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Precious Minerals

Minerals are inert substances that occur in our diet. Humans require many of them for normal functioning, growth and development. Minerals support our life in a variety of ways including skeletal structure, cell growth and energy production. During pregnancy and lactation, a mother's need for many minerals increases, but a few demand special attention. If intake or body stores of these precious minerals is deficient, problems for both mother and baby can result.

What are they?
Minerals that require extra attention during pregnancy include iron and zinc. Here is a summary of what's currently known about these nutrients, along with a few good food sources. The best way to maximize your intake of minerals is to get them from foods, but at times supplementation may be necessary.

Minerals in Pregnancy
Iron

Pregnancy is a time of growth of new maternal and fetal tissues. In order to support this growth, blood volume and contents must grow to help feed these tissues, including red blood cells. Further, about one-third of your iron stores will be passed on to your developing baby to form its blood and to be stored for future use.

One of the most common causes of anemia during pregnancy is iron deficiency. Anemia is the reduced ability of the blood to carry oxygen to your body's cells and the growing baby. To support these needs, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) has been set at 30 milligrams (mg) per day during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

It is hard to get enough iron from your diet to support a pregnancy and iron supplementation may be necessary. Major dietary sources of iron include liver, kidneys, red meat, poultry, eggs, peas, legumes (dried beans), dried fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, enriched breads and cereals. The iron contained in plant foods is best absorbed when a vitamin C rich food is eaten at the same meal.

Zinc Zinc is important for the synthesis of DNA and is active in a number of enzyme pathways required for cell division and growth. The RDA for Zinc during pregnancy is only slightly elevated at 15 mg. Major dietary sources of Zinc include meat, liver, shell fish, milk, whole grains and wheat germ.

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