Diet and Nutrition
The first trimester is a crucial time for the baby’s development, as all major organs begin to form during this period. If you have been taking a balanced and nutritious diet before conceiving, then there is nothing to worry about and your baby would obtain everything she needs to grow and develop normally, though you will need to increase intake of some vital nutrients.
The developing baby derives the required nutrients entirely from the mother’s body. So the nutrients should be enough for the baby to grow and for the mother to stay active and healthy.
Before you go through the list, you should know what deficiency or excess of a vitamin or mineral means.
Deficiency and Deficiency disease occurs due to lack of a particular vitamin or mineral, and when someone does not get that particular vitamin or mineral for a long time (for months on a go), and during this time, he/she will show symptoms of partial deficiency. If on observing these symptoms, the vitamin or mineral is still not taken, and the person again faces a prolonged absence of that in diet, the person would then develop the deficiency disease. Such cases are rare, though partial deficiency symptoms like anemia are found more commonly.
Excess of any vitamin and mineral occurs mostly through medicinal administration (supplements), as food sources can rarely cause it. It is always best to ask a doctor before beginning with any nutritional supplements.
Now here’s the list of the most essential nutrients you would need for a healthy pregnancy. Some vitamins and minerals are not listed, though you need them as well for good health, but the list includes only the most important ones required for pregnancy. Click on the nutrient’s name to read about its importance in diet.
Folate is also known as folic acid or Vitamin B9 and is required for cell growth and division, DNA and RNA synthesis, and for a healthy cardiovascular system.
It is extremely important for early developmental stages of the baby and its deficiency can cause spina bifida or neural tube defects in the embryo during first month of pregnancy. Brain, nervous system and cardiovascular system develop faster and earlier during the first trimester of pregnancy, compared to the formation of other organs of the baby’s body.
Excess folic acid is naturally removed by the body, so there is extremely low risk of accumulation and related health risks. A pregnant woman requires about 600 to 800mcg of folate daily.
Folate Rich Foods
Wheat germ, asparagus, lentils, spinach, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, fortified cereals and breads.
Required For: Healthy skin, mucus membranes, bones, teeth, vision, immune system and reproductive system.
Absorption in the Body: Vitamin A is fat soluble, and therefore adequate amounts of fat are required for its absorption and use in the body. Zinc is another contributor required for Vitamin A absorption.
Deficiency Health Risks: Night blindness, increased susceptibility to viral infections, abnormal growth of bones in children, hair loss, dry, scaly skin with goose bumps like appearance and weak immune system.
Excess Health Risks: High levels of Vitamin A can accumulate in the liver to toxic levels and can cause irritability, hair loss, itchy skin, brittle nails, anemia and damaged liver. High levels of Vitamin A cause cleft palate and spina bifida in fetus. It is recommended to limit the dosage to 3000mcg daily.
Food Sources: Orange / yellow fruits and vegetables (papaya, carrots, tomatoes, bell pepper), kale, collard greens, liver, eggs, butter and whole milk.
Required For: Healthy metabolism of carbohydrates, appetite control and healthy nervous system (contributes in structure and conductivity in nerves). Also Known as Thiamine (or thiamin).
Absorption in the Body: Folic acid (folate), Vitamin B6 and B12 are required for its absorption in the body.
Deficiency Health Risks: Loss of appetite, numbness in legs, feeling of weakness and discomfort.
Excess Health Risks: The vitamin is water soluble and therefore excess of it gets easily excreted by the body.
Food Sources: Whole grains, beans, brown rice, nuts and seeds.
Required For: Digestion of protein and carbohydrates, detoxification of body, and for healthy mucus membranes. Helps absorption of folate, vitamins B3 and B12, iron and zinc in body. Also called riboflavin. Easily destroyed by light.
Absorption in the Body: Adequate amounts of vitamin B1 can increase absorption of Vitamin B2.
Deficiency Health Risks: Itching around the eyes, soreness around the lips, cracking of skin at mouth’s corners and peeling of skin around the nose, and increased free radicals in the body.
Excess Health Risks: The vitamin is water soluble and therefore excess of it gets easily excreted by the body.
Food Sources: Mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, whole grains, milk, eggs, chicken and fish.
Required For: Also called Niacin, is required for releasing energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins in food. Also, it is required to synthesize cholesterol and fatty acids.
Absorption in the Body: A water soluble vitamin, and is therefore not stored in the body. Vitamins B1 and B6 increase absorption of niacin.
