In combination with other minerals and vitamins, iron is instrumental in maintaining sufficient haemoglobin levels to allow the blood to carry oxygen around the body. Low iron levels are common during pregnancy because the baby absorbs large amounts of iron to form muscles and blood, so it’s important to increase your intake of iron-rich foods such as meat, seaweed, green leafy vegetables, spinach and cabbage, raw vegetables and salad, beans, pulses, tofu, millet and lentils. If you take iron supplements, it is best to take them an hour before a meal and decrease tea, which prevents iron absorption. Iron supplements are widely available from chemists or health food shops if you need a boost.
Intake of calcium is vital during pregnancy because your baby needs calcium to form strong bones. It is present in meat, many vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, seaweed and dairy products. Routine calcium supplementation is not essential and women who do not eat dairy products can obtain calcium from vegetable sources. Food additives and processing, sweet fizzy drinks (which contain phosphates), sparkling water and bran wheat or oats interfere with calcium absorption.
This is an essential mineral acting with calcium in your baby’s bone. This mineral is also used by other tissues and cells in the body. Magnesium is found in sprouted seeds, leafy vegetables, seaweed, nuts, avocado, dates and apricots.
Together with other ‘trace minerals’, these are extremely important in fetal development since they are integral to the make-up of every cell. Zinc plays a vital role in cell division, and zinc deficiency can block folic acid absorption. Zinc is in pumpkin seeds, wholewheat, rye, oats, almonds and peas. Selenium is an antioxidant and helps in normal function of the chromosomes. Selenium is found in tuna, sesame seeds, avocados and grains.