top of page

Prenatal Powerhouses: Unlocking the Benefits of Key Nutrients for a Healthy Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a remarkable time, characterized by numerous physical and emotional changes. Amidst the anticipation and joy, it's vital to prioritize the nutritional needs of you, the expectant mother, and your growing baby. 

Adequate intake of essential nutrients is not only crucial for supporting maternal well-being but also plays a significant role in fetal development and overall health. However, navigating the intricacies of prenatal nutrition can feel overwhelming, given the abundance of conflicting information and product choices available. 

In this article, we’ll dive into the specific nutrient requirements during pregnancy, why they matter, and where to find them.  

Important Supplement Considerations 

When it comes to supplement considerations during pregnancy, it's essential to prioritize both maternal and fetal health. Here’s some tips to keep you and your baby safe: 

  • Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any herbs or supplements to ensure safety and effectiveness, as individual needs can vary.

  • Quality matters! In fact, it matters so much that we wrote an entire article on how to pick high quality supplements.

  • Assess your nutritional status—are there any known nutrient deficiencies? You may need to fill those gaps with more than just your prenatal supplement. But again, work with a qualified healthcare provider to determine your unique needs. 

  • Consider the nutrient density of your diet. While incorporating superfoods like leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds on a weekly basis is beneficial, be realistic about how much time, energy, or other resources you have to incorporate those foods regularly. If you know you’re missing specific food groups, you'll likely need more specific supplementation tailored to your unique needs. 

  • Avoid relying solely on "One-A-Day" multivitamins or prenatals, as they may not contain enough of the nutrients you need. It can also be challenging for your body to absorb that much at once. Divided doses throughout the day is a better option for optimal absorption and utilization of nutrients during pregnancy.  

Now, let’s break down the most important nutrients during pregnancy, why they matter, how much you need, and how to get them! 

Micronutrients During Pregnancy 

Vitamin A + Beta Carotene 

  • Vitamin A and Beta Carotene are necessary for the development and maintenance of mucous membranes, skin, eyes, and bones. 

  • Amount: 5,000 IU and no more than 10,000 IUs per day as active vitamin A (retinol). Though essential, too much active vitamin A can be harmful to the baby, so it’s best to also utilize beta-carotene rich sources that the body can then convert to vitamin A as needed. 

  • Food Sources: Carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, apricots, animal proteins, seafood, and dairy. 

Vitamin E

  • Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage, supports immune function, and aids in the formation of red blood cells. 

  • Amount: 15 milligrams a day. 

  • Food Sources: Almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, spinach, broccoli. In supplement form, look for mixed tocopherols. 

Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient during pregnancy for bone and teeth development, plus nerve and muscle functioning. It helps regulate calcium and phosphate levels in the body that are essential for the formation of strong bones and teeth. 

  • Amount: Most prenatals contain 1,000-2,000 IU, but we recommend testing your levels and supplementing accordingly. You may need a separate vitamin D supplement, in addition to your prenatal. 

  • Food Sources: Fatty fish like salmon, eggs and liver, but most vitamin D is obtained from the sun. 

Vitamin C 

  • Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects the fetal brain from increases in oxidative stress that occur in utero. It also supports the immune system, collagen formation, and iron absorption. 

  • Amount: 250-500 mg a day 

  • Also supports your immune system 

  • Food Sources: Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes. 

B Complex 

  • The B complex vitamins are a group of essential nutrients that play critical roles in supporting a healthy pregnancy. This group includes B vitamins such as B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin). These vitamins are involved in various bodily functions, including energy metabolism, nervous system health, red blood cell production, and fetal development. 

  • Amount: During pregnancy, the recommended intake of B vitamins varies, with higher requirements for some, such as folate (B9), which is crucial for preventing neural tube defects.

  • Food Sources: Whole grains, leafy greens, eggs, poultry, fish, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds. 

  • Prenatal supplements almost always contain B complex vitamins, but make sure yours contains the methylated versions, meaning it’s already in its active form and avoid 'folic acid' as it can actually cause more inflammation and other issues for mom and baby. This allows your body to absorb it readily, even if you have the MTHFR gene that limits methylation. Look for L-methylfolate, 5-methylhydrofolate, methylcobalamin, etc.