Deficiency Health Risks: Extreme deficiency can cause a disease known as pallegra with symptoms – diarrhea, dementia and dermatitis.
Excess Health Risks: Less than 2000mg daily is considered safe. High dosages are known to cause toxicity in liver and reduce sensitivity to insulin.
Food Sources: Major food sources include whole grains and nuts, green leafy vegetables, milk, yeast, chicken and fish.
Required For: Metabolism of proteins and fats, homocysteine reduction in blood, synthesis of hemoglobin, breaking down sugar and starch and healthy functioning of nervous and immune systems. Also called pyridoxine.
Absorption in the Body: Being water soluble it easily travels in blood and body tissues like other water soluble B vitamins. This is heat sensitive and gets destroyed by prolonged cooking.
Deficiency Health Risks: Intake of alcohol is related to depletion of this vitamin. Deficiency symptoms include skin eczema and dermatitis, fatigue and anemia. Extreme deficiency can lead to convulsions and ictuses.
Excess Health Risks: Taking supplemental doses below 200mg per day is considered safe. Toxicity from food sources has never been observed.
Food Sources: Spinach, bell peppers, turnip greens, potatoes, whole grains, garlic, cauliflower, cabbage, mushrooms, asparagus, bananas, milk, eggs, liver, chicken, fish and lamb.
Required For: Also known as Cobalamin, for converting homocysteine to harmless methionine by taking help of folate, producing energy from fats and proteins, synthesis of RBCs and hemoglobin, and maintenance of nervous system.
Absorption in the Body: In food, this vitamin binds to proteins. Hydrochloric Acid in stomach releases this vitamin to be absorbed in blood.
Deficiency Health Risks: Anemia is the most common deficiency due to lack of Vitamin B12. The deficiency occurs due to less absorption and rarely due to lack of intake. Insufficient absorption is due to less HCl acid in the stomach.
Excess Health Risks: The vitamin is water soluble and therefore excess of it gets easily excreted by the body. No known cases of toxicity from supplements or food.
Food Sources: Mostly found in non vegetarian food sources like liver, fish, poultry, meat, eggs and milk. So for vegetarians its only and major source is milk and milk products.
Required For: Building collagen protein, healing of wounds, healthy immune system, is an antioxidant, helps absorption of iron and folate, and is known to heal common colds, diabetes and male infertility.
Absorption in the Body: The vitamin is water soluble, and is required to be regularly consumed to avoid deficiency. Diabetic persons suffer lower absorption of vitamin C.
Deficiency Health Risks: Extreme deficiency can cause scurvy. Symptoms include bleeding gums, fatigue, anemia, painful joints, slow healing of wounds and loose teeth.
Excess Health Risks: No toxicity reported from food sources as the vitamin is water soluble. Supplemental intake should be limited to 85mg per day.
Food Sources: Rich food sources include most citrus fruits, strawberries, avocado, apples, spinach, broccoli, carrots, parsley and potatoes.
Required For: Absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the body for healthy bones and teeth, for stronger immune system, and helps prevent breast cancer and colon cancer.
Absorption in the Body: Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and is modified chemically by the liver to be used by the body. Absorption is better if taken along with dietary fats or food.
Deficiency Health Risks: Deficiency of vitamin D can cause loss of calcium and phosphorus from the bones, which results in softer and painful bones. In children, the deficiency can cause rickets. Staying out in the morning sun for 15 – 20 minutes every day is enough for your body to produce required amount of vitamin D.
Excess Health Risks: Taking more dosage through supplements can cause toxicity in the body which can lead to kidney stones and loss of bones. The daily consumption should be less than 25mcg per day. Infants and babies less than a year of age should be given supplements only after consulting a pediatrician.
Food Sources: Mostly obtained when the skin is exposed to sun rays, the lower layers of skin produces Vitamin D3 which is sent to the liver for use and storage. Food sources include mackerel, sardines, and fortified cereals, fortified breads and juices.
Required For: Major role as an antioxidant – saves cells and cell membranes from free radical damage, reduced deposition of oxidized LDL cholesterol in the arteries and therefore prevention of heart attacks and high BP, and maintenance of flexibility of the arterial walls.
Absorption in the Body: A fat soluble vitamin, and therefore requires oils and fat in the food for better absorption. Those who have difficulty in digesting fats tend to have lower Vitamin E levels due to poor absorption.
