The crucial vitamin now recommended during pregnancy

New research shows iodine is crucial for healthy brain development in pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Pregnant woman taking supplement

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Keeping up with which supplements you need when pregnant, what types of food to avoid, how much exercise to get — and should it be intense or moderate? — is enough to put a woman into labor. But alas, there’s a new, highly recommended supplement in town — iodine.

A leading group of pediatricians in the U.S. found that pregnant women should take a supplement containing iodine to ensure healthy brain development of their babies. The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatrics on Monday, May 26.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (A.A.P.), one-third of pregnant women have a mild iodine deficiency. The A.A.P. recommends pregnant and breastfeeding women find a supplement containing 150 micrograms of iodide (iodide is converted to iodine in the body). The National Academy of Sciences states pregnant and breastfeeding women need 290 micrograms per day.

Be warned, though. Most prenatal vitamins do not contain this amount. A supplement containing 150 micrograms, combined with good dietary sources of iodine, should suffice.

Sources of iodine

Iodized table salt is the main source of iodine for most Americans. Processed foods, however, do not contain salt that is iodized.

Other sources of iodine include yogurt, seafood (specifically kelp), strawberries, cranberries and potatoes.

Other necessary vitamins in pregnancy

The American Pregnancy Association states that pregnant women should eat a well-balanced diet consisting of a variety of healthy foods. Supplements are recommended in addition to a healthy diet, not in place of. Basically, they are used to ensure a pregnant woman is getting enough of the daily vitamins and minerals.

With my own two pregnancies, I strived to eat clean. In fact, when my husband and I first found out we were expecting, he drove straight to the grocery store to stock up on healthy foods and insisted on making me a well-balanced breakfast and lunch each day. While prenatal vitamins are strongly recommended by most doctors, the body best absorbs nutrients through food, which is why pregnant women shouldn’t solely rely on a pill.

Tip: Most doctors recommend taking vitamins with a meal. When pregnant, taking your prenatal with a meal may help reduce nausea caused from the pill alone.

Essential nutrients and vitamins during pregnancy include:

  • Vitamin A for strong bones and teeth. Found in milk, carrots, cantaloupe and broccoli.
  • Zinc to produce insulin and enzymes. Found in red meats, dairy products and beans.
  • Folic acid for supporting the placenta. It’s mostly found in oranges and orange juice, but can also be found in spinach, cauliflower, beans and nuts.
  • Vitamin C for a healthy immune system. Found in green beans, citrus fruits and potatoes.
  • Riboflavin for energy and eyesight. Found in chicken, fish and eggs.
  • Niacin for good digestion and healthy skin. Found in fish, eggs, fortified cereals and milk.
  • Calcium for strong bones and to help muscles and nerves function properly. Found in yogurt, cheddar cheese and dark green, leafy vegetables.

Most prenatal vitamins will contain ample amounts of the nutrients listed above, along with others. Add in a supplement containing 150 micrograms of iodide and a healthy diet, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for one healthy pregnancy. Of course, always consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

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