8 Essential Nutrition Elements

Pregnant mom with food

This fact sheet provides an overview of 8 of the most important nutrition elements during pregnancy.

Protein and calcium are critical, so we also created a video highlighting how to make a banana smoothie rich in both of these components.   Click here to visit the Ohana Videos page.  You can make this smoothie for a protein-rich breakfast or incorporate as an afternoon snack.  You can also check out our library of recipes that incorporate high levels of essential nutrients for pregnancy.


  • Protein forms the building blocks of your baby’s systems. It is important to get all the amino acids, which are used in different places in the developing fetus.
  • An average-sized female should eat 60-70g of protein per day while pregnant (up from about 40g per day recommended when not pregnant).
  • Good sources of protein include chicken, yogurt, edamame, beans.
  • If you eat fish, avoid types high in mercury like shark, swordfish, or king mackerel.


  • Calcium helps reduce the severity and overall risk of low birth weight, and preterm delivery.
  • Pregnant women should consume 1,000mg of calcium daily.
  • Yogurt has 450mg per cup—double the amount in milk.


  • Iron helps carry oxygen to your organs, tissues, and baby. Iron deficiency can impair baby’s growth and increase the risk of hypertension, preterm delivery, and low birth weight.
  • You need more iron during pregnancy to support the growth of baby and to produce extra blood. Aim to get 27mg of iron per day.
  • A bowl of fortified cereal contains 10mg—more than a serving of beef.
  • Zinc is linked to a lowered risk of preterm delivery, low birth rate, and prolonged labor. It also prevents intrauterine growth retardation.
  • Pregnant moms need 11μg (micrograms) a day.
  • Baked beans contain 1.8μg zinc.
Folic Acid
  • Folic acid decreases the risk of birth defects.
  • You need 600μg every day.
  • Spinach, asparagus, and oranges all contain folic acid.
Beta Carotene
  • This is critical for proper cell and gene development. It also improves skin and vision, and recharges your immune system.
  • You should eat 7,700 IU per day.
  • Sweet potatoes contain 50,000 IU in one cup.
  • Higher levels of DHA in newborns correspond to higher birth weight, higher IQ, more advanced motor skills, and fewer emotional  and neurological problems later.
  • New moms need 450mg per day.
  • A 4-oz serving of salmon contains 130 mg.
  • The average pregnant woman’s blood volume increases from about 2600mL to 3850mL, which happens mainly in the second and third trimesters.
  • Water flushes waste produces from the cells and aids in liver and kidney function.
  • Insufficient water intake can factor in constipation, exacerbated Braxton Hicks contractions, preterm labor, and miscarriage.
  • Even slight dehydration can cause or contribute to fatigue.
  • Avoid caffeine and high-sugar beverages, which dehydrate you.


Sources: The Baby Bump by Carley Roney & U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Blood Volume Changes in Normal Pregnancy.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4075604.