Nutrition includes everything we eat, drink, smoke and inhale – all the elements that our bodies absorb, utilise, store and excrete. Optimal nutrition is about moderation and balance rather than deprivation and starvation. What we eat contains carbohydrates (sugars), both simple (good for you) and complex (bad for you), fats – saturated (bad for you) and unsaturated (good for you), proteins, a range of vitamins and minerals. There are also additives in many non-organic foods – pesticides, chemicals and hormones. For pregnancy it’s particularly important to eat healthily and to keep well stocked on vitamins and minerals. Particularly important minerals are calcium (for bones), zinc (for fetal development), iron (to support the blood’s oxygen level) and folic acid (baby’s neurological development). Nutrition is not about dieting, it is about maintaining good health and fitness and alleviating many of the physiological symptoms that result from eating badly.
What you eat doesn’t only affect your health – it also affects your moods, your baby’s growth and your relationships, your weight, your susceptibility to illness, your appearance, your energy levels and your sleeping pattern. What’s more, what you eat may reduce allergies for both you and your baby. How your baby is nourished during pregnancy is determined by your own health and everything you consume. Carbohydrates, proteins, sugars, minerals, vitamins and fats all cross the placenta into your baby’s blood stream. In some respects, babies act as “parasites”, taking all the nutrients needed even if a mother’s own stores are depleted. Yet research evidence does show that deficiencies of vitamins and minerals in the mother or excesses of toxic metals (such as lead or mercury) may effect the baby’s well-being.