Once you’re pregnant, your body requires extra-special attention when it comes to what you eat. While your health is always a primary consideration, most women focus on vitamin/mineral needs to support the baby.
When it comes to calcium, however, you are the top priority. Did you know your body will break down its own calcium stores to provide the developing baby with what it needs? If you’re not getting enough calcium through your pregnancy diet and supplementation, this can leave you with diminished bone mass, calcium depletion, and puts you at higher risk for osteoporosis later on.
Calcium Intake is Especially Important During the Third-Trimester
Some nutrients, like folate (or folic acid) are the focus of the first trimester of pregnancy because they facilitate brain and neurological development. While calcium is always an essential mineral, your body (and your baby) need it most during the second- and third-trimesters because the baby’s bones are developing rapidly at this stage.
Excess Calcium is Not Healthy
Pay attention to your OB/GYN’s or midwife’s guidelines for calcium intake during pregnancy, which is typically around 1000 – 1200 mg/day. If you take more than that, you risk getting kidney stones, which are incredibly painful – and excess calcium also blocks your body from absorbing zinc and iron.
If you’re pregnant, avoid taking more than 2500 mg/day.
Easy Ways to Ensure Your Diet Has Calcium-Rich Foods
Your body does best when it absorbs vitamins and nutrients through the foods you eat, with prenatal vitamins serving as the “backup plan” or security blanket. Therefore, the surest way to know you’re getting enough calcium in your diet is to create a menu that includes the following foods on a regular basis:
- Cook your rice, noodles, grains or hot cereals in nonfat milk instead of water. The flavor remains the same – or even better – and the calcium is absorbed into your food.
- Eat yogurt every day. In addition to a nice dose of calcium, you’ll also benefit from healthy probiotics. If you aren’t a fan of yogurt, trying adding it to smoothies instead. Yogurt will also help to keep your vaginal flora and fauna in check, minimizing potential episodes of yeast infection and/or bacterial vaginosis.
- Try substituting non-fat plain yogurt for sour cream . This works for baked potatoes, in mashed potatoes, or on ethnic foods.
- Drink a glass of calcium-fortified OJ every morning. Or, throw it into a smoothie.
- Sprinkle low-fat parmesan cheese on salads, soups and toasted bread.
- Eat those greens. Most of the leafy and cruciferous greens are loaded with calcium. In fact, they also have more calcium than dairy products. Kale, broccoli, bok choy and chard are all examples. Greens are delicious ingredients for a stir-fly and can also disappear into a healthy vegetable soup.
Additional Health Benefits of Calcium
There are a few more reasons why eating adequate amounts of calcium before, during, and after pregnancy are good for you.
It may help you lose your baby weight.
Studies out of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville have shown that women who eat more low-fat dairy products tend to produce and store less fat. So, keep up those low-fat dairy additions in your diet after your baby is born and it could help you lose your baby weight.
We also recommend reading, Healing After Childbirth: A Gentle Guide & Timeline, for more information about taking care of your postpartum body and re-strengthening your pelvic floor.
Reduces or eliminate PMS symptoms
Once baby arrives, you’ll be a busy mama and who wants to deal with PMS when you’re taking care of an infant and toddler? Another study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health found that women who take an average of 1200 mg of calcium per day reported a 50% reduction in their PMS symptoms.
Working with a prenatal care provider is the best way to ensure you are doing exactly what you should to prioritize the health of you and your baby during pregnancy. Contact Overlake to schedule an appointment.