Every prenatal claims to offer 100% of the daily recommended nutrients, but how do you know that’s true; and does it truly have all of the nutrients that you and your baby require? With so many questions, what are the answers?
4 key nutrients that should not be overlooked!
A complete list of essential vitamins are found at the end of the blog, but these 4 nutrients require special consideration:
1. Folic acid
Many expecting mothers know about the importance of folic acid, which can prevent spina bifida, a neural tube defect. However, folic acid is also needed for DNA replication, normal immune function, and the prevention of anemia.
But not all folic acid is created equal!
The facts: When folic acid is ingested, it is converted to its active form called L-methylfolate through a 4-step process. The problem is 60% of people are considered poor metabolizers of the vitamin impairing the conversion of folate to its active form.
The solution: Buy the active form of the vitamin called L-methylfolate or 5-MTHF, so your body doesn’t have to do the conversion ensuring your baby will receive the optimal amount.
2. Vitamin D
Although it’s called the sunshine vitamin, few mothers are receiving adequate amounts of vitamin D from diet and sunlight alone. In fact, statistics indicated 40-60% of the entire US population is vitamin D deficient.
The facts: Considering vitamin D reduces the risk gestational diabetes and preeclampsia by as much as 50%, it is essential to have your levels checked and ensure you are taking adequate amounts. Vitamin D reduces the risk for preterm birth, and development of infections and rickets (soft bones).
The solution: Supplementation. The form of vitamin D most absorbable and utilized in the body is called cholecalciferol or vitamin D3; however, if you are vegan the best option is ergocalciferol. The tricky part is determining how much to take. The baseline recommendation of 600IU is usually inadequate. Amounts as high as 4,000-5000 IU have been shown to have the lowest rate of pregnancy-related complication, and are linked to the best outcomes.
Choline is frequently overlooked and not addressed, although research indicates requirements are increased during pregnancy and lactation.
The facts: In early pregnancy, choline is essential for normal neural tube closure, whereas in late pregnancy and early infancy, it’s important for the development of the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain.
Researchers at Cornell University found that Choline supplementation in the third trimester was linked with lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in utero which could set the tone for less risk of hypertension, diabetes, etc. for the baby’s entire life.
Choline is not usually found in most prenatal vitamins so adding foods high in choline is essential or taking an additional supplement. Recommended amounts for pregnant women are 450 mg/day and 550 mg/day for lactating women.
The richest source of choline is eggs at 125 mg. (the whole egg since egg yolks have the highest concentration). Other foods high in choline are beef, trout/salmon, tomatoes and kidney beans. See this blog for exact levels.
The solution: Take an additional choline supplement or supplement your diet with foods high in choline.
There has been so much information in the media pushing the importance of DHA. Much of this frenzy relates to the recent recognition of the importance of DHA in cognitive function, visual acuity, and overall brain development in infants. Is this really true, or is just another marketing scheme?
The facts: DHA is one of the three essential omega-3 fatty acids. In the vitamin world, it is typically sold as a ratio of EPA to DHA. Often, the ratio favors EPA as it’s less expensive to manufacture and has a less fishy odor than DHA.
However, DHA has been shown to have the most neurological benefits for your growing baby. The placenta exclusively selects DHA to pass through the placenta.
Once the baby is born, he/she continues to rely almost completely on the mother for their supply through breast milk or fortified formula. In essence, yes, DHA is extremely important as it powers the development of vision, attention, memory, and cognitive functioning in both your brain and your baby’s brain.
The solution: While fish can be an excellent source of DHA, it can also be nearly devoid of the nutrient depending on the species. Thus, supplementation is the best choice. Take a supplement with at least 500mg of DHA specifically. Don’t be fooled by large levels of 1,200 mg on the front of the vitamin. Turn the bottle around and look at the nutrition label, and ensure DHA is listed separately.
Being equipped with knowing about these 4 essential nutrients to specifically seek out, you can put your mind to rest. Other essential nutrients are typically included in every prenatal vitamin in the optimal dosing.
Most likely you will not find every nutrient in one bottle and will need to supplement your multivitamin with at least one additional vitamin.
So what is the best solution for getting your nutrients needs met?
If you take a standard prental, supplement with additional vitamin D3 and omega 3’s in the amounts recommended above, and if you are a high risk pregnancy consider taking 5-MTHF or the active form of folic acid. Eating 2 whole eggs per day will meet your choline requirement so if you are vegetarian consider a choline supplement with approximately 350 mg.
So, take a deep breath. You have all the knowledge needed to choose the perfect prenatal vitamin for both you and your baby!
The above recommendations are not a substitute for professional medical advise, diagnosis or treament. Please consult your physician or other health care practitioner for guidelines that match your specific health needs.
Below is a completed list, of all known essential vitamins and minerals needed during pregnancy.
|Essential Vitamin/Mineral:||Why You Need It:||Where You Find It:|
|Vitamin A & Beta Carotene (770 mcg)||Helps bones and teeth grow||Milk, eggs, carrots, spinach, green and yellow vegetables, broccoli, potatoes, pumpkin, yellow fruits, cantaloupe|
|Vitamin D (2000 – 4,000 IU)||Helps body use calcium and phosphorus; promotes strong teeth and bones, reduces risk of developing gestational diabetes||Milk, fatty fish, sunshine|
|Vitamin E (15 mg)||Helps body form and use red blood cells and muscles||Poultry, wheat germ, nuts, seeds, eggs, spinach|
|Vitamin C (80 – 85 mg)||An antioxidant that protects tissues from damage and helps body absorb iron; builds healthy immune system||Citrus fruits, bell peppers, green beans, strawberries, papaya, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes|
|Thiamin/B1 (3 mg)||Raises energy level and regulates nervous system||Whole grains, wheat germ, organ meats, eggs, berries, nuts, legumes, pork|
|Riboflavin/B2 (1.4 mg)||Maintains energy, good eyesight, healthy skin||Meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, beans|
|Niacin/B3 (20 mg)||Promotes healthy skin, nerves and digestion||Lean meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, peanuts|
|Pyridoxine/B6(1.9 mg)||Helps form red blood cells; helps with morning sickness, boost the immune system||Chicken, fish, pork, eggs, carrots, cabbage, cantaloupe, peas, spinach, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, bananas, beans, broccoli,|
|Choline (430-930 mg)||Help prevent neural tube defects, fetal and infant brain development, and prevention of fatty liver disease.||Eggs, meat, tomatoes, kidney beans, broccoli, cauliflower|
|Folic Acid/Folate(600 mcg)||Helps support the placenta, and prevents spina bifida and other neural tube defects, helps prevent early miscarriage and premature delivery||Oranges, strawberries, green leafy vegetables, spinach, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, lentils, nuts|
|B12 (6 mcg)||Helps produce red blood cells and helps body use fat and carbohydrates for energy||Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and other dairy products|
|Calcium (1,000 – 1,300 mg)||Creates strong bones and teeth, helps prevent blood clots, helps muscles and nerves function, may help prevent high blood pressure||Yogurt, milk, cheese, dark green leafy vegetables, canned fish with bones|
|Iron (27 mg)||Helps in the production of hemoglobin; prevents anemia, low birth weight, and premature delivery||Beef, pork, dried beans, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and seeds|
|DHA (300 mg)||Boost brain development and vision and reduce the risk of heart disease||Fish (salmon, catfish, tuna)|
|Zinc (11-15 mg)||Helps produce insulin and enzymes, important for fetal brain development||Red meats, poultry, beans, nuts, oysters|
This blog was co-written by Susan Dopart with RD intern Victoria Sonoda