Posts Tagged ‘calcium’

What should you look for in a prenatal vitamin?

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Your body uses vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to help it stay strong and healthy. During pregnancy it’s hard to get the right amount of some vitamins and minerals just through food. That’s why you should take a prenatal vitamin every day during pregnancy. Taking prenatal vitamins along with eating healthy foods can make sure that you and your baby get the nutrients you both need.

Here’s what you should look for in a prenatal vitamin:

Folic acid: 600 micrograms

Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. Taking it before and during early pregnancy, can help prevent neural tube defects (also called NTDs).

Some foods such as bread, cereal, and corn masa have folic acid added to them. Look for “fortified” or “enriched” on the label.

When folic acid is naturally in a food, it’s called folate. Sources of folate include:

  • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and broccoli
  • Lentils and beans
  • Orange juice

Iron: 27 milligrams

Iron is a mineral. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein that helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Your body needs twice as much iron during pregnancy to carry oxygen to your baby.

Iron-rich foods include:

  • Lean meat, poultry and seafood
  • Cereal, bread and pasta that has iron added to it (check the package label)
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Beans, nuts, raisins and dried fruit

Calcium: 1,000 milligrams

Calcium is a mineral that helps your baby’s bones, teeth, heart, muscles and nerves develop.

Calcium is found in:

  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Broccoli and kale
  • Orange juice that has calcium added to it (check the label)

Vitamin D: 600 IU (international units)

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and helps your nerves, muscles and immune system work. Your baby needs vitamin D to help his bones and teeth grow.

Vitamin D is found in foods such as:

  • Fatty fish, like salmon
  • Milk and cereal that has vitamin D added to it (check the package label)

DHA: 200 milligrams

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. It’s a kind of fat (called omega-3 fatty acid) that helps with growth and development. During pregnancy, DHA helps your baby’s brain and eyes develop.

Not all prenatal vitamins contain DHA, so ask your provider if you need a DHA supplement. DHA can be found in some foods including:

  • Fish that are low in mercury, like herring, salmon, trout, anchovies and halibut. During pregnancy, eat 8-12 ounces of these kinds of fish each week.
  • Orange juice, milk and eggs that have DHA added to them (check the label)

Iodine: 220 micrograms

Iodine is a mineral your body needs to make thyroid hormones. You need iodine during pregnancy to help your baby’s brain and nervous system develop.

Not all prenatal vitamins have iodine, so make sure you eat foods that have iodine in them. This includes:

  • Fish
  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Enriched or fortified cereal and bread (check the package label)
  • Iodized salt (salt with iodine added to it; check the package label)

A note about vitamin A….

Your baby needs vitamin A for healthy growth and development during pregnancy. But too much may cause birth defects.

Preformed vitamin A is found in foods such as liver and fish liver oil. You should avoid fish liver oil supplements during pregnancy, but occasionally you can eat a small portion of liver. Very high levels of preformed vitamin A can cause birth defects. You should not get more than 10,000 international units (IU) of vitamin A each day.

Beta carotene is another form of vitamin A found in certain yellow and green vegetables. Beta carotene is not associated with birth defects and is safe to consume.

Talk to your health care provider about getting the right amount of vitamin A from healthy eating and your prenatal vitamin.

Make sure to tell your provider about any additional vitamins or supplements that you take.

Can my baby and I stay healthy on a vegetarian diet during pregnancy?

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

grains-and-veggiesActually, yes, but it takes some work.  The American Dietetic Association says that well-balanced, vegetarian diets can be very healthy. The trick is to make sure you take in adequate daily amounts of protein and other nutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, iron, and essential fatty acids.