Deficiency Health Risks: Deficiency disease due to lack of vitamin E is extremely rare and deficiency symptoms are difficult to detect. Low levels of vitamin E can lead to poor cardiovascular health. Prolonged deficiency can cause damage to nerves and retina.
Excess Health Risks: Toxicity from food sources has never been reported. Supplements have to be limited to 1000 IU per day.
Food Sources: Nuts, vegetable oils (cold pressed ones have more amount of vitamin E than processed ones), wheat germ and seeds.
Required For: Blood clotting, and for proper mineralization of bones.
Absorption in the Body: Absorbed in the intestine by bile salts and excess is stored in the liver.
Deficiency Health Risks: Infants are susceptible to Vitamin K deficiency, which can cause bleeding in the skull. Its supplement is therefore given to infants at birth. Adult deficiency symptoms include slow blood clotting, nosebleed and blood in urine.
Excess Health Risks: No toxicity is reported from food sources. Ask your doctor in case you need to take supplements.
Food Sources: Most green leafy vegetables, spinach, kale, collard, cabbage, beet greens, olive oil and canola oil. Friendly bacteria in the intestines also synthesize vitamin K.
Hemoglobin in the Red Blood Cells is a protein with the essential constituent – iron, and it helps carry oxygen to all parts of the body. This is a truly vital function for all body parts to be healthy.
Anemia is commonly found among women and they should immediately begin including iron rich foods in diet near or during pregnancy. During pregnancy you need double the regular amount of iron in diet (around 30mg everyday) because the blood volume increases. Try to get hemoglobin levels at least at 11 and 13 would be great (levels below 10 tend to make you and your baby anemic).
Iron supplements can increase feeling of nausea and stomach problems (constipation and heartburn being most common) during the first trimester, and some women continue to feel nausea till the final trimester, so it is wiser to begin early. Those who have trouble taking supplements must take iron rich food.
Heme iron is the form of iron which is most easily absorbed by the body. Most iron rich plant foods contain non heme iron, which is difficult for the body to absorb. Vitamin C helps iron absorption, and cooking iron rich veggies and meat with tomatoes makes the food taste great and also packs in Vitamin C. Orange or Lemon juice can also be great to have along with iron rich meals. Using a cast iron utensil for cooking also adds extra iron to food.
Do not take calcium rich foods like milk and milk products along with iron rich foods, as calcium hinders absorption of iron from food.
Iron Rich Foods
Sources of Heme Iron: Eggs, chicken, liver, tuna fish, pork, beef, lamb and turkey.
Source of Non Heme Iron: Spinach, broccoli, lentils, dried apricots, beans, fortified cereals and breads, oatmeal.
Suggested Iron Rich Recipes: Lemon Chicken, Spinach Corn Soup (without the cream)
Iodine is a trace element found naturally in many food sources. It is required for normal functioning of the thyroid gland. Effective functioning of the thyroid gland is essential for proper use of proteins in the body and for effectively using the energy produced.
Iodine deficiency- Iodine is not produced by the body naturally. Hence, the right kind of foods should be eaten to prevent iodine deficiency. Iodine is naturally present in soil and salt water. However, in certain areas, the soil may not have adequate levels of iodine, which explains high instances of iodine deficiency in certain parts of the world. However, iodine absorption in the body can be affected by certain foods such as broccoli, cabbage, sweet potato, peanuts, mustard and other foods rich in calcium, magnesium or fluoride. Drinking large amounts of tea is also known to affect iodine absorption in the body.
Deficiency of iodine in the body can lead to retarded mental and physical growth, including the growth of sexual organs. It can also lead to goiter, a condition which results in swelling of the throat.
Lack of iodine in the diet during pregnancy can result in the child being born with cretinism, a condition where there is slow mental growth and certain health problems. Pregnant mothers should have at least 150 micrograms of iodine in their diet. This amount can be obtained from a teaspoon of iodized salt or iodine supplements.
Absorption- Foods containing magnesium, calcium or fluoride affect the absorption of iodine in the body. However, cooking the foods rich in the above minerals neutralizes that effect. Drinking large amounts of tea should be avoided for better absorption of iodine.
Food sources- Breads, iodized table salt, cheese, cow’s milk, frozen yoghurt, ice cream, eggs, shellfish, soy milk, soy sauce, seaweed.
