Following on from last week where we talked about Protein, Calcium and Iron this week we’re going to be touching on the importance of Zinc and Folic Acid during pregnancy.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism and required for cell division and is therefore a fundamental nutrient for sperm and egg development and conception.
Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, but red meat, poultry, beans, nuts and certain types of seafood (such as crab and lobster) are also good sources. Your other half will be very happy when you cook him/her up a delicious steak tonight or head for a seaside weekend away to indulge in some oysters!
Folic acid, together with vitamin B12, is necessary to form red blood cells and it is essential in the formation of DNA. It is therefore particularly important to ensure you have good levels of folic acid pre conception and during pregnancy when cells and tissues are growing rapidly. Folate is crucial in the development of an infant’s nervous system and a deficiency of folate can result in abnormalities in the division of cells resulting in neural tube defects.
A woman’s folate needs are increased by 50% during pregnancy and good sources of the vitamin are found in spinach, turnips, bok choy, parsley, and romaine lettuce, asparagus, legumes such as lentils, kidney beans, and fruits such as papayas and strawberries.
Regarding pregnancy nutrition overall, it’s important to remember that a fetus has the mechanisms to obtain the nutrients it needs from the mother regardless of whether she has extra supplies or not. The baby can pull minerals, vitamins and protein from the mothers’ bones, organs and tissues which can leave the mother deficient, which can take months or even years to correct.
Besides making a new baby, these nutrients are needed to form the placenta, to increase the size of the uterus and breast tissue, and to create amniotic fluid. A mothers’ blood volume increases by 25% to 50% and more fluids, iron, B12, folic acid, zinc, copper, calcium and magnesium and proteins are needed to support this new blood. So obtaining an optimum level of nutrition pre conception and during pregnancy is very important for both you and the baby.
Words by regular contributor, Hannah Fletcher