Pregnancy Diet: Nutrients You Need

You've probably heard about the importance of getting enough protein, iron, calcium, and folate while you're pregnant. But the list doesn't end there – you need other important nutrients, too. Check out this list, and make sure you're getting enough of these nutrients in your diet.

Choline

Choline works with folic acid to help protect your baby from neural tube defects. These are common, but serious, birth defects. Some studies also show that getting enough choline while you're pregnant may enhance your baby's brain development.

Pregnancy Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 450 milligrams. Don't take more than 3,500 milligrams a day.

Best food sources: Whole eggs, meat, fish, and whole grains.

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)

DHA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid. It may help boost your baby's motor, mental, and visual development. In some studies, DHA lowered the risk of premature delivery. And DHA may help improve your health, too, by reducing your risk of heart disease.

Pregnancy RDA: 200 - 300 milligrams

Best food sources: Fish, especially salmon, light tuna, herring, sardines, and trout. If you don't like fish, look for foods fortified with DHA, or ask your doctor about taking supplements. Some prenatal vitamins also contain DHA.

Warning: Avoid fish that is high in mercury while you're pregnant. This includes swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel. Ask your doctor for a detailed list of seafood to avoid. Too much mercury can hurt your baby's central nervous system.

Potassium

Getting enough potassium every day can help keep your fluids balanced and your blood pressure normal. Potassium may also help prevent kidney stones and bone loss as you age. You won't find potassium in prenatal supplements, so you must meet your quota with food. Most people only get about half the recommended daily amount.

Pregnancy RDA: 4,700 milligrams. There is no recommended upper limit for potassium.

Best food sources: Fruits and vegetables, especially bananas, cantaloupe, potatoes, prunes, raisins, acorn squash, spinach, orange juice, and tomato juice.

Riboflavin

Riboflavin is also known as vitamin B2. You and your baby need it to develop your blood cells, skin, and digestive tract lining. It may also help reduce the risk of preeclampsia.

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Pregnancy RDA: 1.4 milligrams. There is no recommended upper limit for riboflavin, but high doses may turn your urine an orange color.

Best food sources: A wide variety of foods contain riboflavin, including fortified cereals, nonfat milk, eggs, almonds, spinach, broccoli, chicken, salmon, and beef.

Vitamin B6

Getting enough vitamin B6 during pregnancy is important for your baby's brain development and immune function. Some research suggests taking vitamin B6 may help reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

Pregnancy RDA: 1.9 milligrams. Unless your doctor prescribes vitamin B6, don't take more than 100 milligrams a day.

Best food sources: Fortified cereals, bananas, potatoes, chicken, salmon, spinach, hazelnuts, and vegetable juice.

Vitamin B12

Your body needs vitamin B12 to keep your blood cells and nerve cells working properly. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent megaloblastic anemia, which can make you feel weak and tired.

Pregnancy RDA: 2.6 micrograms. There is no recommended upper limit for vitamin B12.

Best food sources: Good sources of vitamin B12 include clams, mussels, crab, salmon, skim milk, beef, chicken, and turkey. It is also added to some breakfast cereals.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps increase the amount of iron your body absorbs from plant foods, aids in wound healing, and boosts your immunity. It also acts as an antioxidant by helping to protect your cells from damage.

Pregnancy RDA: 85 milligrams. Don't take more than 2,000 milligrams a day.

Best food sources: Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C. Some good choices include citrus fruits and citrus juice, sweet red peppers, green peppers, kiwifruit, strawberries, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and broccoli.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium from food and builds strong bones. It also helps your muscles, nerves, and immune system work properly.

Pregnancy RDA: 600 International Units (IU) or 15 micrograms. Don't take more than 4,000 IU a day.

Best food sources: Your body makes vitamin D from exposure to the sun. But not everyone gets enough vitamin D this way, so it is important to also get vitamin D from food. Some good sources include salmon; tuna; beef liver; cheese; eggs; mushrooms; and fortified foods, such as cereals, milk, and some fruit juices and soy beverages.

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Zinc

Your body needs the mineral zinc to help your baby develop properly. Zinc also helps wounds heal and boosts the immune system.

Pregnancy RDA: 11 milligrams. Don't take more than 40 milligrams a day.

Best food sources: Oysters are the best source of zinc, but you shouldn't eat raw oysters while you're pregnant. Crab, beef, pork, turkey, chickpeas, beans, nuts, and milk are other good sources.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on July 02, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center: "Choline." "Essential Fatty Acids." "Potassium." "Riboflavin." "Vitamin B6." "Vitamin B12." "Vitamin C." "Vitamin D." "Zinc."

March of Dimes: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids During Pregnancy."

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin B6." "Vitamin B12." "Vitamin C." "Vitamin D." Zinc."

National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus: "Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)."

United States Department of Agriculture: "DRI Report—Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline: Chapter 12."

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