6 Important Minerals for a Healthy Pregnancy
If you are a woman who wants to have a baby, it’s time to become your very own amateur naturopath. The more you know, the better you can set up your body – and your baby’s growing body – for success.
We talk a lot about vitamins in our society, and we talk a lot about certain minerals like calcium. Yet many other essential minerals go by unnoticed.
But when you’re trying to become pregnant or when you just find out you’re pregnant – you should absolutely start understanding more about what minerals do for your body and your baby’s body.
Here you will find 6 minerals that are fabulous for both fertility and pregnancy. I’m going to show you what they do and why they matter. Then we will talk about how much to supplement and what foods will give you a big mineral boost.
Getting Your Minerals Checked
Most prenatal vitamins are perfectly designed to balance out these minerals we are about to dive into, so you shouldn’t have to take anything beyond your prenatal. But sometimes you are deficient and need more.
The best way to figure out exactly how much of each mineral you should be taking is to get tested… especially when it comes to iron and zinc. And while you’re at it – get all your levels tested.
You will want to know if you are low in things like vitamin D or B vitamins too. This is a great idea before you even start trying to have a baby. You can adjust your supplements and diet to get rid of any deficiency before you conceive.
If your tests come back normal, your prenatal should do the trick. But if your tests come back and your results are all over the place, consider talking to a dietician/naturopath who can give you really practical tools and steps to find balance before your baby.
Is Mineral-Rich Food Enough?
Some people think if they eat really healthy diets they will get all the nutrients they need for a healthy body. In many ways, this is true. A well-rounded diet filled with all kinds of produce and proteins will flood your body with essential nutrients.
But women who want to become pregnant or are already pregnant need an extra boost. And here’s why:
- There could be a hole in your diet. Just because you eat incredibly well does not mean there isn’t a hole somewhere. Maybe you don’t get enough folate. Maybe you don’t get enough iron. This may or may not be a huge issue when it’s just you – but it could be the difference of fertility vs. infertility or a healthy delivery vs. miscarriage.
- You can lose nutrients in many ways. There are other ways to deplete nutrients. Our last mineral on this list – zinc – can actually be depleted through stress or pollution. So you may eat zinc-rich foods. But you may also lose zinc everyday.
- You’re feeding two. Once you’re pregnant, you’re not just supplying nutrients to your body. You’re supplying nutrients to a growing baby. You simply need MORE.
So, yes, boosting up your nutrition with nutrient-dense food is a must. (And I’ve provided a list of great foods for each mineral).
But you will also need to supplement with an actual prenatal too.
Look at it as both/and and not either/or.
Think about this:
- Many women are already iron deficient
- In fact, iron is the #1 deficiency for all women
- Only 20% of women have enough iron in their bodies at the start of their pregnancy
- And a pregnant women needs double the amount of iron
So we are clearly not getting enough iron, right? And that’s a problem.
Iron deficiency can lead to issues with fertility – and issues with a developing baby. In fact, miscarriage is higher among iron deficient women, as is low birth wait and even postpartum depression.
How much should you consume? The goal is 27 milligrams of day when you’re pregnant. So your prenatal should add much of that, but then you’ll need to also eat more iron-rich foods.
** Though meat is super high in iron, the best type of iron-rich food for women trying to conceive or women who are pregnant are actually the plant-based iron-rich foods.
Foods high in iron include:
- Meat and fish
- Dark green veggies
- Iron-fortified foods (like breads or cereals)
- Dark chocolate
To understand more about iron and pregnancy, check out this quick video on iron supplements during pregnancy:
Even though you don’t need much of many minerals (hence, the phrase “trace minerals”) does not mean you don’t need them at all. Manganese is a helpful mineral that protects cells, aids in metabolism, and even builds bones.
And one very recent study has shown a possible connection between low manganese (and zinc – which we will get to in a second) levels during pregnancy and autism.
You definitely don’t need much of this mineral to reap its benefits. Shoot for 2 milligrams a day in your fertility supplement.
Then you can also eat make sure some manganese-rich foods are sprinkled into your diet. Keep in mind that you really do not want to go over 11 mg per day. So you don’t need to stuff yourself with these foods. Just think about them as you make your grocery list.
Foods high in manganese include:
- Brown rice
- Garbanzo beans
- White beans
- Macadamia nuts
- Black beans
Our next trace mineral helps women struggling with infertility due to polycystic ovary syndrome, as well as helps women prevent a problematic health condition during pregnancy.
One study showed how chromium helped the fertility in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The chromium helped reduce the common PCOS problem of insulin resistance.
Chromium is helpful to a pregnant woman in many ways, but one way is extremely important: preventing gestational diabetes. Chromium can actual help you maintain proper glucose levels.
The need for chromium is so small it is actually measured in micrograms (mcg). Pregnant women need about 30 mcg a day (only 29 mcg if you are a teen mom).
Foods high in chromium include:
- Green beans
When you think of copper, you probably think of pennies or cute Moscow mule mugs – not your health or your baby’s health. But you should.
Copper helps your baby develop everything from his or her nervous system to the heart. And studies have shown that women who are infertile tend to have lower copper.
In your prenatal, you only need 1 mg of copper to help.
When you take a zinc supplement for fertility/pregnancy – which I’m going to recommend below – you are at risk for a copper deficiency. This 1mg (or sometimes even slightly lower) should be able to remedy the problem. If you are concerned about finding a balance, talk to your doctor.
Foods high in copper include:
- Beef liver
- Dark chocolate
- Sunflower seeds
Here we come to a trace mineral that most people don’t know much about: selenium. It does everything from boosting your immune system to preventing cancer.
And when it comes to fertility and pregnancy particularly – selenium is quite useful as well.
Selenium acts as an antioxidant that protects your eggs from free radical damage. This is really important for a happy, healthy pregnancy that lasts to term. In fact, research is showing that selenium may help prevent miscarriage.
Pregnant women should shoot for 60 micrograms of selenium a day. And you absolutely do not want to go over 400 micrograms.
Foods high in selenium include:
- Brazil nuts
Finally, we come to our last mineral for a healthy pregnancy – and it is definitely a powerhouse: zinc.
Zinc plays a huge role in both male and female fertility. For women, zinc improves egg production, regulates hormones, and even creates proper levels of follicular fluid. Plus, it can shrink fibroids – which could very well be the cause of your infertility.
In pregnancy women, a zinc deficiency is connected to miscarriage.
Many people have a zinc deficiency and not just because they don’t eat enough foods high in zinc. Stress and pollution are both connected to lowered zinc levels. So it is not only possible, but also actually likely that you could be low.
Exactly how much zinc you take during pregnancy depends on whether or not you are completely deficient. The average recommendation is 15 milligrams. But ask your doctor if he or she believes you need more.
Foods high in zinc include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Garbanzo beans
- Cocoa powder
- Kidney beans
Essential Minerals And Your Baby
As you can see, taking these important minerals before and during pregnancy is vital for your health and the health of your baby.
Then focus on a whole foods diet. Foods like spinach, nuts, beans, and even dark chocolate popped up on the food lists for multiple minerals, so this is a great place to start (who could say no to a little extra dark chocolate each day?)
This way you and your baby will have the adequate nutrients you need to get you to that delivery day with success.