Toxicity- High levels of iodine in the body are also harmful. The recommended intake of iodine is 150 micrograms for all age groups. Iodine should be taken in the diet every day since the body flushes out excess iodine through urine every day. Excess iodine in the body can result in hypothyroidism, a condition were the thyroid gland stops functioning effectively. Hypothyroidism can result in constant lethargy, puffy face, heavier menstrual periods, depression, weight gain etc.
Zinc is a trace element naturally found in the body. It is primarily needed for developing the immune system of the body. It also helps in cell growth, cell division and breaking down carbohydrates, thus producing energy. It is also needed in infants for normal growth of body. Zinc is responsible for normal functioning of the senses of smell and taste.
Zinc deficiency – Certain diseases such as diarrhea, liver diseases and other digestive disorders or diabetes can result in low absorption of zinc in the body. A primarily vegetarian diet may also hamper the absorption of zinc in the body. Vegetarian diets usually contain a high intake of whole grains and legumes, which are known to affect zinc absorption. Drinking too much alcohol can also result in low absorption of zinc in the body. Infants who are not frequently breastfed are at an increased risk of zinc deficiency, since breast milk is high in zinc.
A deficiency of zinc in the body can lead to low immunity levels, abnormal growth in infants and constant lethargy. Even small wounds take a lot of time to heal if the body is deficient in zinc.
During pregnancy, zinc plays an important role for cell growth in the baby. A diet deficient in zinc during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage and complications during labor. Pregnant women should ideally 12 to 15 mg of zinc in their diet daily for healthy growth of fetus and to build their own immune system.
Absorption – Whole grains, alcohol and legumes are known to inhibit the absorption of zinc in the body. Certain animal proteins are known to aid zinc absorption in the body.
Food Sources – Oysters, beef, lobster, chicken, cheese, chickpeas, peas, kidney beans, oatmeal, almonds, milk, raisins, yogurt, fruit, cashews.
Supplements – Zinc supplements (50 mg) are advised to be taken once daily before going to bed. There should be a gap of at least 8 hours between iron rich meals and zinc supplements.
Toxicity- High levels of zinc in the body is harmful. The recommended intake of zinc is 12-13 mg daily for all age groups and the upper limit is 40 mg. High level of zinc in the body can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, loss of appetite, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
Calcium is an important mineral for maintaining healthy bones and teeth, and is present almost everywhere in the body. Calcium also plays an important role in regulating heart beat and blood pressure, nerve signaling, blood clotting, muscle contraction and is also part of some important hormones and digestive enzymes.
Calcium Deficiency – High salt and high protein intake increases sodium levels in the body and can lead to calcium loss. Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to low absorption of calcium from food. Osteoporosis (bones lose density and strength (brittle and porous bones prone to fracture) which is because of low calcium levels) is a deficiency disease mostly found in post menopausal women who have less than required intake of calcium in their diet. Medical conditions like unhealthy kidneys can also lead to low blood calcium levels. Excessive alcohol consumption is also known to cause bone loss. During pregnancy, the fetus draws calcium from the mother, and therefore low levels of calcium can lead to weaker bones of the mother (condition known as osteopenia or reduced bone density).
Pregnant women need 1000mg of calcium daily. This amount can be obtained from three cups of milk a day, or 5 cups of cooked spinach, or 2 cups of yoghurt.
Absorption – Vitamin D and magnesium are essential for calcium absorption. Calcium rich foods should not be taken with iron rich foods for better absorption. Keep a 2 hour gap between iron rich and calcium rich meals for maximum absorption of both.
Food Sources – Plain yoghurt, milk and milk products (avoid processed products), soy and soy products, almonds, dates, raisins, collard, turnip greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, carrot and orange.
Supplements – It is recommended to take 500mg tablet of calcium supplement twice a day (two tabs daily and not more) with any citrus juice and not to take it with meals containing iron or wheat fiber. Dolomite and bone meal are known to contain lead and should be completely avoided.
Toxicity – Again, high intake of calcium supplements can cause more than required levels of calcium in the body. The upper limit of daily calcium intake is 2500mg for all age groups. Calcium toxicity can cause frequent urination, nausea, frequent feeling of thirst, loss of appetite and kidney stones.
