6. Fill Up on Fluids

Water is a nutrient that is just as important as macronutrients and micronutrients. Water acts as your body’s transportation system to carry nutrients to your body cells as well as your baby’s. Water helps to regulate body temperature through perspiration and by transporting oxygen through the body, carrying waste products away from the body cells, cushioning joints, and protecting body organs. Proper hydration before, during, and after is a vital component of a healthy pregnancy.

How Much to Drink

Pregnant women need extra fluid to support their increased blood volume and for amniotic fluid. Because the body has no provision to store water, the amount of water you lose each day must be continually replaced to maintain proper hydration. During both pregnancy and breastfeeding, women should aim to drink eight to twelve 8-ounce glasses of water per day. This may increase if you are perspiring in hot weather, when exercising, or if you have any type of fever, diarrhea, or vomiting. Inadequate water intake can lead to problems like fatigue, muscle weakness, and headaches, just to name a few. For the fetus, dehydration can affect adequate nutrient transport, induce poor waste removal, create too warm an environment, and decrease cushioning. These can all affect fetal growth and development. Being properly hydrated can help to reduce swelling and bothersome constipation. Staying properly hydrated can help you to feel more energized, give you an improved sense of well being, provide greater endurance and stamina during physical activity, and improve your digestion and elimination.

Water contributes close to 55 to 65 percent of an adult’s body weight, and during pregnancy your body’s water needs expand substantially. Water is present in every part of your body: 83 percent of blood, 73 percent of muscle, 25 percent of body fat, and even 22 percent of bones are made up of water.

The best and easiest way to get your fluids is simply by drinking water. Other fluids that can contribute to your daily intake include fat-free or low-fat milk, club soda, bottled water, vegetable juice, seltzer, and fruit juice. Be careful of drinking too many beverages, such as juice, that are healthy but also pack in a lot of calories. Stay clear of alcohol and most herbal teas, and limit coffee, tea, soft drinks, diet soft drinks, and other caffeinated beverages. If you feel thirsty, your body is telling you that it is already becoming dehydrated, so drink up.

Drink, Drank, Drunk

Like everything else, drinking water should be part of your healthy lifestyle—you should make it a habit. Make a commitment today to start drinking water on a regular basis. You should be in the habit before you even become pregnant. You should start out with a moderate goal and work your way up. It may help to start a water diary on a calendar to keep track of your current intake and your progress. If you need help increasing your water intake, follow some of these helpful tips:

• At work or at home, take water breaks instead of coffee breaks.

• Keep a bottle of water at your desk, on your counter at home, or in your car when traveling so you have it available to sip throughout the day.

• Get in the habit of drinking a glass of water before and with meals and snacks. Besides helping you to stay hydrated, it can help take the edge off of your appetite.

• Use a straw to drink your water. Believe it or not, using a straw can help you drink faster and make a glass of water seem a little more manageable.

• Drink water instead of snacking while watching television or reading a book.

• Keep a two-quart container of water in the refrigerator, and make it your goal to drink it all by the end of the day. This also gives you a constant supply of good, cold water.

It is normal to get thirsty once in awhile, but if you are excessively thirsty and find yourself drinking large amounts of water, this could be a sign of a medical condition such as diabetes. If you feel you are drinking because of severe thirst, as opposed to a healthy habit, speak to your doctor.

7. Fabulous Fiber

Fiber is exclusively found in plant foods; it is the part of the plant that our bodies cannot digest. Fiber, also called dietary fiber, is categorized as a complex carbohydrate, but because it cannot be digested or absorbed into your bloodstream, it is not considered a nutrient. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Each type has a different beneficial health function in the body. It is important to eat a variety of fiber-rich foods every day that will provide you with the health benefits of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soluble Fibers

Soluble fibers naturally found in plants include gums, mucilages, psyllium, and pectins. Foods that contain these fibers include peas, beans, oats, barley, and some fruits (especially apples with skin, oranges, prunes, strawberries, and bananas) and some vegetables (especially carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower). Soluble fiber binds to fatty substances and promotes their excretion, which in turn seems to help lower blood cholesterol levels.

According to the American Heart Association, soluble fibers, when part of your everyday low-fat and low-cholesterol diet, can aid in slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which in turn can help to control your blood sugar levels.

Insoluble Fibers

Insoluble fiber is known as “roughage.” The insoluble fibers give plants their structure. Insoluble fibers naturally found in plants include cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Foods that contain these fibers include whole-wheat or whole-grain products, wheat bran, corn bran, some fruits (especially the skin), and many vegetables including cauliflower, green beans, potatoes with skin, and broccoli. Insoluble fibers do not dissolve in water, but they hold on to water as they move waste through your intestinal tract. By holding on to water, they add bulk and softness to the stool and therefore promote regularity and help prevent constipation. Insoluble fibers also help accelerate intestinal transit time, which means they decrease the amount of time that waste stays in the colon. This cuts the time that potentially harmful waste food substances can linger in the intestines.

