Advertising
Advertising

Calorie Confusion: How Much Is Needed During Pregnancy?

Calorie Confusion: How Much Is Needed During Pregnancy?

Calories are the core to basic nutrition and health, and pregnancy is no exception. Calories give us the energy we need to be fully functioning human beings (though most days, I also need coffee). But what about during pregnancy? How do calories play a role in the growth and development of your baby? If you have heard some conflicting calorie information centered on pregnancy then this article is for you. Not pregnant? No worries, this article contains some general and (helpful!) information about our body’s main source of energy: the calorie.

Why are calories so important and where do they come from?

Everything we do, from walking to sleeping to supporting the development of a new baby requires energy. We derive energy from the foods and beverages we eat, which contain nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Energy from these nutrients is measured in calories. Foods and beverages contain different amounts of calories because they contain different amounts and profiles of these nutrients.

Advertising

How many calories are in certain foods and how much do I need?

Carbohydrates and proteins provide four calories in each gram, while fat provides nine calories per gram. Alcohol, though not considered a necessary nutrient and not recommended during pregnancy, also provides about seven calories per gram. Each person has unique calorie needs that depend on a number of factors, including height, weight, age, gender and activity level. When we consume too many calories, the excess calories are stored as body fat. This can contribute to weight gain and ultimately, a variety of health issues.

Do I need to eat more calories during pregnancy?

It is probably not a surprise that your calorie needs increase during pregnancy. But “eating for two” only requires an additional 340 calories during the second trimester and 500 calories in the third trimester. The first trimester does not require any extra calories. An important caveat is that if you are carrying more than one baby, your calorie needs are higher. Discuss what and how much to eat with your health care provider. Eating more calories will lead to weight gain, which will allow for your baby to grow and develop.

Advertising

How much weight gain can I expect during my pregnancy?

Weight gain goals are based on pre-pregnancy weight, height, age, and usual eating patterns. Every woman and every pregnancy is unique. Your healthcare provider can help you gain weight at a healthy rate throughout pregnancy.

A weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds is normal for women with a body mass index, or BMI, of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2 (“normal weight”). Women who are below healthy weight when they conceive (BMI < 18.5 kg/m2) should aim to gain about 28 to 40 pounds.  Women with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2 (“overweight”) should gain no more than 15 to 25 pounds. Women with a BMI over 30 kg/m2 (“obese”) should gain no more than 11 to 20 pounds. If you are in this category, a health care provider or registered dietitian can help you meet these recommendations in a healthy way. Aim to meet your calorie and nutrient needs, while maintaining regular physical activity. Weight loss during pregnancy is not advised. Also, if you are carrying more than one baby, weight gain recommendations increase, so work closely with your healthcare provider to ensure proper weight gain.

Advertising

Are there patterns to weight gain during pregnancy?

Patterns of weight gain during pregnancy are as important as total weight gain. Weight maintenance or slight weight losses are normal during the first trimester (or first 13 weeks) of pregnancy. But most women should expect to gain about four to five pounds during the first trimester. Listen to your body’s signals and stop eating when you feel full to help you avoid the misconception that you are “eating for two.”

Women with healthy pre-pregnancy weights should gain about one pound a week during the second and third trimesters. Women who are underweight before conception should gain a little more than one pound per week. Those who were initially overweight should gain at a slower rate (a little more than a half a pound per week).

Advertising

What foods should I chose to increase my calorie intake and weight during pregnancy?

Choose foods and beverages that are “nutrient-dense.” This means that they are good sources of the building blocks your body needs. Nutrient-dense foods are full of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Eat variety of foods from all five food groups. These include grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat and beans. This will ensure that you and your growing baby are getting the nutrients you both need. It is also important to note that these principles also apply if you are not pregnant but are looking to increase your calorie intake.

Good nutrition is at the center for overall health, with calories playing a core role in overall health outcomes. While your calorie needs increase during pregnancy, the general principles of good nutrition, such as variety, balance, and moderation still apply during these 9 months and will help support overall health of both you and your baby.

For more information, check out this resource

More by this author

5 Things That Will Happen When You Eat Oatmeal This Is What Will Happen When You Eat Avocados Every Day Calorie Confusion: How Much Is Needed During Pregnancy? Go with Your Gut: The Science Behind Your Gut Bacteria Red Meat for Health: A Recent WHO/IARC Ruling

Trending in Family

1 What Happened to Family Dinners? Why We Should Bring Them Back 2 How to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome and Stop Feeling Lonely 3 How Not to Let Work Take Priority over Spending Time With Family 4 35 Life Hacks for Kids That Make Parenting Easier And More Fun 5 20 Things to Remember If You Love a Person with ADD

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

Advertising

2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

Advertising

Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

Advertising

Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

Advertising

However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

More About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

Read Next