When you are pregnant, sorting through all the nutrition information can be difficult. There are certain nutrients that need to be increased during pregnancy, but on the same note you want to be careful of over supplementing other nutrients.
1.) Vitamin A. This vitamin requires a balancing act. It is important during pregnancy because it promotes growth of cells and tissues throughout the body. On the other hand, it is easy to over-supplement with vitamin A. Research shows that excessive amounts from supplements (10,000 IU daily) increases the risk of birth defects. Most over the counter multi-vitamins exceed this level, so it is important to make sure you take a pre-natal vitamin and check the label for the amount of vitamin A it contains (most prenatal vitamins will provide a lower amount of vitamin A than regular multivitamins). You'll also want to avoid any antioxidant supplements, as they are also typically high in Vitamin A. There are even food products that have vitamins added such as sports bars and balance bars, and they can lead you to go over the limit.
Your best bet is to stick to a safe prenatal vitamin, skip any foods that have vitamin A added in large amounts, and eat foods high in beta carotene. Eating foods rich in beta carotene isn't a concern. Beta carotene will not convert to vitamin A when blood levels of vitamin A are normal. This is our bodies own natural monitoring system. Foods rich in beta carotene include carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and dark greens like spinach, kale, turnip, or collard greens.
2.) Folate. During pregnancy, our folate needs increase. Consuming enough folate during the first trimester is crucial for lowering a newborn's risk of spinal cord injury. It also plays an essential role in making new cells by assisting in the production of DNA and RNA. Pregnancy increases the recommended daily amount from 400 micrograms to 600 micrograms. This can be achieved by consuming foods high in folate such as orange juice, lentils, beans, spinach, broccoli, peanuts, and avocadoes. Many food products are fortified with folic acid, including enriched bread or pasta products and many breakfast cereals. Most pre-natal vitamins will include 400 to 600 micrograms of folic acid.
There is no benefit to taking higher levels of folic acid, and too much can mask a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
3.) Vitamin D. Did you know that vitamin D deficiency is on the rise? So much so that many physicians are now adding it to routine labs with yearly physicals. During pregnancy, vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption and fetal growth. It also helps develop the nervous system, aids in lung development, and strengthens your baby's immune system.