Fabulous Fiber Benefits

Fiber may not bring the word “fabulous” to your mind, but maybe it should. Basically, fiber comes in and goes out of the body. However, it does some pretty amazing things on its travels. Fiber helps to promote good health in many ways. Studies show that a diet rich in fiber as part of a varied, balanced, and low-fat eating pattern may help to prevent some chronic diseases. No matter how good your present health is, you can certainly benefit from adding more fiber to your diet. Fiber not only promotes health but also may help to reduce the risk for digestive problems, heart disease, some types of cancer, and diabetes. A fiber-rich diet can also help to promote weight management.

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Eating more than 50 or 60 grams of fiber per day may cause a decrease in the amount of vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, iron, magnesium and calcium, that your body absorbs. Large amounts of fiber can also cause gas, diarrhea, and bloating.

How Much Fiber?

A diet rich in fiber is important at all times, but it can be especially helpful during pregnancy. A fiber-rich diet can help to prevent constipation, which plagues many pregnant women. The average American only eats about 12 to 17 grams of fiber daily, which is well below the recommended levels, so make sure you make the necessary changes to your diet to boost your fiber! Adults under the age of fifty should get 25 grams a day; adults over fifty should get 21 grams. When boosting your fiber intake, it is important to increase your intake gradually and to make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids.

Getting Your Fill of Fiber

Adding fiber to your diet may be easier than you think. Just looking at the fiber content on the nutrition facts panel on packaged foods can help you be aware of what you need to do to increase your fiber intake. Choose foods that are good sources of fiber and have at least 2.5 grams or more of fiber per serving. Make simple switches by substituting higher-fiber foods, such as whole-grain breads, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, fruits, and vegetables for lower-fiber foods such as white bread, white rice, candy, and chips. Eat more raw vegetables and fresh fruits, and include the skins when appropriate. Lightly steam these foods, which can preserve a lot of the fiber content. Plan your meals to include high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, or whole-grain starches. Simply adding extra vegetables to your favorite sandwiches, soups, and casseroles can make a world of difference.

What better way to start your day than with a high-fiber breakfast cereal such as bran cereal or oatmeal? Look for cereals that contain at least 3 to 5 grams or more of fiber per serving. Add some fresh fruit to the top of your cereal for an extra fiber boost. Since both soluble and insoluble fibers are important for good health, eat a variety of high-fiber foods to ensure you get a mix of both types of fiber. Make good use of your snacks by choosing those that will increase your fiber intake. Nibble on dried fruits, popcorn, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, whole-wheat bagels, or whole-wheat crackers. Try something different and add legumes, or dried beans, to your diet at least two to three times per week. You can add them to salads, soups, casseroles, or spaghetti sauce.

Don’t rely on juice for daily servings of fruit. Whole fruits contain more fiber than juice because much of the fiber is found in the skin and pulp, which is removed when the juice is made.

Fiber-Rich Foods

There are a variety of foods that contain fiber. Try a variety and add fiber-rich foods to every meal.

Food       Serving Size         Fiber (grams)
Apple with skin 1 medium 3
Banana 1 medium 2
Blueberries ½ cup 2
Figs, dried 2 4
Orange 1 medium 3
Orange juice ¾ cup less than 1
Pear with skin 1 medium 4
Strawberries 1 cup 4

Broccoli, cooked ½ cup 2
Brussels sprouts, cooked ½ cup 3
Carrots, raw 1 medium 2
Potato, baked with skin 1 medium 4
Spinach, cooked ½ cup 2
Tomato, raw 1 medium 2

Beans/Lentils, cooked   
Baked beans ½ cup 3
Kidney beans ½ cup 3
Lentils ½ cup 4
Navy beans ½ cup 4
Peanut butter, chunky 2 T 1.5
White beans ½ cup 4.5

Brown rice, cooked ½ cup 2
Pumpernickel bread 1 slice 3
Wheat bran 1 tablespoon 2
Whole-wheat bread 1 slice 2

100% bran 1/3 cup 8
Bran flakes ¾ cup 5
Oatmeal, cooked ¾ cup 3
Raisin bran ¾ cup 5

Peanuts, dry-roasted ¼ cup 3
Popcorn, air-popped 1 cup 1
Sunflower seeds ¼ cup 2

Fiber Supplements

Many fiber supplements contain only small amounts of fiber compared with the amounts that are found in foods. With supplements that contain more fiber, it is easy to overdo your fiber intake, which can inhibit the absorption of many nutrients. Fiber supplements may help relieve constipation, but most health experts advise using food as the primary source of dietary fiber intake. If you feel you need more fiber in your diet through a supplement, talk to your doctor first.

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