2 Essential Ingredients of Pregnancy Nutrition

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Ensure you get the recommended amounts of two nutrients that are crucial for a healthy pregnancy: folic acid and vitamin D.

Also known as folate, folic acid is a type of B vitamin that’s an important part of cell production. It is found in leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, and many grain products, including certain cereals and breads, are fortified with folic acid.

Women need folic acid throughout life, but it’s critical before and during pregnancy. Folic acid helps prevent a group of infant health conditions called neural tube defects, which affect the brain and spine; spina bifida is the most common. Folic acid also has beyond-the-bump benefits: It keeps your skin, hair and nails healthy before, during and after pregnancy. A combination of diet and prenatal vitamins can help you get the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.

Another key component of pregnancy nutrition is vitamin D, which helps babies build bones and prevents congenital rickets (weak bones). The nutrient also promotes bone health in expectant mothers, as well as a healthy immune system, muscles and nerves. Vitamin D can be absorbed through sun exposure and foods—such as salmon, cheese (cooked or pasteurized) and egg yolks (ensure they are fully cooked). Some foods, including cereal, milk and orange juice, are fortified with vitamin D. To get the recommended 600 international units during pregnancy, however, a supplement may be necessary.

Pregnancy Nutrition in Every Spoonful

Try this Spanish chickpea stew for a delicious taste of the Mediterranean that’s packed with nutrients you and your baby need. Spinach and chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), two principle ingredients, are rich in folic acid. Spinach is also a good source of magnesium, which may help the body use vitamin D. Enjoy!


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
2 cups fresh onions, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
3 cups frozen spinach, chopped
2 cups canned low-sodium chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
¾ cup golden raisins
1 cup low-sodium diced tomatoes
1 ½ cups canned low-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


Let olive oil heat on medium in a large pot. Add garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Add onions. Cook for 2–3 minutes. Add paprika and cumin and stir. Add spinach. Cook for 7 minutes.

After adding chickpeas, raisins, tomatoes and chicken stock, bring mixture to a boil. Let stew simmer on low heat for 7–10 minutes. Add vinegar, salt and pepper, and mix. Stew serves six.

Nutrition Information

Total calories: 241
Total fat: 8 grams
Saturated fat: 1 gram
Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
Sodium: 156 milligrams
Total carbohydrates: 38 grams
Dietary fiber: 6 grams
Total sugars: 16 grams
Protein: 8 grams

Recipe courtesy of What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.

Betty Orange, D.O., OB-GYN

Thinking about expanding your family? Betty Orange, D.O., is a board-certified OB-GYN who can take care of your healthcare needs. To schedule an appointment, call (870) 816‑3800.

Dr. Orange is a member of the medical staff at Helena Regional Medical Center.