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We all know that nutrition is important, and part of nutrition is getting enough vitamins and minerals. But how does that change when a woman gets pregnant? Learn about some of the vitamins and minerals that are essential during pregnancy.

Prenatal Nutrition

All right contestants! Let’s test your nutritional knowledge. Today’s topic: prenatal vitamins and minerals. These are nutrients found in your diet that are essential for the proper development of a baby (also called a fetus) while in the mother’s womb. They help the body work properly by boosting things like the immune system and promoting normal growth and development of the body.

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So, today’s category is:

  • A, B, C and other vitamins and minerals

Vitamins vs. Minerals

A developing baby needs many different vitamins and minerals to develop properly. But first, let’s see who knows the difference between a vitamin and a mineral? Anybody? Let’s hear some ideas.

  • Where they come from?
  • What they do?

Yes! Both of those are correct! Vitamins are made by plants and animals, while minerals are found in the soil and the water and consumed by plants and animals. And, each vitamin and mineral plays an important role in how the body functions.Another difference? Well, all vitamins – those are the ones with letter names, like A, B, C, D, E and K – are needed by our body, while we only need some minerals. Minerals include things like gold and silver, which we don’t eat, but they also include things like calcium and sodium (that’s the one in salt), which we do eat.

So, where can we get all these vitamins and minerals?Yes, from the diet is one option. Many of the cereals you eat are fortified with extra vitamins and minerals, and of course, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will help you get these nutrients naturally. Any other ways to get them? .

. . That’s correct! By taking prenatal vitamins, a pregnant mother can be sure she is getting most of the essential nutrients she needs that may be lacking in her diet.

Vitamins

There are many important vitamins and minerals needed by a growing baby, but some of the more important ones include. . .

Let’s start with a letter, any letter! Contestant 1, pick one of our vitamins.Vitamin B it is! There are actually many forms of vitamin B. There is B1, 2, 6, 9, 12 and even more than that! Let’s start with folate.

Anybody know which B vitamin folate, also known as folic acid, is?. . . 9 is correct! Folate is also known as vitamin B9.And where can we get this vitamin? .

. . Yes, it is in all prenatal vitamins but it can be also be found in cereals. This vitamin is very important because it helps the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, develop properly during the early stages of fetal growth.Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘What about some of the other B vitamins? Do they all do the same thing?’ Let’s take a look:

  • Vitamin B1, or thiamine, helps break down carbohydrates and is found in foods like brown rice, whole grain breads and cereals.

  • Vitamin B6, found in fish like salmon, also helps break down carbohydrates but also breaks down proteins and fats. Just think, all these things that you eat on a daily basis wouldn’t be much use if your body couldn’t do anything with them, right? So that’s the role of many vitamins – to help your body use the food you eat.

Okay, so, keeping with the breakfast theme, what’s the most popular breakfast juice? Orange juice, right? Now contestants, what do we get from orange juice?That’s right, vitamin C, which also helps in the development of bones, teeth and the lungs, as well as boosting the immune system. And, it helps the body to carry out metabolic processes, like wound healing.

Not only that, but lack of vitamin C has been linked to brain damage.

Minerals

Next up. . . milk!. . .

it does a body good! And not just an adult’s body, but a developing baby as well. What in milk is important for a developing baby?That’s right! Milk and other dairy products contain calcium, a nutrient essential for the proper development of bones. But calcium also works together with vitamin D, which helps the bones of the body absorb the calcium. Lack of these nutrients can result in low birth weight babies who may have other health problems.Another important mineral is iron. This can be found in green leafy veggies and red meat, like hamburgers and steak.

Let’s make this one multiple choice.What element, essential for life, does iron transport?A. CalciumB. HydrogenC.

OxygenOxygen it is! Iron is important for blood pressure and oxygen transportation throughout the body. Not only do you need oxygen to breathe, but without oxygen, the muscles, brain and other tissues in the body would have a hard time functioning.

DHA, Neither Vitamin Nor Mineral

And of course there are some other important nutrients found in prenatal supplements that don’t fall into the vitamins and minerals categories. One of the more important ones is DHA, which stands for a big, difficult to pronounce word – docosahexaenoic acid – and is essential for normal brain development. But don’t worry too much about that big long word, most people refer to it simply as DHA.This is a fatty acid found in the meat of many types of fish, but most pregnant women have to take supplements to get enough in their daily diet.

Some prenatal vitamins have DHA in them, but mostly it is offered as a separate pill.

Lesson Summary

There are many other vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients needed for a developing baby, but that’s enough for one lesson! So, what did we learn today?Well, vitamins, which are made by plants and animals, and minerals, which are found in water and soil, are both important for the normal development of the fetus.Vitamins include:

  • Folate, or B9, essential for development of the nervous system, especially during early pregnancy
  • B1 and B6 help break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats
  • Vitamin C does a lot of things but most importantly, it boosts the immune system
  • And vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium for bone growth

Our minerals include:

  • Calcium, also essential for proper bone growth and development
  • And iron, for carrying oxygen throughout the body

And let’s not forget DHA, a fatty acid in the body important for brain development.And remember, these are just some of the important vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed during pregnancy. There are many others not discussed here.

Learning Outcomes

You should have the ability to do the following after watching this video lesson:

  • Differentiate between vitamins and minerals
  • Understand what is meant specifically by prenatal vitamins and minerals
  • Identify several vitamins and minerals, as well as their functions, that are essential during pregnancy
  • Describe the function of DHA to a developing fetus

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