Vitamin B6 

  • Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in protein metabolism, red blood cell formation, and neurotransmitter synthesis, contributing to overall energy production and nervous system function. It’s also known to improve nausea, appetite, and reduce headaches and depression in the mother. 

  • Amount:  25-30 mg, 2-3 times a day.

  • Food Sources: Poultry, fish, bananas, chickpeas, eggs, potatoes, sunflower seeds. 

  • Note: Vitamin B6 is often low in women who have been on birth control and may need to be repleted at higher doses.  


  • Calcium is essential for the development of the baby's bones, teeth, muscles, and nerves. Adequate calcium intake also helps prevent maternal bone loss during pregnancy and supports proper blood clotting and muscle function. 

  • Amount: 1.5-2 grams per day. 

  • Food Sources: Dairy products, canned fish with the bones, leafy greens, broccoli, nuts and seeds, tofu. 


  • Choline is SO important for your brain and baby’s brain! It is particularly vital during early pregnancy when neural tube formation occurs. Choline also supports liver function, helps regulate metabolism, and aids in the transport of nutrients throughout the body.

  • Amount: 450 mg/day 

  • Food Sources: Eggs are the best source of choline. Other options include lean meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, nuts, seeds, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. 

  • Note: 100 mg a day is typically what’s found in a prenatal. You could consider an additional supplement, or double down on choline rich foods. For example, two whole eggs provides approximately 300 mg of choline. It’s important to note that the majority of the choline is found in the egg yolk rather than the egg white. 


  • Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is a crucial nutrient for fetal development, particularly in preventing neural tube defects like spina bifida. Folate is essential for DNA synthesis and repair, making it vital for the formation of the baby's brain and spinal cord, as well as other organ and tissue development. 

  • Amount: 600-800 mcg of folic acid 

  • Food Sources: Dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, lentils, chickpeas, citrus, and avocados. 


  • Glycine is a non-essential amino acid that becomes conditionally essential during pregnancy, meaning the body may require higher amounts to support maternal and fetal health. Glycine plays several crucial roles during pregnancy, including protein synthesis, collagen formation, and neurotransmitter regulation. 

  • Amount: Specific recommended daily intake levels for glycine during pregnancy are not established, it's important to ensure an adequate intake to support the increased demands of pregnancy. 

  • Food Sources: Protein rich foods like meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, legumes, and bone broth are good sources of glycine. If dietary intake is insufficient, especially for mothers adhering to vegan or vegetarian diets, glycine supplements may be considered.  


  • Iron is a crucial mineral during pregnancy since it supports the increased blood volume needed to supply oxygen to the growing baby and placenta. Iron is essential for preventing iron-deficiency anemia, which can lead to fatigue, weakness, and other complications during pregnancy. It also supports a healthy delivery as well as brain, language, attention and movement development in the baby. 

  • Amount: Pregnant individuals require about 27 mg of iron a day, but we recommend testing your current levels and supplementing accordingly. 

  • Food Sources: Beef, pork, fish, shellfish, poultry, legumes, spinach, apricots and raisins. Consuming iron rich foods alongside sources of vitamin C like citrus, bell peppers or broccoli can enhance iron absorption. 


  • Iodine is a critical nutrient during pregnancy for thyroid function and hormone production in the mother and brain development, growth and energy regulation in the baby. The baby also needs iodine for bone development. 

  • Amount: At least 220 ug of iodine per day. 

  • Food Sources: Iodized salt, seafood, seaweed, milk and milk products, eggs. 

  • Note: Iodine content in foods can vary based on factors such as soil quality and farming practices. If dietary intake alone is insufficient to meet iodine needs, iodine supplements may be recommended. 


  • Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar levels, maintain normal blood pressure, and support muscle and nerve function. Adequate magnesium intake during pregnancy is crucial for preventing complications such as gestational hypertension and preterm labor.

  • Amount: 450 mg or more, depending on your needs. 

