Pregnancy Questions – Top 5 Nutrition Concerns Addressed
There is nothing we LOVE more than getting questions from you! We’ve noticed that many of you are asking us some of the same pregnancy questions. So, we wanted to serve up our collection of the top 5 most asked questions to everyone. Because even if you haven’t asked us yet, you’re probably asking some of these to yourself, your friends or google.
Question #1: What foods have folic acid?
Pregnancy questions surrounding folic acid are common because it’s critical for your baby. In fact, folic acid is such an important nutrient for your baby that you really should make sure it’s part of your daily intake before you get pregnant. It’s one of the major reasons why the ACOG recommends that all women of childbearing age start taking a prenatal before they get pregnant. Don’t get us wrong – that doesn’t mean you have to over consume folic acid. Just make sure you are getting enough.
In pregnancy lingo, most people only know it by the name folic acid. But folic acid is one of the eight B vitamins. B9, in fact. And if you are thinking about getting pregnant, then a supplement is your best choice. But, there are foods that have folic acid. And these foods don’t just help with folic acid intake. They also help you get other nutrients that are important for you and your growing little one. The ACOG recommends a combined approach of a daily vitamin and food intake because it’s likely that you would not get enough through food alone.
- Leafy greens vegetables
- Citrus fruits
- Beans, peas and nuts
- Fortified breads, cereals and other grains
Folic Acid vs Folate
Another one of the most important pregnancy questions which you should know before you get pregnant- folic acid vs folate, what’s the difference? Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate that must be converted by the body to the usable methylated form. I’m sure you didn’t know that up to 60% of women have a mutation in their MTHFR gene, which prevents them from converting and using folic acid. That means the majority of women (6 out of 10) can’t convert folic acid into the form that is needed by the body. For that reason, plant-based food sources and supplements that contain methylfolate (the active form) are ideal in certain scenarios.
As important as it is to get enough, you also don’t have to over consume it either. Though there isn’t enough research on the topic, over consuming may have some negative effects as well. So, do not assume that more is better here. When it comes to folate (and any vitamins), just stick to the RDA for daily dosage unless specifically directed by your doctor.
Question #2: Can pregnant women eat yogurt?
With how common pregnancy questions about yogurt are, you may be surprised by this answer. According to Diane Vizthum, a dietician from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, yogurt is one of her recommended snack foods to get in your daily 30 during pregnancy. It’s a great way to get in additional calcium that is needed by you and your baby. Remember that your body is set up to deliver nutrients to your baby first. So, if you aren’t getting enough calcium to meet your increased needs, then you’ll naturally take it from your bones. Vizthum suggests getting it through smoothies and using Greek yogurt for increased protein and reduced sugar content. According to ACOG, it’s one of the best sources of calcium. Just like any other milk product, check to make sure it’s pasteurized before you dig in.
Question #3: How much folate for pregnancy?
Though our biological needs are different from person to person, stick to the RDA for dosage unless directed otherwise by your physician. The NIH recommends 600 mcg DFE for pregnancy.
Question #4: Can you eat eggs while pregnant?
The short answer to another one of the most commonly asked pregnancy questions? Yes. In fact, it’s one of the most nutritious food sources available. This question actually makes me laugh a bit, only because I can still hear my mother in law reminding me to eat an egg every day when I was pregnant!
In countries where access to nutrients is low, healthcare teams try to encourage both children and mothers to eat an egg daily if they can because it contains nearly all of your daily 30. How you consume them is a different story and often depends on where you live. The UK has given the green light on consuming undercooked eggs while pregnant. But that’s because they have changed their production process to make it much safer. If you are pregnant and live in the US, the NIH says you really need to make sure they are fully cooked.
The likelihood of salmonella is fairly low overall, but I wouldn’t want to be the needle in that haystack. Even with the risk, some in the US continue to take their eggs over easy during pregnancy. It’s a personal choice. But opting for pasteurized eggs and cooking them reduces that chance even more.
Question #5: What not to eat when pregnant?
Pregnancy questions are common when we are discussing foods to avoid or navigate thoughtfully. To have an effective discussion, let’s talk about the why before the what. Why do guidelines around what not to eat exist? They exist to reduce the likelihood that you and your baby will be exposed to a contaminant and have a negative reaction to the food you eat.
Prompting pregnancy questions, the main culprits behind the why are listeria, salmonella and mercury. Those that are less known but should also be considered include algae-related infections, toxoplasmosis, and industrial pollutants.
