Fortified foods during pregnancy

Why are fortified foods required during pregnancy?

Following a nutritious and balanced diet is very important during pregnancy as you will be eating for yourself as well as your baby. And your baby’s requirements will keep changing with every phase of the pregnancy. This means, he or she will need specific nutrients at various stages of growth. The pregnancy period and the first 2 years of a baby’s life are considered very crucial for his or her development. Your nutritional intake during the first 1000 days since conception can have a significant impact on the child’s survival, growth and intelligence quotient.

Essential nutrients in a pregnant woman’s diet

  • Folate and folic acid to prevent birth defects
  • Calcium for strong bones
  • Vitamin D to promote bone strength
  • Protein to promote the growth of the baby
  • Iron to prevent iron deficiency or anaemia
  • Fatty acids for development and cognition

The ideal diet of a pregnant woman should include adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, and proteins. Unfortunately, many Indian women don’t get sufficient amounts of these during pregnancy. Inadequate nutrition, poor dietary quality, and inadequate intake of micronutrients, essential fatty acids, protein, and energy, can affect your body mass and weight. It can further lead to severe anaemia and pregnancy-related complications. The risks are enormous, including maternal death, preterm delivery or a baby with low birth weight.

What are fortified foods?

Fortified foods are foods that are supplemented with extra nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin D, folic acid, iodine, and iron, to prevent nutritional deficiencies and support the increased nutritional demand of pregnant women. They are intended to boost the intake of vitamins and minerals, along with the regular diet consumed by pregnant women.

Fortified foods list

  • Milk is fortified with vitamin A and D.
  • Fruit juices are fortified with calcium.
  • Regular salt is fortified with iodine to prevent iodine deficiency.
  • Processed wheat lacks many nutrients. But whole-wheat flour is enriched with folic acid, riboflavin, and iron.
  • Edible vegetable oils are fortified with vitamins and minerals

Why are fortified foods necessary during pregnancy?

You can usually get all the vital nutrients you need from your diet regularly. However, the nutritional demand increases during pregnancy, both for you and your baby. Some nutrients like iodine cannot be produced in the body, and should be supplemented through external sources.

Consuming fortified foods containing micronutrients, like milk and essential fatty acids, can show positive birth outcomes. They can increase the mean birth weight of the baby, as well as the birth length, and reduce the chances of preterm delivery.

Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium and promotes strong bones. So, foods fortified with vitamin D are essential.

The deficiency of vitamin B and iron can make you feel sluggish. Vitamin A is important for vision and the immune system. Fortification can prevent vitamin A deficiency. And iodine fortified foods can help in the prevention of goitre. Iron-folic acid supplements can prevent neural tube defects.

Poor intake of fatty acids can result in preeclampsia and can also influence the child’s mental development and cognition. However, fortification with DHA can increase the placental transfer to the foetus and the DHA concentration in breast milk.

What kinds of foods are fortified in India?

Some of the commonly fortified foods for pregnancy include breakfast cereals, wheat flour (folic acid, iron, and vitamin B12), kitchen salt (iodine and iron), milk (vitamin A and vitamin D), rice, edible oils (vitamin A and vitamin D), bread, and pasta.

What are the nutrients that are included in fortified foods?

Fortified foods for pregnant women may include the following

  • Vitamins
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Iodine
  • Selenium

Fortified foods provide 50% to 100% of the recommended nutrient intake. Also note that calcium can reduce the risk of preeclampsia and pregnancy complications, but is not included in all fortified foods. So, consult your doctor about the need for a different supplement.