Pregnant? Here are the most important vitamins and minerals for your developing baby

Pregnancy can be a demanding time for a mother-to-be. Many women suffer from morning sickness (or probably “all-day sickness” is more accurate for some!). Women can suffer from weird food cravings, which are more often than not an unhealthy food choice. Tiredness is often an issue, hip and back pain, and of course the constant need to pee too!

Despite all these obstacles, it is essential that women have a good nutritious intake during pregnancy. They need to not only maintain their own health and weight but also provide all the nutrients needed to grow another little person.

Should I “eat for two”?
“Eat for two” is a popular saying during pregnancy, but in reality, is not actually the best option. Now, doctors recommend instead eating twice as healthy. Yes, added calories are needed during pregnancy but definitely not twice as many calories as a pre-pregnancy diet. A woman carrying a single fetus requires an extra 340 calories per day in the second trimester and a bit more in the third trimester (1). That is equivalent to about a glass of skim milk and half a sandwich.

What are the most important vitamins and minerals during pregnancy?
Prenatal vitamins combined with a healthy diet are the best way to ensure adequate vitamin and mineral intake during pregnancy. The most important vitamins and minerals are folate (or the synthetic equivalent – folic acid), iron, calcium, vitamin D, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin C. The table below shows the recommended amounts (obtained from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (1).

Nutrient Daily recommended amount Why it is required Best food sources
Folate (folic acid) 600 mg Helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine (e.g. spina bifida)

Supports the general growth and development of the fetus and placenta

Fortified cereal, enriched bread and pasta, peanuts, dark green leafy vegetables, orange juice, beans.

A daily prenatal vitamin with 400 mg of folic acid is also recommended during pregnancy.

Iron 27 mg Helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to the fetus Red meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereals
Calcium 1000 mg (19+ years)

1300 mg (14-18 years)

For strong bones and teeth Dairy products, sardines, green leafy vegetables
Vitamin D 600 international units Builds the fetus’s bones and teeth

Helps promote healthy eyesight and skin

Sunlight, fortified milk, fatty fish such as salmon and sardines
Choline 450 mg Important for development of the fetus’s brain and spinal cord Milk, beef liver, eggs, peanuts, soy products
Vitamin B6 1.9 mg Helps form red blood cells

Helps body use protein, fat, and carbohydrates

Beef, liver, pork, ham, whole-grain cereals, bananas
Vitamin B12 2.6 mg Maintains nervous system

Helps form red blood cells

Meat, fish, poultry, milk (vegetarians should take a supplement)
Vitamin C 80 mg (14-18 years)

85 mg (19+ years)

Promotes healthy gums, teeth, and bones Citrus fruit, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries
Vitamin A 750 mg (14-18 years)

770 mg (19+ years)

Forms healthy skin and eyesight

Helps with bone growth

Carrots, green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes
Iodine 220 mg Essential for healthy brain development Iodized table salt, dairy products, seafood, meat, eggs

1. Nutrition During Pregnancy. ACOG. Updated March 2021.