Organic is not the whole story: Nutrients for pregnancy and beyond
By Amy N. Marlow, MPH, RD, CDN, Happy Family Nutrition Advisor
Pregnancy is a great time to choose organic foods, grown and produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, and artificial hormones. Developing babies are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the exposures to chemicals like pesticides given how small their bodies are and their rapid rate of growth. That’s why experts believe that the benefits of organic food are greatest for pregnant women and babies.
Eating organic is not the whole story, though, because the fact that a food is organic doesn’t automatically make it healthy. Plenty of organic foods lack essential nutrients that you and your baby need. And, foods made from organic ingredients may still be highly processed and full of too much sugar or saturated fat.
So yes, choose organic, but also choose foods that give you even more. Look for foods that contain the following key nutrients needed during pregnancy and lactation:
- · Choline – Needed in higher amounts during pregnancy and breastfeeding; an essential vitamin that plays a key role in baby’s brain development. Found in eggs, meats, and fortified foods.
- · DHA and other Omega-3 fats – Essential healthy fats are the building block of baby’s brain and eyes. DHA is found in algae, fish (e.g., wild salmon), and may be found in fortified foods. Other sources of omega-3s include flaxseed oil, chia seed, and walnuts.
- · Vitamin D – Crucial for your bone health and your baby’s bone development. Unfortunately, nature’s best source is the ultraviolet rays of the sun, which of course are not safe for your skin. Found in eggs, fortified dairy, and other fortified foods.
- · Folic Acid – Prevents neural tube defects like spina bifida. The body doesn’t store folic acid so you need to get it every day. Found in fortified grains and cereals, leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, oranges, beans, peas, peanuts.
- · Iron – Produces hemoglobin for healthy oxygenation of the blood. A deficiency causes anemia (you should be tested during your second trimester). You need at least 15-30 mg per day, and this may be hard to get through food alone. Eat iron-rich foods like whole grains, beef, lentils, dark green leafy vegetables. Take an iron-fortified prenatal supplement, if recommended by your healthcare provider.
- · Supergrains – Go beyond whole wheat and try grains like quinoa, amaranth, chia seed, and millet. These provide healthy complex carbohydrates, essential amino acids, fiber, B vitamins, iron, and in some cases omega-3 fats.
Amy N. Marlow, MPH, RD, CDN
Amy is a registered dietitian (RD) and New York State certified nutritionist. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetics training at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, VA. She also has a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Maryland.
Amy worked as a pediatric dietitian at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC, where she provided nutrition care in the pediatric oncology unit, high-risk obstetrics ward, and the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units. She has also consulted for a youth development program for underprivileged teens called Brainfood, and the National Cancer Institute’s 5-A-Day program. In addition to her work with Happy Family™, Amy currently helps manage a Fortune 100 company’s employee wellness program and serves on the Board of the Pediatric Nutrition Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has been published as a health writer and has presented on a variety of nutrition and health topics. Amy is the proud mother of Noah, Alana, and Jonah