By now, you should know that a balanced diet is an important component in your overall health and wellness, especially when it comes to maternal health. Black women should enjoy a variety of healthful foods from all of the food groups, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat or fat-free dairy and lean protein. Women also have special nutrient needs before, during, and after pregnancy.  

Whether you are trying to conceive or not, you can still take steps today towards a healthy life by including whole foods into your daily eating routine. This will ensure you are being filled with vital nutrients to keep your body thriving while helping you reach better health outcomes in your women’s health journey and for your future children.

Here are 6 nutrients you should consider in your eating routine.

Please note, use of dietary supplements and fortified foods may be necessary for pregnant women to ensure adequate supply of nutrients for both mother and baby. Please see your healthcare provider for your individual care plan.

1. Calcium: During pregnancy, calcium is needed for the healthy development of a baby’s teeth, bones, heart, nerves and muscles. When a pregnant woman does not consume enough calcium, it is taken from her bones for the baby. It is important to consume adequate amounts of calcium daily before, during and after pregnancy.

  • food sources: almonds, chia seeds, tofu, kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes, collard greens, okra, butternut squash, arugula, white beans, figs, yogurt, cheese.

2. Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Your baby needs vitamin D to help his bones and teeth grow.

  • food sources: fatty fish, fortified: cereals, milk, orange juice, cheese, mushroom, egg yolk.

3. Folic Acid:  When women reach childbearing age, folate (or folic acid) plays an important role in decreasing the risk of birth defects of your baby’s brain and spinal cord.

  • food sources: asparagus, citrus fruits, beans, fortified cereals, broccoli, whole grains, legumes
    leafy green vegetables.

4. Iron: Maternal iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency during pregnancy. When you’re pregnant, your body needs this iron to make more blood so it can carry oxygen to your baby. Your baby needs iron to make their own blood.

  • food sources: asparagus, citrus fruits, beans, fortified cereals, broccoli, whole grains, legumes
    leafy green vegetables.

5. Magnesium: Magnesium may reduce fetal growth restriction and preeclampsia as well as increase birth weight.

  • food sources: avocado, beans, brown rice, dark chocolate, nuts, legumes, seeds, tofu, salmon, banana, dark leafy greens.

6. Omega-3 fatty acids: Seafood is the only food rich in a healthy oil called omega-3 DHA and EPA, which is needed for your baby’s brain and eye development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children and pregnant and breastfeeding women eat 1-2 servings of fish per week. Omega 3’s ALA’s found in plant sources, do have benefits that support brain and eye health BUT other than being used for energy, ALA is not biologically active in your body. It needs to be turned into EPA and/or DHA to become active, but the conversion rate is very low. Best sources can be found in fatty fish. Do still include plant sources of omega 3’s in your eating routine as it has many other beneficial nutrients for optimal health.

  • food sources: fatty fish like sardines, salmon and mackerel are good sources of omega 3’s EPA & DHA. Here’s a chart from the Seafood Nutrition Partnership for more seafood sources of omega-3’s. Omega 3’s ALA can be found in plant sources such as nuts, and seeds and foods like milk, eggs and orange juice that are fortified.