Stats: According to the CDC, about 1600 people get listeriosis per year. The hospitalization rate is 94% with about 20-30% mortality rate. Though that number isn’t huge, it’s worth considering the risks when pregnant. Navigate these food choices thoughtfully and make smart decisions when it comes to how you consume food when pregnant.
- Deli Meat: You’ve probably heard about deli meat. It’s possible that deli meats cause exposure to listeria, so if you are eating it, just pop it in the oven before you do. Cooking it reduces the risk of exposure. On a side note, if you are controlling salt intake or avoiding chemical additives, just make sure you know how it’s processed.
- Smoked seafood: For all intents and purposes, consider this to be a deli meat. If you cook it or its canned or shelf safe, it is usually ok to eat.
- Soft Cheeses: Cheese may contain listeria, unless it’s made from pasteurized milk. At the end of the day, just look for cheese that clearly state this on the label. I’m a cheese lover, and I definitely ate cheese during pregnancy. I was just more conscious of what cheese I ate during those 10 months.
- Unpasteurized milk: For the same reason as cheese, just make sure you are reading the labels.
- Pate: If you are consuming this, make sure it is shelf-safe. Unless this is just your ride or die food, I’d say leave it off the menu for a while.
Stats: The FDA estimates that about 79,000 people become sick from salmonella in unpasteurized eggs each year, leading to about 30 deaths.
- Raw Eggs: During pregnancy, avoid raw eggs or any food that contain raw eggs. Homemade Caesar dressing, mayo, ice cream and hollandaise can be made with raw eggs. If you are going to eat it, just make sure it’s made from pasteurized eggs.
Stats: Nearly everyone in the US has been exposed to Mercury. The most common way people in the US have exposure is by eating contaminated fish.
- Fish: Avoiding high amounts of mercury is important during pregnancy. But, fish consumption is a tricky one. There are so many positive benefits from eating fish including omega-3 fatty acids, but you need to balance intake with fish that have a low mercury content. According to the FDA, about 2 servings per week (8-12 ounces weekly) of salmon, tilapia, canned-light tuna, and cod can be eaten to provide the health benefits while keeping the risk of mercury exposure to a minimum. They recommend avoiding larger fish, like shark and other large fish that are likely to contain the highest levels of mercury. At the end of the day, just do some research on where your fish is sourced and make an informed decision on what you are eating.
Not everyone will be affected by these contaminants. And in some cases, the likelihood of infection is pretty small. When it comes to fish, even the ACOG suggests some intake, while carefully reducing exposure to mercury because there are many other nutritional benefits to consuming fish like salmon.
Algae-related infections, Toxoplasmosis, and Industrial pollutants
Stats: These concerns are mostly regional, so be aware of your environment if you are sourcing locally.
- Raw Shellfish: We’re talking undercooked here. Algae-related infections are typically found in shellfish like oysters, clams and mussels. I know some of you love a good slurp. Our take is avoid them altogether during pregnancy. You can look forward to them after you deliver.
- Unwashed Vegetables: But I thought veggies are good for me? They are, and we are absolutely not telling you to avoid them. But, vegetables can be exposed to toxoplasmosis in the soil where it’s grown or if you have cats nearby. Toxoplasmosis is a rare, but serious parasite that can lead to complications for your baby. It can also be in undercooked meat, so just make sure to wash your veggies and cook any meat you consume while pregnant. When pregnant, a good rule of thumb is to cook almost everything you eat.
- Fish exposed to industrial pollutants: Say what?? Yep, fish caught in local lakes and rivers can be a source of industrial pollutants. Don’t get us wrong. The local movement is real, and important. And I’m typically an advocate. But while you are pregnant, you’ll want to do your research if you are consuming fish caught in local lakes and rivers. The stats are different from region to region, so check with your local health department or the Environmental Protection Agency to determine what is safe. Or just avoid local for these 10 months. It’s up to you.
Ultimately making a decision on what to consume is up to you. If you feel that you can navigate these choices carefully and thoughtfully, while mitigating the risk to yourself and your growing baby, then that is a decision you have to make.
Vitamin & Me Answers your Pregnancy Questions
We feel strongly that nutrition is personal, and it’s different for every person. That’s why we started Vitamin & Me – to take the guesswork out of personalizing your vitamin intake and supplementing to fill your nutritional gaps.
What you decide should always be based on what is best for your specific needs. It stands to reason that you should be discussing your nutrient needs and nutritional intake with your doctor, and make the decisions that you feel are best for you based on their guidance and advice as it relates to your specific needs. If you’re looking to find the right vitamins and supplements for you, take our custom vitamin quiz. We offer a range of high-quality, established vitamin brands for women, men, and children.
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