Learn about some essential nutrients and the roles they play in keeping mom and baby healthy.

Throughout the various stages of pregnancy and nursing, mothers need to maintain a healthy balance of essential vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin B6

Why you need it: This B vitamin helps the body metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates; aids in forming red blood cells and antibodies; and plays a vital role in developing baby’s brain and nervous system. Expecting and breast-feeding mothers need at least 2mg a day.

Where to get it: Beans, nuts, lean meat, fish, breads and cereals. Most prenatal vitamins contain 100 percent of the recommended amount.

  • 2mg of Vitamin B6 per day

Iron

Why you need it: For pregnant mothers, iron is essential because it produces hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen through the body and to the baby. Iron also helps babies grow, especially during the second and third trimesters.

Where to get it: Dark leafy green vegetables, lentils, enriched cereals, whole grains, peas and dried fruit. Check your prenatal vitamins to ensure they include iron; up to 30mg should suffice.

  • 30mg of Iron per day

Calcium

Why you need it: Developing babies need calcium to build strong bones and teeth, and to grow a healthy heart, nerves and muscles. Women over 18 should get 1,000mg of calcium a day, even if they are not pregnant. Calcium strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis as you age.

Where to get it: Dairy, dark green vegetables and yogurt. Many prenatal vitamins include up to 200mg of calcium. Calcium supplements come in two forms: Calcium citrate is the most easily absorbed. Calcium carbonate should be taken with a meal to help with absorption.

  • 1,000mg of Calcium per day

Protein

Why you need it: The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of cells, for both you and your baby. As you and your baby grow it’s important to get an average of 70g of protein per day during the second and third trimesters.

Where to get it: Good sources of protein include lean meats (chicken, fish, some beef), eggs, dairy and nuts.

  • 70g of Protein per day during 2nd and 3rd

Iodine

Why you need it: Iodine helps regulate the thyroid gland and metabolism. In pregnancy it also helps with baby’s brain and nervous system development. Pregnant women need 220mcg and breast-feeding women 290mcg per day.

Where you get it: Dairy products, eggs, vegetables, seafood and sea vegetables like kelp.

  • Breast-feeding: 220mcg of Iodine per day
  • Pregnant: 290mcg of Iodine per day