Throughout our lives, vitamins and minerals are essential for the proper functioning of our bodies. And this is especially true during pregnancy. When it comes to getting all the nutrients you need, a healthy diet is the way to go.
Vitamins and minerals: What they all do
Vitamins and minerals play many roles. Here are a few examples:
• Calcium strengthens teeth and bones. It is also essential for cardiovascular functions, blood clotting and muscle and nerve cell functions.
• Folic acid helps promote the production of red blood cells and the normal development of the neural tube in the fetus.
• B vitamins are needed for the proper functioning of the body as a whole.
• Vitamin B12, more specifically, supports the production of red blood cells and helps protect nerve cells.
• Vitamins C and E are antioxidants. Vitamin C promotes healing and helps synthesize collagen and red blood cells. It also helps ensure the proper functioning of the immune system. Vitamin E supports healthy cell membranes and heart health.
• Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus.
• Vitamin K supports blood clotting.
Vitamin D for healthy bones
Vitamin D is recognized for its role in keeping bones and teeth healthy by promoting the development and maintenance of good bone density. Without it, bones would be thin, soft, brittle and misshapen. It therefore contributes to the prevention of osteoporosis. It may also reduce the risk of certain types of cancers.
Vitamin D can be found in foods, such as:
• Fish (tuna and salmon)
• Fortified milk
• Fortified margarine
• Some enriched soy drinks
Our bodies can also manufacture vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun.
Folic acid: An ounce of prevention!
Folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects. The neural tube is the part of the embryo that forms the brain and spinal cord during the first weeks of pregnancy. So if you are thinking of getting pregnant, start taking folic acid now. According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, the majority of women should take a multivitamin with folic acid (0.4 to 1.0 mg per day) at least 3 months before conception and throughout the pregnancy until 4 to 6 weeks after childbirth or until the end of the breastfeeding period.
Good to know!
Some women are more at risk of giving birth to a baby with a neural tube defect. Here are the risk factors:
• A family history of neural tube defects
Women with these risk factors should consult a health professional to determine exactly how much folic acid they need to take every day.
The required amounts of vitamins and minerals are difficult to establish since they vary according to a person’s age, size, gender and muscle activity. They also increase during periods of growth, illness, pregnancy and breastfeeding. That being said, it is possible to obtain most of the nutrients your body needs by following these few basic principles:
• Eat balanced meals.
• Eat a varied diet.
• Eat fresh, high-quality foods.
• Make sound food choices by opting for healthy, unprocessed foods.
Does everyone need vitamin and mineral supplements?
Generally speaking, if you are eating properly, chances are you are currently meeting your nutritional needs. You may need a supplement, however, if you fall within one of these groups:
• Men and women over 65
• Menopausal women
• People with poor eating habits
• People on a strict or restricted diet (allergies, food intolerances or vegetarianism)
• Pregnant women or those wanting to get pregnant
• People suffering from a disease that hinders their ability to absorb certain vitamins and minerals
Keep in mind that certain supplements may not be right for you. They could also interact with medications you are currently using. So before taking a vitamin or mineral supplement, ask your pharmacist for advice.
Are you trying to conceive? Are you pregnant? Your family pharmacist can prescribe folic acid, vitamin or mineral supplements, upon consultation. Just ask about this option!
To avail yourself of this service, you may need to book an appointment with your family pharmacist. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more details. Some Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies also offer an online appointment booking service. To locate the store nearest you providing this service, click here.