Nutrients for Pregnancy and Postpartum Overview

It is clear that getting a variety of macronutrients and micronutrients in our diets is vitally important for our bodies to function optimally. But what exactly are those nutrients, and how to we get them?

FAT– fatty cuts of beef, fatty fish, bacon, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts
  • satiating (keeps you full)
  • helps absorb vitamins and minerals
  • builds cell membranes
  • slow burning energy
  • ingredient in hormones
  • protects organs
  • builds baby’s brain (in pregnancy and through breastmilk)
PROTEIN– Beef, chicken, fish, shellfish, eggs, collagen peptides
  • building blocks for tissues (essential for healing from birth)
  • contain enzymes that serve as catalysts
  • antibodies fight infection
  • ingredient in hormones
  • helps oxygen travel in bloodstream
CARBOHYDRATES– potatoes, legumes, beans, vegetables, fruits, bread
  • quick energy
  • promotes growth of body tissues
  • fiber pulls toxins from body, keeps sugar in check and aids digestion
  • help maintain milk supply

Having balanced macronutrient ratios will likely come automatically if you are eating a generally balanced diet and listening to your body’s cues and underlying cravings. I’ll explain what I mean by a craving being “underlying.” If you’re craving sugar, for example, you are likely in need of energy! If you’re able to improve your sleep hygiene and incorporate adequate carbs into your daily diet, you may not reach for a donut at 3pm every day! This doesn’t mean you MUST resist the craving in the moment, though. I don’t like dogma, restricting or relying on the idea of willpower. If you’re able to choose something that serves you better than sweets (that can lead to sugar crashing), great. But I am also not against an indulgence chosen mindfully.



If you eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and proteins, you will naturally be able to reach your micronutrient minimums- but are minimums enough? Maybe, but they’re not optimal. If you feel (or a doctor or nutrition professional has told you) that you have areas of deficiency, this may help you identify where you can make changes or seek supplementation.
Believe it or not, our body can crave micronutrients, too! The body knows what it needs- we just often are not in tune with that those cravings actually mean. That’s why learning about this stuff can be fun and actually helpful for our health!
For example, those who crave chocolate around the time of their period may be actually craving magnesium! I am NOT saying to not have the chocolate, but consider taking an epsom salt bath or drinking some Natural Calm mixed into water or tea as well! I know people who are so sensitive to caffeine that they can’t have chocolate late in the day, so those could be a great alternative. A sign of iron deficiency is feeling sluggish and easily fatigued. If you notice this, you could try having beef for dinner! Feeling a cold coming on? Reach for some Vitamin C and zinc! Cracks in the corner of your mouth or a red, scaly rash? You could need Vitamin B6!
This is NOT medical advice, and I am NOT telling you to run to the store and grab each of these vitamins and nutrients as separate supplements. That is something you could evaluate with your doctor or nutritionist. What I AM saying is, you can be an active player in your own health by increasing foods with those nutrients mentioned if you notice areas of potential deficiency, because eating a wider variety of these nutritious foods can’t hurt, and vitamins and nutrients function best in our bodies when in whole food form. Isolating nutrients and taking them as supplements is not the most ideal way to get what we need, as food is so much more complex than the sum of its nutrients. This is all the more reason to get a balanced diet in the first place, so you don’t even have to think about the B6 protecting your skin- because it’ll already be doing its job.
Below I have listed each of the vitamins and the essential minerals and some examples of how you can incorporate them into your daily diet.


A- eggs, bright veggies, liver
B1 (thiamin)- pork, legumes, whole grains
B2 (riboflavin)- egg yolks, red meat
B3 (niacin)- chicken, tuna, lentils
B5 (pantothenic acid)- egg yolk, avocado, organ meats
B6 (pyridoxine)- chickpeas, salmon, potatoes
B7 (biotin)- eggs, salmon, cheese
B9 (folate)- leafy greens, liver, legumes
B12 (cobalamin)- liver, beef, sardines
C- strawberries, oranges, kiwi
D- sunlight, fatty fish, some mushrooms
E- sunflower seeds, almonds, avocado
K- green, leafy vegetables
CALCIUM- broccoli, beans, dairy
PHOSPHOROUS- beef liver, eggs
MAGNESIUM- broccoli, beans, cocoa, avocado, seaweed
SODIUM- salt, cured meats, celery
CHLORIDE- salt, seaweed
POTASSIUM- bananas, potatoes, broccoli, coconut water
SULFUR- broccoli, kale, cabbage
IRON- red meat, oysters, eggs, beans, spirulina, seaweed
COPPER- oysters, beef liver, cocoa, avocado
ZINC- oysters, beef liver, eggs
SELENIUM- Brazil nuts, salmon, beef liver, eggs
IODINE- seaweed/kelp, fish, iodized salt
CHROMIUM- brewer’s yeast, mussels, broccoli
MANGANESE- broccoli, avocado, berries
MOLYBDENUM- legumes, whole grains, potatoes, beef liver
The key here is variety! If you were to make a shopping list of these items, you’d notice there are some heavy hitters that will provide you with a LOT of what you need to get plenty of your essential vitamins and minerals.
It’s easy to fall into a rut of eating the same things all the time. Try mixing it up! I go to Instagram, personally, if I need meal inspiration. I find the accounts that seem generally aligned with my tastes, and following their food posts helps me stay creative and try new things. I also LOVE leafing through a good old cookbook.
Why is all this important?
During pregnancy, the baby takes what it needs. If we are nutrient deplete, WE are the ones who suffer. Make sure to take care of yourself and eat a varied diet while pregnant (and take a prenatal with folate)! This can help set you up for an easier recovery postpartum.
After having a baby, we need to build back nutrient stores that were depleted from pregnancy and birth (after all, we have just lost a lot of fluid and blood). Nourishing ourselves adequately during this time can make a big difference in our healing.

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