Which important nutrients do women need during pregnancy, and why?

The importance of good nutrition during pregnancy

Approximately 300 extra calories are needed daily to maintain a healthy pregnancy. These calories should come from a balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, with sweets and fats, kept to a minimum. A healthy, well-balanced diet during pregnancy can also help to minimize some pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and constipation.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the following key components of a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy: appropriate weight gain, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and appropriate and timely vitamin and mineral supplementation.

Fluid intake is also an important part of healthy pregnancy nutrition. Women can take in enough fluids by drinking several glasses of water each day, in addition to the fluids in juices and soups. An expectant mother should talk with her health care provider or midwife about restricting her intake of caffeine and artificial sweeteners. All alcohol should be avoided in pregnancy.

Which important nutrients do women need during pregnancy, and why?

Below we explain which important nutrients – energy (calories), protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals – women need in pregnancy, and why. And we give information about which foods and drinks they are found in. 


Why it is needed 

Energy.Energy (calories) is needed for the growth and development of the baby. Most women do not need to have any additional energy above their normal needs until the final stage of pregnancy (weeks 27-40). Energy is provided by the fat, carbohydrate, protein, and alcohol in the foods and drinks we consume, but the main source of energy should be from carbohydrate foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, other grains, and starchy root vegetables such as yam.
Protein.Protein is needed for the growth and repair of tissues, but more is needed in pregnancy. Most adults in the UK get more than enough protein in their diets, and following the advice in this guide will ensure protein needs are met. Protein is found in a wide variety of foods including cereals, dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, eggs, peas, beans, and pulses.
Fiber.The fiber in the diet helps to prevent constipation and other bowel problems. Fiber is found in the indigestible parts of foods such as in wholemeal cereals and vegetables, beans, and fruits. Oligosaccharides are a component of dietary fiber and these encourage the growth of bacteria which are beneficial to the gut. Eating a good mixed diet will encourage these good bacteria to thrive, and there is no need to take a supplement that contains prebiotics or probiotics to do this. Good sources of fiber include wholemeal bread, wholegrain breakfast cereals, peas, beans, lentils, vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, and seeds.
Carbohydrates and fatsCarbohydrates and fats provide energy and other nutrients and pregnant women need to have them in the same proportions in the diet as for all adults. If the ideas for meals and snacks in this guide are followed, these will be consumed in about the right amounts.

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