5 Micronutrients That Every Expecting Mother Requires During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, including years before conception, it is absolutely vital for a growing baby to have specific micronutrients in order to grow into the happiest, healthiest newborn possible. Often, the environmental factors early in our lives have the greatest long term impact on the rest of our lives. In fact, this is so true that a pregnant mother’s body will direct key nutrients to the baby growing within her. For this reason, it is vital that the mother ensures she receives more than just the minimum amount of micronutrients often recommended by the USDA guidelines.
Below are 5 of the most important nutrients that a mother can supply her growing baby. Like all nutrients, they are more effectively absorbed and assimilated into the body from the whole food source more than the supplement form.
DHA is one of several essential omega 3 fats, especially during pregnancy. It is necessary for healthy brain development in children. It’s also an amazingly anti-inflammatory nutrient that helps combat the damage of refined, processed foods. Low levels of DHA have been associated with cognitive behavioral disorders like depression.
Natural Sources: Since we humans can only convert a very minimal amount of DHA from plant foods, it is essential to obtain DHA from animal food sources. DHA is highly concentrated in wild caught, cold water, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, and grass fed beef products.
Vitamin D has received a lot of attention from nutritional and healthcare experts recently for its immune supporting effects and brain enhancing properties. It plays a role in healthy skin as well. Since most people today spend most of the day indoors, it is important to get sun exposure when possible. Dietary sources include pastured egg yolks, beef liver, and hard cheeses from pastured animals. Historically, vitamin D was consumed in proportion to vitamin A, however, most people don’t eat enough preformed vitamin A either. If you are looking for a food with the ideal ratio of vitamin D to vitamin A, fermented cod liver oil is one of the most nutrient dense options.
Most women who are planning to conceive or are expecting may already be familiar with iron supplementation. What many people don’t realize is that not all sources of iron are absorbed and assimilated into the body the same way. Dietary iron comes in many forms; sometimes it’s bound to a heme molecule, sometimes to a non-heme molecule. Heme iron is found in animal foods like pork and beef and has a much higher absorption rate than non-heme iron found in plants like spinach. For vegans and vegetarians, it is important to realize this fact. One helpful tip for absorbing more iron from plant based food is to pair it with foods rich in vitamin C, like cauliflower. Other factors like intestinal inflammation, IBS, Crohn’s disease, SIBO, and diverticulitis may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients like iron from food and supplements.
Vitamin K2 is less well known than vitamin K. Both are very important, and K2 has special cardiovascular benefits. K2 has been shown to prevent calcium from depositing in arterial walls and signaling the body to preserve it where it belongs, in our bones. Without K2, atherosclerosis and other vascular problems may arise. Ideal dietary sources are egg yolks, grassfed butters, cheeses, and milks, as well as the smelly Japanese dish, natto.
While there are many micronutrients to be aware of, possibly one of the most overlooked is choline. Essential for proper liver and brain function, choline is the backbone for the neurotransmitters of our brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. Inadequate levels of choline can eventually lead to or worsen liver disease, high triglyceride levels, cognitive dysfunction, and dementia. As you can see, choline is vital for brain and nervous system function. Foods rich in choline include egg yolks from pastured chickens, grass fed beef liver, breast milk, and Brussels sprouts.