Calcium is the most abundant mineral present in our body and plays a key role in bone formation: it is therefore of fundamental importance to maintain an adequate intake during pregnancy when its needs increase.
Misura's interview with Dr. Andrea Del Seppia
Let's talk about the topic with our nutritionist, Dr. Andrea Del Seppia.
Dr. Del Seppia, what are the functions of calcium and what happens during pregnancy?
99% of calcium is found in the skeleton and in the teeth in the form of "calcium hydroxylapatite". The remaining 1% is involved in numerous physiological processes such as muscle contraction, cell division and differentiation, various enzymatic activities, release of neurotransmitters and hormonal adjustments. During pregnancy there is a series of temporary physiological changes, such as an increase in intestinal absorption, urinary excretion and bone turnover, aimed at maintaining a constant maternal calcium balance and, at the same time, providing growth and development of the fetus. The skeleton of a newborn contains approximately 20-30 g of calcium; most skeletal growth occurs from the middle of the gestational period (pregnancy) with a maximum peak during the third trimester.
What are the needs of this mineral in pregnant women?
Normally, the need for calcium in women in adulthood (18 to 59 years) is 1000 mg a day (LARN), but the value can increase up to 1200 mg a day for the pregnant woman, to keep the balance unchanged and thus allow proper bone density in the mother, the development and bone mineralization of the fetus.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the intake of 1500-2000 mg per day is recommended in women who experience a low dietary calcium intake of less than 1000 mg per day.
A lack of calcium intake can, in fact, contribute to the onset of some problems during pregnancy both for the mother (from muscle cramps to osteopenias, paresthesia and gestosis) and for the fetus (developmental delay and bone mineralization). During breastfeeding, the recommended intake for the adult woman returns to 1000 mg daily.
What are the preferable food sources of calcium?
Calcium-rich foods are certainly milk and some of its derivatives, such as yogurt and cheese. In particular, aged cheeses can have a quantity of calcium up to 1 / g on 100g. A good rule to increase the intake can be to add to the pasta and substitutes a good spoonful of grated Parmesan, or parmesan flakes with vegetables or the second protein dish.
Yogurt, another precious source of this mineral, especially the Greek one, is an excellent food for snacks or breakfast, and has an acid pH that favors intestinal absorption.
Among the foods of vegetable origin, on the other hand, calcium is present in nuts and seeds, especially in almonds, sesame and chia, which can be added in mixed salads or snacks such as yogurt, fruit salads and centrifuged.
A small whim consisting of a square of milk chocolate to be introduced from time to time can be a good source, to be excluded however in cases of risk of gestational diabetes and difficulty in weight control. Cereals, although not particularly rich, can still constitute a good source because they are introduced in abundant quantities into the daily Mediterranean-style diet.
This precious mineral is also present in legumes, especially beans, in vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage, broccoli, chard, watercress and in fish such as sardines and anchovies. It is advisable to maintain a high daily fluid intake alternating waters more or less rich in this mineral.
It is important, however, to remember that a good walk and constant exercise are essential for maintaining good bone health, as well as promoting better weight and blood sugar control during pregnancy.
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