prenatal supplements

10 Key Vitamins and Minerals During Pregnancy

10 Key Vitamins and Minerals During Pregnancy

You just found out you’re pregnant. Congratulations! One of your first thoughts will likely be, What should I be eating to ensure my little one gets the nutrition he or she needs?

Your healthcare practitioner has likely recommended you take a prenatal vitamin, but your food intake matters too. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has put together a list of nutrients your body and your baby’s body need throughout your pregnancy.

This article outlines each of these nutrients, why you need them, and the ideal food sources of the nutrients.1

Nutrient: Calcium

  • Amount needed: 1,300mg ages 14-18; 1,000mg ages 19-50
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Builds strong bones and teeth
  • Best food sources: Milk, cheese, yogurt, sardines, dark green leafy vegetables

Nutrient: Iron

  • Amount needed: 27mg
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to your fetus
  • Best food sources: Lean red meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereals, prune juice

Nutrient: Iodine

  • Amount needed: 220mg
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Essential for healthy brain development
  • Best food sources: Iodized table salt, dairy products, seafood, meat, some breads, eggs

Nutrient: Choline

  • Amount needed: 450mg
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Important for development of your fetus’s brain and spinal cord
  • Best food sources: Milk, beef liver, eggs, peanuts, soy products

Nutrient: Vitamin A

  • Amount needed: 750mcg ages 14-18; 770mcg ages 19-50
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Forms healthy skin and eyesight; helps with bone growth
  • Best food sources: Carrots, green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes

Nutrient: Vitamin C

  • Amount needed: 80mg ages 14-18; 85mg ages 19-50
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Promotes healthy gums, teeth, and bones
  • Best food sources: Citrus fruit, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries

Nutrient: Vitamin D

  • Amount needed: 600IU
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Builds your fetus’s bones and teeth; helps promote healthy eyesight and skin
  • Best sources: Sunlight, fortified milk, fatty fish such as salmon and sardines

Nutrient: Vitamin B6

  • Amount needed: 1.9mg
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Helps form red blood cells; helps body use protein, fat, and carbohydrates
  • Best food sources: Beef, liver, pork, ham, whole-grain cereals, bananas

Nutrient: Vitamin B12

  • Amount needed: 2.6mcg
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Maintains nervous system; helps form red blood cells
  • Best food sources: Meat, fish, poultry, milk (vegetarians should take a supplement)

Nutrient: Folate

  • Amount needed: 600mcg
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine; supports the general growth and development of the fetus and placenta
  • Best food sources: Fortified cereal, enriched bread and pasta, peanuts, dark green leafy vegetables, orange juice, beans; also, take a daily prenatal vitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid

Additional valuable nutrients for healthy growth and development

While the above represents a select list of beneficial nutrients, there are others that can help to ensure a healthy pregnancy and newborn:

Nutrient: Omega-3/DHA

  • Why you and your fetus need it: Supports early neurodevelopment and lifelong cognitive health as well as brain and eye health2,3
  • Best food sources: Cold-water fish, including salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines; nuts and seeds, including flaxseed and chia seeds

Nutrient: Vitamin E

  • Amount needed: 15mg4
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Helps with early neurodevelopment5
  • Best food sources: Wheat germ, nuts and seeds, spinach, broccoli4

Nutrient: Magnesium

  • Amount needed: 350-400mg4
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Plays a key role in protein synthesis, energy production, bone formation, and healthy neurological function6
  • Best food sources: Nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, cashews, peanuts), spinach, fortified cereals, soy milk, black beans, baked potato, brown rice, yogurt, banana, fish, milk4

Nutrient: Zinc

  • Amount needed: 11mg4
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Supports immune health, hormone regulation, and healthy bone development7,8
  • Best food sources: Oysters, beef, crab, fortified cereals, pork, turkey, cheese, shrimp, lentils4

Nutrient: Selenium

  • Amount needed: 60mcg4
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Essential for healthy thyroid hormone production and fetal growth9,10
  • Best food sources: Brazil nuts, tuna, halibut, sardines, ham, shrimp, beef, turkey, liver, chicken, cottage cheese, brown rice, egg4

Nutrient: Copper

  • Amount needed: 1,000mcg4
  • Why you and your fetus need it: Helps with fetus’s nervous system development and tissue formation11
  • Best food sources: Beef liver, oysters, baking chocolate (unsweetened), potatoes, mushrooms, cashews, crab, sunflower seeds, turkey giblets, dark chocolate, tofu4

Nutrient: Myo-inositol

  • Why you and your fetus need it: Plays a key role in healthy gestation from conception to birth12,13
  • Best food sources: Fresh fruits, beans, grains, nuts14

Nutrition during pregnancy is important both for you and for your baby. But it doesn’t have to be stressful. Choose foods that are high in the nutrients you and your growing baby need and be sure to take a prenatal vitamin that contains all the essentials for a healthy pregnancy. Your healthcare practitioner can also make recommendations for the best foods to eat during this exciting time.


  1. Accessed March 19, 2024.
  2.   Schwarzenberg S et al. Pediatrics. 2018;141(2):e20173716.
  3.   Mun J et al. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1125.
  4.   National Institutes of Health. Health Professional Fact Sheets. Accessed March 19, 2024.
  5.   Chen K et al. Early Hum Dev. 2009;85(7):421-427.
  6.   Dalton L et al. Nutr Rev. 2016;74(9):549-557.
  7.   Prasad A. Exp Gerontol. 2008;43(5):370-377.
  8.   MacDonald R. J Nutr. 2000;130(5S Suppl):1500S-1508S.
  9.   Hubalewska-Dydejczyk A et al. Hormones (Athens). 2020;19(1):47-53.
  10.   Tsuzuki S et al. PLoS One. 2013;8(9):e75627.
  11.   Grzeszczak K et al. Biomolecules. 2020;10(8):1176.
  12.   Croze M et al. Biochimie. 2013;95(10):1811-1827.
  13.   Russo M et al. Int J Mol Sci. 2021;22(16):8433.
  14.   Clements Jr. RS et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 1980;33(9):1954-1967.

Select forms that have better bioavailability and thus are easier to absorb.

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