Minerals play a crucial role in the human body. They work with other nutrients and enzymes to ensure that our bones, muscles, and immune system are in good condition. While it is true that anyone can experience mineral deficiency, pregnant women and children are at higher risk of developing deficiencies. The reason is because pregnancy and childhood development demands a lot of minerals. For example, pregnant women need a steady supply of calcium to support fast bone formation for their unborn children. After childbirth, these infants tend to grow so fast. During this phase, they need a lot of calcium for healthy bone development.
This article suggests four minerals that every pregnant mother must pay attention to for the sake of their health and their children's.
Iron plays several functions in the body. It helps the body to produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Iron is absorbed in our stomach when we eat iron-rich foods like liver, red meat, fruits and vegetables. Eating vitamin C rich foods also helps enhance the absorption of iron into the body. Iron deficiency, also called anaemia, has become a significant mineral challenge among children and pregnant women. Anaemia is caused by the high rate of iron loss from the body. This could be due to poor nutrition in children or blood loss during pregnancy/ heavy menstrual flow in women. Lack of iron can also affect the immune system. Some studies suggest that poor iron levels could even affect the functioning of the heart or lungs. In other studies, poor calcium level was linked to risk of complications before and after birth.
Tip: It is advised for adult women to take 14.8mg of iron every day. Children between 1–3 years can take 7 mg per day, while those between 4–13years should take 10 mg per day.
Calcium is one of the minerals needed for proper bone development in mothers and children. This mineral helps unborn babies to form tender bones and healthy muscles. After birth, children need enough calcium to grow strong teeth, skeleton and maintain bone mass ahead of adulthood. Research suggests that children who eat enough calcium are less likely to develop osteoporosis when they become adults. Calcium is also good for pregnant mothers. Having enough calcium could prevent fatigue and body weakness during pregnancy. Today, calcium deficiency is a significant cause of rickets in children. It is also a leading cause of osteoporosis in adults. Some symptoms of low calcium are known to include fragile bones, muscle cramping, and dry skin. Rich sources of calcium include milk, cheese and fishbone.
Tip: It is recommended that pregnant women take 50 mg of calcium daily until the eighteenth week of pregnancy before increasing intake up to 330 mg per day until childbirth.
Women need high iodine during pregnancy to provide for the loss of this mineral within that period. The reason is because a women's body losses a lot of iodine through urine due to increased renal clearance of iodine during pregnancy. More so, Iodine helps thyroid glands in children to function properly. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located on the front of the neck. This gland controls metabolism, growth, and proper brain development in children. Having low iodine can cause enlargement of the thyroid gland (a goitre). This is why some people, especially adult women, develop a protruding lump in the front of their necks. Sea Fish, shellfish, meat, milk and eggs are some rich sources of iodine.
Tip: Mothers are advised to take between 90 -140 micrograms (μg) a day to fortify their breast milk with sufficient iodine. If you are giving your child formula milk, make sure you choose a product with iodine content. Preferably, select milk with around 50 - 100 micrograms (μg) for your full-term infant or milk with 200 micrograms (μg) for your preterm infant.
Zinc plays different important roles in the human body. It assists in making new cells needed for fast growth in children during and after pregnancy. Zinc protects the mother and child from infections by strengthening their immune system. This mineral also helps the body produce enzymes for the breakdown of carbohydrate, fat and protein in our diet. Today, Zinc deficiency is very common in men, women and children. Low zinc in the body has been traced to stunted growth and weak immunity in children. In addition, recent results from developing studies suggest that zinc deficiency could cause child complications during pregnancy. Meat, whole-grain cereals, and legumes are the highest sources of zinc. However, eating other foods like fish, fruits, and green leafy vegetables can also supply the body with this mineral.
Tip: A pregnant woman older than 18 years is advised to take 11mg of zinc per day. Generally, it is recommended not to take more than 25mg of zinc supplements per day unless instructed by a doctor.
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