- Total Nutrition by Joy Bauer
- Vitamins and Minerals by Dr. Alan H. Pressman
- Vitamins and Minerals Demystified by Steve Blake
- The Nutritionist by Dr Robert E.C. Wildman
- Handbook of Nutrition and Pregnancy by Carol J. Lammi-Keefe, PhD, RD, Sarah C Couch PhD, RD and Elliot H Philipson, MD
Magnesium deficiency- Magnesium deficiency is often triggered by too much Calcium in the body. Calcium requires Magnesium for effective absorption and that’s why, the more calcium we take, the more magnesium we need for strong bones. The increasing inclusion of processed foods in our diet also triggers magnesium deficiency since processed foods are low in magnesium. Alcohol and certain medications are also known to hamper magnesium absorption in the body. Birth control pills, anti-cancer drugs, medications for the heart and medications for asthma are known to affect magnesium absorption in our body.
A deficiency of magnesium in our body results in weak muscles, poor memory, lethargy and confusion, abnormal heart rate and in serious cases delirium and numbness of the muscles.
In pregnant women, magnesium is important for healthy bones of the baby and for development of outer and inner ears in the baby. A diet deficient in magnesium during pregnancy can lead to abnormal growth of inner and outer ears in baby and also lead to weak muscles and joints in newborns.
Absorption- For optimal absorption of magnesium in the body, it is necessary to avoid excess alcohol. If you are on certain medications, taking magnesium supplements would be a good idea. Calcium and magnesium intake in a ratio of 2:1 in food is best for better absorption of both.
Food Sources- Bananas, dried apricots, avocados, almonds, cashews, legumes such as beans, soy products like tofu, whole grain foods like brown rice.
Supplements- Magnesium supplements are recommended to be taken once just after getting up in the morning and once before going to bed. Ideally, keep a gap between meals and having magnesium supplements. Magnesium requires a free stomach for better absorption and a gap of around 3 hours between having meals and having magnesium supplements is advised. Taking vitamin B supplements along with magnesium supplements is also advised for better absorption.
Toxicity- Although chances of overdose of magnesium are rare since the body expurgates excess magnesium through urine, an overdose of magnesium can result in diarrhea, loose stools and vomiting. In severe cases, it can result in abnormal heart rate, low blood pressure and confusion. The prescribed limit of magnesium for adult women is 300-320 mg while that for adult men is 400-420 mg.
Sodium is an essential electrolyte in the body which helps in regulating blood pressure and blood volume. It is found in the plasma part of the cells and is also responsible for proper transportation of electrical signals in the body. Thus, it is also responsible for proper functioning of the brain and the muscles.
Sodium deficiency- Sodium deficiency is most often caused by an imbalance of water and sodium levels in the body. Too much water and less sodium in the body dilutes sodium levels and hence results in sodium deficiency. Similarly, when too much water and sodium is lost from the body as a result of diarrhea, sweating or certain medications used for treating high blood pressure, it results in sodium deficiency. Liver diseases, kidney diseases and hormonal imbalances are also known to cause sodium deficiency in the body.
Sodium deficiency can result in confusion, lethargy, headache, loss of appetite, muscle spasm and cramps. It is also known to slow down the reflexes of the body as the body that does not get enough sodium for effective transportation of electrical signals.
In pregnant women, sodium is needed to maintain effective balance of fluids and electrolyte in the body. Although the feet and arms tend to slightly swell during pregnancy, the sodium needs still increase during pregnancy and should not be compromised. Most pregnant women may get confused on the doctor’s instructions of a low sodium diet. It is important to ask the doctor categorically about the upper limit of sodium intake.
Absorption- Drinking too much alcohol or water results in sodium deficiency. Foods rich in potassium or chloride such as bananas and egg yolks are also known to affect sodium absorption.
Food Sources- Table salt, milk, celery, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, bacon, sausage, ham, garlic, packaged soups and vegetables.
Supplements- In most cases, sodium supplements are not needed to cure sodium deficiency. The body’s need for sodium can be fulfilled by drinking a lot of isotonic drinks and processed foods in moderation, which are very high in sodium. However, in some cases, athletes may need sodium supplements, in which case, it should be had with at least one liter of water or broken down into several small doses throughout the day.
Toxicity- Too much sodium in the body can result in high blood pressure, bloating, swelling of the face and feet and in extreme cases lead to kidney diseases or cardiac arrest. The recommended dose of sodium is 2,300 mg daily across all age groups.
Potassium is an essential mineral found in our body cells. It is required for healthy metabolism and for maintaining proper functioning of the cells. Potassium also helps in synthesis of proteins, thereby producing the energy required; it is also required for building muscles as well as sending nerve impulses to the brain.
