid can help reduce the risk of birth defects. You can find naturally occurring folate in a variety of food, such as grapefruit, raspberries(my favorite!), asparagus, broccoli, spinach, black-eyed peas and green peas. Avoid taking more than 1,000 micrograms of folic acid daily through supplementation as excess folic acid may lead to nerve damage in the baby.
Note: If you are diagnosed with the gene mutation, known as MTHFR, your body is unable to metabolize folic acid, and sometimes folate, into a usable and digestible form. Talk to a fertility specialist or OB-GYN about taking the methylated absorbable form that’s right for you.
Iron– It is important to get an adequate oxygen supply to the baby and iron is an essential mineral that can help with that process. Aim for roughly 25-30mg of iron in your prenatal. In addition to supplements, be sure to eat foods high in heme iron(lean meat and seafood), nonheme iron(beans, nuts, and lentils) and iron-fortified foods(breakfast cereals, enriched grains). Iron, in the supplement form, has been known to be constipating (eek!), so make sure to drink plenty of water to keep things moving.
Vitamin C– This vitamin helps keep our immunity strong and is necessary for tissue and cellular repair. Your prenatal should give you roughly 50-80mg of Vitamin C. Vitamin C can also help increase iron absorption and cellular uptake in the body. In addition to supplements, Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, and brussel sprouts.
Calcium– When we hear calcium, we think of bone development, right? Well, our little ones need calcium as well to help with skeletal development and bone growth. Your prenatal should have 1000mg of calcium. You can also opt for calcium-rich foods as well, such as Greek yogurt, cheese, and even almonds!
Omega 3’s– Omega-3 fatty acids can help with brain and nerve development and also has anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Your prenatal should have 500mg of omega 3’s, with 300mg coming from DHA. If you are not a big fan of fish, no worries! You can go for foods rich in omega 3’s such as walnuts, eggs, and spinach.
Oh yeah…and you don’t need to be pregnant to be taking a prenatal vitamin.
Drugstore Brands:Drugstore brands can have synthetic ingredients and stabilizers, which is not ideal for your body. You are better off going with a natural prenatal supplement with no added stabilizers or colorings. Plus, if it has a natural odor to them, that’s okay! here for one of our favorite prenatal vitamins!
Regular Multivitamins: Although regular multivitamins have many benefits, taking a regular multivitamin in lieu of a prenatal vitamin may not be the right choice. Some regular multivitamins may have too much of nutrients that may be harmful to the baby. When in doubt, choose prenatal!
Reliance on Supplements: Do not forget about your diet! Although prenatal vitamins are extremely beneficial, they are not a substitute for a well-balanced diet. Plus, most nutrients are better absorbed in food form over pill form, so remember to eat your fruits and vegetables!