What do vitamins and minerals actually do in the body? What is their role and all the hype?
They are involved in 100's of roles within the body from building healthy strong bones, to making hormones and even to help maintain your heart beat. However the biggest role they have is the thousands of reactions within each cell of your body every second of the day to open the cell and receive the nutrients from your food so your body can actually use the food you are putting in.
The next question to ask yourself is do I need Vitamins and Minerals during my pregnancy?
The simple answer is yes. Vitamins and Minerals are involved in keeping you healthy and helping you grow the healthiest baby you can so why wouldn't you want to do everything you can to build a strong and healthy baby.
It can be really confusing knowing which ones to have, but here's a run down of the must have vitamins and minerals during your pregnancy, and how you can find them naturally.
We should all aim to get the recommended quantities of vitamins and minerals through a balanced diet but that is not alway possible due to the quality of our foods and our time poor lifestyles. This is where supplementation is key and not all supplements are made equal.
Iron: Is vital in the formation of blood cells and the transport of oxygen to your blood cells. Your body is producing a much larger blood volume to accomodate for the placenta, up to an extra 9L of blood in your body. Your absorption of Iron is enhanced by Vitamin C. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist (RANZCOG) recommend being tested for Iron before taking a supplement, however the daily dose required is 60mg .
Food: chicken, eggs, red meat, beans, tofu, pumpkin & sunflower seeds.
Folate: Is a B vitamin, when it is added to food or as a supplement is known as Folic acid. It's vital in many metabolic processes of the body (breaking down food & repairing/rebuilding our cells & body). Not having enough folate in pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. RANZCOG recommends 0.4mg/day one month prior to pregnancy and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Foods: kidney beans, cooked spinach, asparagus, broccoli, kale, tomato, avocado, walnuts, cabbage.
Iodine: A really important mineral that is essential for the development of your baby's brain (IQ) and nervous system. It's also very important in the role of your thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland takes Iodine and converts it into thyroid hormones. Your thyroid hormones determine your metabolic rate, the rate at which your body uses energy and it is vital for every cell in the body to function properly. RANZCOG recommend a dose of 150 micrograms/day.
Food: seaweed, strawberries, eggs, seafood.
Zinc: Is essential for normal growth and development of the bones, brain and other parts of the body. It is known as a trace element and a catalyst for a number of enzymes in cell division and cell growth (which is what happened in the bones cells everyday rebuilding and regenerating). It's also great for boosting your immune system. Foods: red meat, dairy products, beans, seeds.
Calcium: The RANZCOG recommend 1000mg/day for pregnant women 19 years and older. This can reduce the incidence of you having high blood pressure and having your baby early.
Vitamin D: Not something you would think could be low in Australia, however recent research is showing there is a deficiency emerging. Vitamin D helps the body absorb Calcium, it's also vital in preventing osteoporosis for you later in life. Deficiency can also lead to an impaired skeletal development in your baby. You may get enough from the sunshine, however if you are unsure consult your doctor for a blood test and look into supplementation.
Omega 3 fatty acids: Also know as Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Our bodies do not make this on it's own we have to ingest it. Research has show only 10% of women of childbearing age meet the recommended dietary levels of DHA. This is essential for your baby's neural, brain and eye development. There is huge concerns and confusing information around the safe intake of fish during pregnancy. The RANZCOG recommend 2-3 serves of fish/week (salmon, trout, sardines & mackrel) of 150g/serve. However achieving adequate amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids is difficult with food alone. There is research showing supplementation as a convenient and effective way to get the required daily dose to reduce the risk of having your baby early. Not all supplements are made equal or with quality, ensure you look for one with both DHA and EPA with at least 500mg of DHA and no more than 1000mg/day.
Vitamin B12: If you are vegetarian or vegan you will need to supplement your B12 as well. The RANZCOG recommended dose is 2.6mcg/day. Check with your doctor if you are unsure if you need a supplement.
So all that may seem confusing, the simplest step would be to aim for a rainbow of colours and get your 5 cups of veggies and fruit in/day and look into supplementation especially for your Omega 3's.
Reference: Vitamin and mineral supplementation in pregnancy (C-obs 25) RANZCO
I'm Melanie, a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist.
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