Potassium deficiency- Potassium deficiency is usually caused because of digestive problems. Frequent diarrhea, abnormal bowel movement and kidney or liver diseases hamper proper absorption of potassium. High sodium levels also block potassium from getting absorbed in the body. Deficiency of potassium in the body can result in lethargy, muscular weakness, and paralysis, loss of appetite, muscle spasms and confusion.
Like sodium, potassium too helps in maintaining electrolyte-fluid balance in pregnant women. A diet deficient in potassium during pregnancy can lead to leg cramps and low blood pressure, which can be dangerous. The recommended potassium intake for pregnant women is 4,700 mg per day.
Absorption- Potassium gets absorbed in the small intestine in the body. There are no specific foods required for proper absorption of sodium. However, a healthy digestive system and moderated sodium levels in the body are required for absorption of potassium.
Foods- Dried apricots, beef, avocado, bananas, barley, peanuts, potatoes, spinach, melon, prunes, pistachios, green peas, orange juice, milk.
Supplements- Potassium supplements are usually available in the form of tablets and should be taken after a meal with a glass full of water. You should not lie down immediately after taking potassium supplements as it can result in digestion problems.
Toxicity- Too much potassium in the body can be harmful to health. High levels of potassium can result in low blood pressure, weakness of the muscles and in severe cases even cause cardiac arrest. The recommended intake of potassium is 4.7 g per day for people older than 13 years of age.
Other Important Nutrients::
Your body needs proteins to repair and build body parts. Every part of our body (including blood) requires proteins for its structure, repair and maintenance. The baby needs proteins to build all of his / her organs while developing inside the womb. Apart from structure, the protein albumin is required for maintaining the body’s fluid balance.
Proteins are made up of amino acids in a particular sequence varying from one type of protein to another. The dietary protein obtained from food is broken down into individual amino acids inside the body. These amino acids are used up in building proteins required by different body tissues.
All essential (needed by the body) amino acids (AAs) cannot be synthesized by our body, and therefore we depend on external food sources for them. Eggs are known to contain all of the essential AAs. All animal products like meat, fish and dairy products contain a good amount of dietary protein. The best vegetarian food source of proteins is soy and soy products. Soy is the only food from plant origin which has all essential AAs.
To meet your daily protein requirements, multiply your body weight in kg by 0.8 or in lbs by 0.36. The result would give you the amount of protein required by you daily. For example, a woman weighing 60kg would need 48g of protein daily.
Pregnant mothers need a little extra protein in their diet for healthy development of the baby, for building amniotic fluid and for increasing the blood volume. The requirement of proteins increases towards the later stages of pregnancy. Pregnant women should take 70-75grams of protein daily.
They should include tofu or cooked soy beans in salads and other recipes. Animal products have extra calories, which soy does not have. Soy is the healthiest source of proteins.
Try to avoid taking excess protein also, as excess protein in the body increases the amount of uric acid in blood, which can further lead to joint pains due to accumulation of uric acid around joints.
Food Sources of protein:
Non Vegetarian: All animal products – meat, seafood, poultry and dairy products.
Vegetarian: Soy, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils.
Fiber is an important part of diet which is found in plants and is also called as roughage. Fiber is the indigestible part of the plant which helps in maintaining blood sugar levels, prevents diabetes, aids in digestion, prevents constipation and is even known to prevent heart diseases and colorectal cancer.
Fiber deficiency – Fiber deficiency is caused by a diet high in saturated fats and meat and low intake of plant foods. Not enough chewing also leads to inactivity of fiber in the body. There are no complications caused by a diet deficient in fiber. However, low intakes of fiber over a long period can lead to high cholesterol levels and obesity.
Absorption- When the food is not chewed enough, insoluble fibers often don’t take part in the digestive process and hence, they are rendered useless. Fast eaters often can’t utilize fiber in their diet properly. Ideally, a bite should be chewed 32 times before swallowing.
Foods- Bran. Legumes, oatmeal, peas, root vegetables like potato, radish, carrot, cabbage, apples, strawberries, oranges, lemons, ripe bananas, wheat.
Supplements- Fiber supplements are available as powders which need to be taken with water. The usual prescribed amount of fiber supplements is one serving per day.
Toxicity- Too much fiber intake can lead to complications too. Fiber toxicity can lead to deficiency of a lot of minerals as they get excreted because of frequent bowel movements. It can also lead to dehydration, thus resulting in fluid imbalance. The upper limit of fiber intake in adult men is 38 grams per day while the same for women is 25 grams per day.
