Folic acid and folate are both terms used to describe different forms of the B vitamin vitamin B9.
Folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9 found in food, such as leafy greens, legumes, and citrus fruits. Folic acid, on the other hand, is the synthetic form of vitamin B9 used in supplements and fortified foods.
In pregnancy, folic acid is often prescribed or recommended because it is easier for the body to absorb and utilize compared to dietary folate. Additionally, many women may not consume enough dietary folate to meet their increased needs during pregnancy, making folic acid supplementation a helpful way to ensure adequate intake.
Taking a daily supplement of folic acid before conception and during the early weeks of pregnancy has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, which are serious birth defects of the baby's brain and spine.
It's important to note that while folic acid supplementation can be an effective way to prevent neural tube defects, it is still recommended to consume a balanced diet rich in folate-containing foods to ensure adequate intake of this important nutrient. Your doctor can help you determine the best plan for you and your pregnancy.
Iron is important for the development of the baby’s brain and immune system, as well as for the production of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Right now, hemoglobin is required by the mother for their growth, as well as the growth of their fetus.
Pregnant women should be getting 27 milligrams of iron everyday day. This is almost 10mg more than adult women who are not looking to conceive or currently expecting a child. Iron-deficiency anemia can be common during pregnancy due to this increased need for red blood cell production.
You may be getting enough iron from any prenatal vitamins you’re taking, but to ensure you don’t become deficient, make sure to consume more iron-rich foods.
There are two types of dietary iron; heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme iron is more easily absorbable, whereas non-heme sources are still helpful, however may take longer to absorb and require additional nutrients to ensure their absorption.
Fill out your pregnancy diet with heme iron rich foods including sardines, beef, chicken and eggs. And don’t forget non-heme iron food sources as well, including fortified cereals, beans, lentils, spinach, tofu, and dark chocolate.
Calcium is important for the development of the baby's bones and teeth. Healthy sources include dairy products, as well as green vegetables like collard greens, spinach, bok choy, kale, and broccoli.
Health Benefits of Iodine, Vitamin D & Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Additional health benefits come from ensuring your pregnancy diet includes iodine-rich foods like seaweed, vitamin D packed foods like eggs and fatty fish, and omega-3 fatty acid rich foods.
Iodine is important for the baby's brain and nervous system development, as well as for thyroid function. Vitamin D is important for bone development and may also play a role in immune system function. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for fetal brain development and may also support eye health.
Healthy fats are important during pregnancy for several reasons:
Brain and nervous system development: Fats, especially the omega-3 fatty acids, are important for the normal development of the brain and nervous system in the fetus.
Supply energy: Fats provide a concentrated source of energy, which can be especially important during pregnancy when a woman's energy needs are increased.
Supports healthy pregnancy weight gain: Healthy fats are a key component of a balanced diet and can help support healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
Here are some good sources of healthy fats:
Omega-3 fatty acids: Good sources include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Monounsaturated fats: Good sources include avocados, olive oil, and almonds.
Polyunsaturated fats: Good sources include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and soybean oil.
It's important to keep in mind that not all fats are created equal, and it's important to limit intake of unhealthy, saturated and trans fats, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems. As always, it's best to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine the best types and amounts of fats for you and your pregnancy.
Do I Need to Take a Vitamin B Complex During Pregnancy?
Finding the best vitamin B complex for your pregnancy means looking out for quality and bioavailability of nutrients.
Vitamin B complex, which includes B vitamins such as B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, B12, and folate (also known as B9), is important for a number of reasons during pregnancy. Here are some specific ways in which B vitamins can benefit a developing fetus and expectant mother:
Folate (B9): Folate is essential for the proper development of the neural tube, which eventually becomes the baby's brain and spinal cord. Adequate intake of folate before and during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects.
B12: B12 is important for the proper formation of red blood cells and the maintenance of a healthy nervous system. It is also involved in DNA synthesis, which is important for the growth and development of the fetus.
B6: B6 is involved in the production of hormones and neurotransmitters, as well as the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates. It is also important for fetal brain development and immune system function.
B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), and B3 (niacin): These B vitamins play important roles in energy metabolism, and can help support a healthy pregnancy by providing energy and reducing fatigue.
In general, B vitamins are important for overall health, and ensuring adequate intake during pregnancy can help support the health of both the expectant mother and the developing fetus.
What About Prebiotics and Probiotics in Pregnancy?
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that acts as food for the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut. During pregnancy, prebiotics can be especially important because they can help support the growth of a healthy gut microbiome, which is the community of microorganisms that live in the digestive system.
Here are some reasons why prebiotics can be beneficial during pregnancy:
Supports maternal gut health: Prebiotics can help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which can in turn support the health of the expectant mother.
Promotes fetal development: The gut microbiome can play a role in fetal development and can even influence the developing immune system. By supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria, prebiotics can help promote a healthy pregnancy.
Reduces the risk of pregnancy complications: Some research has suggested that a healthy gut microbiome may reduce the risk of certain pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and premature birth.
Some good sources of prebiotics include bananas, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and Jerusalem artichokes. It's always best to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine the best prebiotic-rich foods for your pregnancy, and also discuss the option of probiotic supplementation.
If you’re looking for a more specific list of foods to start including–look no further! Here are some of the best foods to eat during pregnancy:
Leafy greens: These are rich in folic acid, iron, and calcium, all of which are important for a developing fetus.
Lean protein: Good sources of lean protein include chicken, fish, and tofu. These foods can help support fetal growth and repair tissues.
Whole grains: Whole grains are a good source of fiber, which can help prevent constipation, a common problem during pregnancy. They also provide important nutrients such as B vitamins and iron.
Dairy products: Milk, cheese, and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium, which is important for building a strong skeleton for the baby.
Berries: Berries are high in antioxidants and vitamin C, both of which can help support a healthy pregnancy.
Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are good sources of protein and fiber, and also contain important nutrients such as iron and folate.
Nuts and seeds: These are a great source of healthy fats, protein, and vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and zinc.
It's also important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as well as to limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and processed or high-fat foods.
Each pregnancy is individual. While there are general guidelines to follow, it's always best to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine what the best nutritional plan is for you and your pregnancy.
Pascoe Canada does not offer health or medical advice as we are not a healthcare practitioner. Please speak with your healthcare practitioner before beginning any program related to nutrition, diet, exercise, fitness, medical, and/or wellness. All content published by Pascoe Canada is developed through collaborating with licensed medical professionals and contributors. This includes text, graphics, images, and other material on the website, newsletter, and products (“Content”). This content is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The content does not substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always do your own research on whether this is for you along with your healthcare practitioner advice. Always consult your healthcare practitioner prior to using specific herbs because you might have underlying conditions that need professional care. The content is general in nature and is subject to change. It is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects.