Nutrients to pay special attention to
when pregnant or nursing

Women who are pregnant or nursing need more energy and nutrients than they would usually. However, many women in this situation do not get enough of either with nutrients such as folic acid, iron, and calcium being a particular problem.
It is important to ensure that your body is getting what it needs during this particularly demanding time.

Folic acid

Folic acid is a vital nutrient for the creation of the baby's brain and nerves. Insufficient quantities are said to lead to neural tube defects, which in turn can cause abnormalities in the brain and nerves. An additional 240μg per day is necessary during pregnancy, on top of the 240μg recommended for when not pregnant. Be sure to eat foods that contain plenty of folic acid, or take folic acid supplements.


Iron deficiency inhibits the formation of hemoglobin in your blood and causes iron-deficiency anemia.
Many pregnant women show signs of iron-deficiency, thus should ensure that they eat iron-rich foods. Normally, 20-30%* of heme iron is absorbed from animal-derived foods; this is more than the amount of non-heme iron absorbed from plant-derived foods. Therefore, it is a good idea to incorporate animal-derived foods such as red meat and fish that contain high levels of iron into your diet.

  • *Bothwell TH, Baynes RD, MacFarlane BJ, MacPhail AP. Nutritional iron requirements and food iron absorption. J Intern Med. 989;226:357-365.


During pregnancy, calcium absorption increases, and while nursing, a temporary decrease in bone density is observed. However, by six months following weaning, bone density returns to pre-pregnancy levels, such that it is not deemed necessary to take additional calcium. However, the average calcium intake for women is much lower than the recommended amount, so it is best to make a conscious effort to take in additional calcium (average intake / recommended intake for:
women in 20s: 405mg / 650mg;
women in 30s: 441mg / 650mg;
women in 40s: 420mg / 650mg).

Reference:National Health and Nutrition Report 2013 / Dietary Reference Intakes for Japanese (2015 edition)

Balanced diet guide for pregnant women and nursing mothers

Search related keywords

Other Focus Areas