Calories the amount of energy contained in food. Body needs energy to perform daily tasks. The amount of calories a person depends on his height, weight, physical activity, medical condition and several other factors. Different foods have different calories, with the highest being in fried or sugary foods. A well-balanced diet consists of enough calories for adequate functioning of the body along with vital nutrients for proper growth.
Deficiency- Weak metabolism or not taking enough food often results in calorie deficiency. Calorie deficiency can lead to retarded growth in children and teenagers. In adults, it can lead to weight complications, diabetes, low blood pressure and even premature ageing. Fad diets which drastically reduce calorie intake often lead to unhealthy weight loss and water retention.
Foods- Any and every food contains some amount of calories. However, there are unhealthy calories and there are healthy calories. Fried food, packaged food and food with high sugar content often contain unhealthy calories as they are deficient in nutrients. Natural plant foods and meat in moderation contains health calories which lead to normal growth and development.
Supplements- A normal diet is enough to fulfill our daily calorie needs. However, professional bodybuilders or people who indulge in strenuous activities may need more calories than what they get from their normal diet. There are various supplements for weight gain available in the market. However, they should be taken only after consultation with the doctor and only in the prescribed amounts. Water intake should also be increased while taking weight gain supplements.
Toxicity- Too many calories can wreak havoc in our life. Too much calorie intake can lead to obesity, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart diseases, kidney diseases and several other complications. Although the calorie intake depends on the person’s body proportions and physical activity, the recommended calorie intake for people with normal physical activity is 2,300 calories per day.
Water forms 60-70% of our body weight. Fluids in our diet are essential to keep up healthy metabolism, healthy muscles and normal functioning of important parts of the body like liver, heart, kidneys and lungs.
Deficiency- Deficiency of fluids is caused by frequent diarrhea or problems of the liver, which lead to excessive excretion of fluids from the body. A diet high in fried food, sugary food or a diet high in proteins can also lead to insufficient fluids in the body. Long-term deficiency of fluids can lead to nausea, dizziness, confusion, dehydration, heat-stroke, muscle cramps and severe digestive problems.
Absorption- Too much alcohol intake or smoking can lead to depletion of fluids in the body. When taking alcohol, it is advised to increase you fluid intake to make up for the lost fluid.
Foods- Water, natural fruit juices, tea, coffee, coconut water
Toxicity- Too much fluid intake can lead to electrolyte imbalance in the body which can impair the functioning of the brain. Fluid toxicity if not treated in time can be fatal. The recommended dose of fluid intake in the diet is 1-2 litres per day, which is fulfilled with about 8 glasses of water.
Essential oils like omega-3 fatty acids or DHA is an essential component found throughout the body. It is found in the brain, in the retina, heart as well as other key areas of the body. These essential oils are required for normal functioning of the brain, eyes as well as heart. They help in preventing various diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s and dementia and is known to aid normal visual development.
DHA deficiency- It is believed that liver malfunctioning is the major cause behind DHA deficiency. Deficiency of DHA in the body can lead to acne, premature aging, high blood pressure, diseases of the brain like Alzheimer’s, arthritis, asthma, diabetes and kidney diseases.
DHA in pregnant women helps in staving off post-pregnancy depression, helps in effective brain development of the baby and also reduces the risk of pre-mature delivery.
Absorption-Certain enzymes in the body are responsible for optimal absorption of DHA in the body. However, in a large proportion of people, these enzymes do not function properly. To aid absorption of DHA in the body, it is advised to take a diet rich in Vitamin B3, B6, zinc, magnesium and zinc. Saturated fats are known to hamper absorption of DHA and should be avoided.
Foods- Salmon, walnut, flax seeds, scallops, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard seeds, cloves, soyabeans, cod, tuna, tofu, kale, collard greens, Brusells sprouts.
Supplements- DHA supplements are available in the form of soft gels or liquids. They should be taken with meals and should ideally contain Vitamin E. If the supplements lack Vitamin E, they should be taken with a Vitamin E supplement.
Toxicity- Too much DHA in the body can be harmful for your health. Studies have shown that DHA toxicity can lead to an increased risk of bleeding and hemorrhage. The upper limit of the intake of DHA is 4 g per day.
- The New Complete Book of Food by Carol Ann Rinzler
- Vitamins and Minerals Demystified – Steve Blake
- Superfoods for Dummies – Brent Agin and Shereen Jegtvig