According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, your daily diet should include:
• 1-2 servings of dark green vegetables
• 4-5 servings of other vegetables and fruit
• 3-4 servings of bean and soy products (worried about gas?)
• 6 or more servings of whole grain products
• 1-2 servings of nuts, seeds and wheat germ
• 4 servings of vitamin B12 fortified foods
• 15 minutes of sunshine on your face and arms or 200 IU of vitamin D
• 8 servings (1200-1500 mg) of calcium-rich foods
• Iron-rich foods

There are some excellent books on vegetarian diets specifically written for pregnant women, so visit your local bookstore or look online.  Talk to your health care provider about your diet before you conceive.  Discuss the foods you eat, the nutrients they supply and any possible supplements your doctor may want you to take.

Your child’s bone health

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Not long ago I posted about the importance of getting enough calcium to keep our bones strong in order to avoid osteoporosis.   But, I should have mentioned that it’s very important to maintain an adequate amount of calcium right from infancy and throughout childhood and adolescence.

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become more hollow and prone to breaking.  It has been called “a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences,” because the bone mass accumulated throughout childhood and the teen years has great bearing on lifelong skeletal health. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases states that “the health habits your kids are forming now can make, or literally break, their bones as they age.”

NIAMSD has a terrific article with all kids of tips for building your child’s bone density. Read this great guide for parents.    As they say, “Building your children’s ‘bone bank’ account is a lot like saving for their education: The more they can put away when they’re young, the longer it should last as they get older.”

Are your bones getting enough calcium?

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I’m fairly fit, I eat well, I have taken a multivitamin for years… but I still have osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis.  Bummer!  Truth be told, when I was younger, I never really focused on eating foods that are high in calcium (I’m not a big fan of milk and cheese) or taking a calcium supplement. Now I wish I had.

The recommended amount of calcium for women ages 19 to 50, pregnant or not, is 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day. (For teenage girls up to age 18, it is 1,300 mg daily.) That’s right—the amount of calcium you need each day remains the same before, during and after pregnancy.  But don’t forget to add vitamin D to help your body absorb the calcium.  Unfortunately, the average woman only consumes around 700 mg per day.  When your body isn’t taking in enough calcium through diet, it will take what it needs from your bones.  You do the math… over years that can lead to significant bone loss.

Now is a great time to check your calcium intake, find out which foods are high in calcium and bring them into your diet, and learn about steps you can take to promote healthier bones.

There are medications on the market that help fight osteoporosis, but I’d rather not take them if I can improve my situation through diet and exercise.  If you pay attention now, you may not need to worry about this later.  I’m back on track, taking calcium supplements, eating a ton of green leafy vegetables and doing some weight-bearing exercise.  My last bone density test actually showed a slight improvement!

ABC’s of a healthy pregnancy, A-G

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Healthy babies come from healthy pregnancies.  Having a healthy pregnancy starts before a woman plans on getting pregnant.  To help increase your chances of having a healthy baby, follow these ABC guidelines to a healthy pregnancy.

A:  Avoid hazardous substances such as mercury and alcohol that can be harmful to your unborn baby.  Stay away from other environmental factors that can put your health at risk.

B:  Breastmilk is the best food for most babies during the first year of life. Join a breastfeeding group or talk to a lactation consultant before giving birth to answers any questions or concerns you may have.

C:  Calcium is needed for strong healthy bones.  When you don’t get enough calcium, your body will take it from your bones and give it to your baby. Be sure to get enough calcium in your diet.

D:  Drugs, whether they are over-the-counter, prescribed, dietary supplements or illegal substances, can harm your baby and may even cause birth defects.  Stay away from all street drugs. Talk to your provider about any medications you are taking to make sure they are safe during pregnancy.

E:  Eat healthy and exercise. You only need 300 extra calories per day to support your baby’s growth and development, so make healthy food choices.  Unless there are medical reasons to avoid it, pregnant women can and should try to exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.

F:  Folic acid is very important. Take a vitamin supplement that has 400 micrograms of folic acid BEFORE getting pregnant to reduce your baby’s risk of developing birth defects.

G:  Gas or feeling bloated is common in pregnant women.  Identify the foods that bother you and take your time when eating to help prevent excessive gas.

Visit us next Thursday to continue learning the ABC’s of a healthy pregnancy, H–Q.