There are a number of nutrients that can be found in milk and dairy products, these nutrients are essential during pregnancy and lactation. The following is an overview of six nutrients, found in these dairy products, that are generally overlooked during pregnancy and lactation.
Iodine is important during pregnancy for the neurocognitive development of the fetus. A lack of iodine during pregnancy has also been linked to lower childhood IQ. Iodine is essential for thyroid function and especially important in the first 3 months of pregnancy for the development of the brain and nervous system. Additionally, those women wishing to conceive may have difficulties if their thyroid isn’t functioning well due to a lack of dietary iodine. Adequate levels of Iodine are essential for fertility and successful pregnancy outcomes as well as development of the fetus.
Although iodine levels are usually good in women who can get pregnant, women who do not regularly eat dairy products, eggs, seafood, wild fish (not farmed) or use iodized table salt may not take in enough to meet the minimum requirements during pregnancy and lactation. Most prenatal vitamins also do not have adequate iodine to meet pregnant women’s needs. If a woman is pregnant or lactating and does not use table salt, they should not be encouraged to do so. However, if they do use table salt then iodized table salt should be recommended (note: sea salt does not normally contain iodine, unless fortified).
As an alternative to dairy, soya milk and yogurt that are fortified are good sources of iodine and can help to meet daily recommended intakes of iodine along with seaweed products. Sea weed alone can provide enough iodine for daily intake without any dairy. This is good news if you aren’t able due to CMPA or lactose intolerance or do not culturally consume dairy.
Another important nutrient often overlooked during pregnancy and lactation is choline. Choline helps to replenish mom’s nutrient stores and also supports growth and development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord during pregnancy and lactation. Choline can also be found in a variety of foods like, eggs, meats, some seafood, beans, peas, and lentils, but alternatively one serving of milk provides 8% of the daily value for choline although this does depend on the quality of the lactating cow’s environment. If you live in the U.K then Jersey cow’s milk, organic or cow’s milk where cows have access to outside is best. If you are lucky enough to live in sunny South Africa for example then levels of choline and some other nutrients may be significantly higher. Many prenatal vitamins do not have adequate choline to meet needs therefore a healthy diet of dairy products can be beneficial.
3) Vitamin B12
This vitamin is needed in higher amounts during pregnancy and lactation. A lack of vitamin B12 during pregnancy can lead to permanent neurological damage in the baby. Vitamin B12 can only be found in animal products like dairy, meats, poultry, eggs, and fish. Therefore a pregnant or lactating woman who is a vegan may lack vitamin B12 and should supplement or choose foods fortified with B12 such as soya milk that is fortified and not organic. Milk and other healthy dairy products help to meet vitamin B12 needs as milk and dairy foods are excellent sources of the vitamin.
A developing baby needs calcium to form bones and teeth. Calcium is also an important nutrient for a baby’s heart, muscles, nerves, and hormones. Making the consumption of milk and dairy products great sources during pregnancy. However, calcium levels do vary for cows milk according to the cows environment. Again the same applies to Choline intake. If you consume milk in South Africa calcium intake is much higher in general to U.K cows milk. However, if you live in the U.k choose organic or Jersey cows milk or milk with extra fortification. Cow’s milk is not recommended as a drink under 12 months of age.
During pregnancy potassium is important because it helps maintain the balance of electrolytes and fluids in blood cells. Making it important for the health of the mother as well as the baby. Dairy is a good source of potassium also.
6) Vitamin D
The final nutrients that are often under-consumed by pregnant and lactating women is especially important, as it helps your baby’s teeth, bones, kidneys, heart and nervous system to develop.
Consuming the recommended daily amount of milk and dairy foods can help close the gap for these nutrients of concern in pregnant and lactating women. Again, if you live in a more southern hemisphere than the U.k vitamin D (as long as cows have access to outside) may be higher in milk than in the U.K. It is recommended that everyone in the U.K should take vitamin D supplements of 10µg a day and during the months between April-September spend at least 20 minutes according to your skin type outside with at least arms and face bare to make enough vitamin D from the sun’s UVB rays. The human body is not able to make vitamin D through clothing or sun block.
If you or your baby cannot tolerate dairy then choosing a fortified with vitamin D alternative such as soya or oat milk are perfect sources too and can guarantee more vitamin D than dairy in the northern hemisphere as it is fortified with the amount stated and is not dependent on other factors.
Contact me if you would like a personal nutritional consultation to find the right diet composition for you and your individual needs.