Bridget Swinney MS, RD
Calcium…it’s something most pregnant women know they need…
But when talking to moms-to-be, I often find their diet is definitely lacking this important mineral.
If you think of bones as a calcium bank, approximately ⅔ of the “deposits” you’ll send your baby during your pregnancy will be during the third trimester. But don’t count out calcium being vital during the first two trimesters. A large study revealed that adequate intake from food in early pregnancy was linked with a reduced risk of Gestational Diabetes. Here’s what else it does in the body:
- Builds strong bones and teeth
- Communicates between nerve cells
- Contracts muscles
- Releases hormones and other chemicals
- Keeps a normal heartbeat
- Maintains normal blood pressure
- Helps make blood clots
How much do you need?
The Dietary Reference Intake for pregnancy is 1,000 mg. Having 3-4 servings of dairy products a day is the easiest way to get it.
Here are some examples of calcium content in common foods:
Some substitutes for milk like soy, almond, flaxmilk and rice milks, as well as some juices, may contain added calcium and vitamin D, but check the label to be sure. Shake those beverages well because calcium may fall to the bottom. Rice milk is not recommended in the Eating Expectantly Diet due to its possible arsenic content.
At EatRightMama, we believe in a “food first” strategy.—nutrients in food generally work together to help the body use them more efficiently. But DO consider a calcium/vitamin D supplement if you don’t get enough from your diet. Keep in mind that if you were lactose-intolerant before pregnancy, chances are you’ll do better with dairy now. Most people with lactose intolerance can eat yogurt and other probiotic-rich dairy foods. Here’s a round up of probiotic-rich recipes (plus read about all the benefits!)
Don’t Do Dairy?
Besides dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, you’ll also find calcium in kale, collard greens, mustard greens, soybeans, bok choy, and tahini.
So what happens if you don’t get enough?
When you’re pregnant, your baby is the priority–so if you don’t get the calcium you need from your diet, it comes from your bones. Yikes!
You may wonder, “Doesn’t my prenatal vitamin have enough?” Nope. If it did you really wouldn’t be able to swallow it! Most prenatal vitamins contain only a small percentage of the DRI for calcium. If you don’t get enough from your diet during pregnancy, you’ll need to take a separate supplement. Make sure it has vitamin D to help your body absorb it.
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