  • Food Sources: Almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, brown rice, quinoa, beans, lentils, spinach, kale, and dairy products. 

  • Note: Magnesium is not found in every prenatal vitamin and may need to be added. There are many forms of magnesium and we’ll pick one depending on your goals. For example, if you’re struggling with constipation, we may choose a mag citrate, but if you need sleep or anxiety support, we recommend magnesium glycinate. Read all about the various forms of magnesium here.


  • Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that support digestive health and immune function, which is particularly important during pregnancy when the body's immune system undergoes changes. 

  • Amount: While there isn't a specific recommended daily intake of probiotics during pregnancy, incorporating foods rich in probiotics can help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria. 

  • Food Sources: Yogurt (look for varieties with live and active cultures), kefir, fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi, miso, tempeh, and kombucha. Remember coconut-based yogurts and kefir will still have tons of probiotics.


  • Selenium is a trace mineral that plays a crucial role in supporting thyroid function, immune health, and antioxidant activity, making it particularly important during pregnancy. Some research suggests that it may help reduce the risk of postpartum depression. 

  • Amount: 60 micrograms a day 

  • Food Sources: Brazil nuts are exceptionally rich in selenium, with just two nuts providing well over 100 micrograms, which is more than the daily recommended intake for most pregnant individuals. Other food sources include fish, shrimp, shellfish, eggs, beef, turkey, whole grains, and dairy products. 


  • Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients during pregnancy for supporting fetal brain and eye development, reducing the risk of preterm birth, and promoting overall maternal and fetal health. The two main types of omega-3 fatty acids found in foods are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). 

  • Amount: 300-1,000 mg a day is recommended. 

  • Food Sources: The best food sources are fatty fish, fish oil, cod liver oil, or algae oil. If dietary intake alone is insufficient to meet omega-3 needs, omega-3 supplements derived from fish oil or algae may be recommended by a healthcare provider to support a healthy pregnancy journey.

  • Note: Many prenatals lack DHA and EPA, the two most important anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. We recommend adding a DHA/EPA supplement in addition to your prenatal vitamin. 

Bonus: Our favorite prenatals! 

Although we love these products, additional supplementation of specific nutrients may be required depending on your needs, health history, and more. Working with our team will help ensure you and your baby get optimal nutrition from both food and tailored supplement recommendations. 

Note: The things you do to support a healthy pregnancy are also great for supporting fertility. If you’re trying to get pregnant, start taking a prenatal now!

Safe and Effective Herbs for Pregnancy 

During pregnancy, it's natural to seek safe and effective ways to support your well-being and address common discomforts. While caution is essential when considering herbal remedies, there are several herbs that have been deemed safe for use during pregnancy under the guidance of a healthcare provider. 

Here’s some of our favorites: 

  • Ginger root for nausea and digestive discomfort. Add fresh ginger to teas, smoothies, baked goods, and main meals. 

  • Peppermint to ease indigestion and soothe an upset stomach. Sip peppermint tea or add fresh peppermint leaves to water, smoothies, salads, or other recipes for gentle relief. 

  • Red raspberry leaf for uterine health. Red raspberry leaf is most often consumed as a tea, but supplemental versions are available. 

  • Dandelion and stinging nettles to support liver health and for vitamins & minerals. Both are typically taken as tea, although they can be eaten as well. Farmers markets often have dandelion greens or nettles that can be blanched or sauteed. We like adding them to salads, stir fries, and soups.  

  • Evening Primrose for healthy blood pressure and delivery. Typically, evening primrose oil is taken orally in capsule form or applied topically to the cervix. 

Final Thoughts

It's natural to want to do everything possible to nourish your body and support the healthy development of your baby. However, it's important to remember that perfection isn't the goal. While making nutritious choices and prioritizing nutrition is essential, it's okay to acknowledge that not every day will be picture-perfect. Every pregnancy journey is unique, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving optimal health. 

So, take a deep breath, trust your instincts, and know that your efforts to care for yourself and your baby are meaningful and valuable. Embrace the journey, celebrate the small victories, and remember to be kind to yourself along the way. You're doing an amazing job, mama!


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page