- Written by by Silvia Mwendia for Kenyakidz
Good nutrition is of the utmost importance during a woman’s pregnancy but with the barrage of unsolicited advice during the nine months, a lot of misinformation takes place. It is for this reason that Nutritionist Faith Kariuki of Afya Bora Nutrition and Wellness Center is educating Kenyan women on the do’s and donts-food wise, during pregnancy.
Firstly, Faith demystifies the myth of a special diet during pregnancy.
“Pregnancy doesn’t call for a special diet, in fact the basic principles of healthy eating remain the same. To meet their increased nutrient requirements, pregnant women should aim at consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals, lean proteins and healthy fats,” she said.
According to Faith, no one food item can can ensure that a woman has a smooth pregnancy. However, there are some foods that “can help meet the increased nutrient requirements of pregnancy hence helps minimize risks to the mother and the unborn child.”
The first of these foods are lean meats such as red meat, poultry and fish which are a great source of iron.
“When pregnant, a woman needs about twice the amount of iron they needed before pregnancy. The body uses iron to make blood for the mother and the growing fetus. It also helps in transporting oxygen in the mother and also to the child,” said Faith.
Inadequate intake of iron can result in in iron deficiency anaemia which can cause pre-term births and low birth weight.
Another food that can help mothers-to-be increase their nutrients are oranges. According to Faith, these fruits are “a good source of vitamin C, folate and folic acid.” The latter two a form of vitamin B9 which are very important during pregnancy as they prevent birth defects such as spina bifida and brain defects like anencephaly and encephalocele. If one lacks these two nutrients it can also lead to anaemia. Faith also adds that “Vitamin C helps in absorption of iron hence reducing the risk of developing iron deficiency anaemia.”
The third type of food that pregnant women should make sure to include in their diet is milk and dairy products which are a rich source of calcium, vitamin D among other nutrients.
“The growing foetus increases calcium requirements in pregnancy to build strong teeth and bones. Calcium is also needed for proper heart, muscles and nerve functions. If a pregnant mother doesn’t consume sufficient calcium, the body will draw calcium from her bones diminishing bone strength and increasing risk of osteoporosis,” said Faith.
Bananas, more so the ripe are another definite inclusion in a pregnant woman’s diet because it is loaded with potassium, vitamin C and fibre.
“Potassium is a critical nutrient for overall health. During pregnancy, the body requires calcium to function properly, regulate blood pressure, maintain proper muscle functions and boost release of energy from foods consumed,” said Faith.
Low potassium, also known as hypokalaemia, can occur in pregnancy especially if one is vomiting a lot. Hypokalaemia causes fatigue, constipation, muscle cramps and abnormal heart rhythms.
During pregnancy, protein requirement increases above the normal to allow fetal growth and milk production. Inadequate intake of protein can lead to health problems for both the mother and her unborn child. For the mother it can cause fatigue and loss of muscle mass. For the developing baby, it can cause poor muscle and joint development, poor bone health, miscarriage and birth defects.