Key Nutrients Explained

Have you ever wondered why taking a prenatal vitamin is important for you and your baby? We thought we’d make it easy on you and explain the why behind the type and amount of key nutrients recommended during pregnancy.

Remember, if the nutrient is fat soluble, then you must consume fat at the time you take the vitamin to ensure adequate absorption.  Vitamins A, E, D and K are fat soluble. Choose healthy fats or oils such as olive oil, avocados, walnuts, flax and chia seeds.

Key nutrients:

Vitamin A – 770 mcg

Promotes optimal vision, makes possible the growth and health of cells (cell division and differentiation).  Found in animal foods and fortified milk.  Also found in cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and broccoli.  This vitamin is fat soluble.

Vitamin D – 600 IU

Aids in calcium absorption, directs movement of calcium which in turns affects heart beat and muscle movement.  Its nickname is the sunshine vitamin as you can make vitamin D by exposing yourself to direct sunlight (spf blocks this process).  Can be found in salmon, tuna, milk, yogurt and eggs.  This vitamin is fat soluble.

Vitamin E – 22 IU (15 mg)

Aids in immunity and fighting free radicals.  You can find it in almonds, almond butter, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, spinach, wheat germ and avocados.  This vitamin is fat soluble.

Thiamin / B1 – 1.4 mg

Promotes normal heart function and normal central nervous system function.  Can be found in pork, pecans and lentils.

Riboflavin / B2 – 1.4 mg

This vitamin is necessary for energy function.  It can be found in fortified cereals, yogurt, milk, eggs and cottage cheese.

Niacin / B3 – 18 mg

Niacin contributes to energy metabolism for proper growth and development.  It can be found in chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon, beef and peanuts.

Pantothenic Acid / B5 – 6 mg

This acid is part of a bigger picture (enzymes that contribute to making compounds that sustain life).  It can be found in mushrooms, avocados and sunflower seeds.

B6 – 1.9 mg

Aids in production of new cells, supports the immune system and it is involved in brain development.  It can be found in salmon, beef, pork and potatoes.

Folate – 600 mcg

Folate and its cousin folic acid (synthetic version added to enriched grains and supplements) are vital for developing a healthy baby.  This vitamin prevents neural tube defects.  Since the neural tube develops within the first 28 days of pregnancy, it is recommended all women of childbearing years consume folate.  Folate prevents certain heart abnormalities, cleft palate and cleft lip.  It also lowers the risk of developing anemia, miscarriage, preterm delivery and low birth weight.  It can be found in fortified breakfast cereals, lentils, spaghetti, rice, beans, broccoli, orange juice, spinach and strawberries.

B12 – 2.6 gram

Assists in red blood cell production.  Plants have no B12!  If you are vegetarian, you need this supplement.  B12 can be found in clams, salmon, beef and fortified cereals.

Choline – 450 mg

Necessary for normal functioning cells particularly in the liver and central nervous system.  Can be found in eggs, pork, beef, cod, shrimp, chicken, salmon and broccoli.

Vitamin C – 85 mg

Besides the obvious, this vitamin also supports healthy bones, teeth and other tissues including blood vessels.  You find it in citrus, bell peppers, orange juice, broccoli and strawberries.

Calcium – 1000 mg (will most likely need additional supplement as most prenatal vitamins    do not contain enough)

Calcium is a central part of cell function of every cell in your body.  Long story short, bones act as your calcium savings account and when your levels are low, your body withdraws from your bones.  Too many withdraws can leave your bones porous (think swiss cheese!).  Calcium is found in tofu, yogurt, milk, orange juice and cheddar cheese.

Iodine – 220 mcg

Iodine is essential for healthy brain development for your baby.  Most foods are low    in iodine.  That is why the US added iodine to salt and why this mineral should be in your prenatal vitamin.

Iron – 27 mg

Its most important role is that iron contributes to the production of hemoglobin and myoglobin.  Hemoglobin helps transport oxygen to your cells while myoglobin transports oxygen to muscles.  Iron aids in supporting the immune system, energy production, contributes to healthy birth weight and proper fetal brain and central nervous system development.  It’s a big deal.  It can be found in fortified cereals, oysters, spinach, oatmeal and beans.

Magnesium – 350 mg

Helps regulate nerve, muscle function (the rhythm of your heart), blood pressure and more.  It can be found in plant foods like soybeans, spinach, brown rice, nuts, black beans and whole grain bread.

Zinc – 11 mg

Aids in DNA production and can be found in meat and seafood like oysters, crab, beef, turkey and pork.

What to look for in a prenatal vitamin:

Vitamin A – 770 mcg

Vitamin C – 85 mg

Vitamin D – 600 IU

Vitamin E – 22 IU (15 mg)

Vitamin K – 90 mcg

B1 (thiamin) – 1.4 mg

B2 (riboflavin) – 1.4 mg

B3 (niacin) – 18 mg

B5 (pantothenic acid) – 6 mg

B6 – 1.9 mg

Folate – 600 mcg

B12 – 2.6 gram

Calcium – 1000 mg (will most likely need additional supplement as most prenatal vitamins do not contain enough)

Iodine – 220 mcg

Iron – 27 mg

Magnesium – 350 mg

Zinc – 11 mg


We’d love to hear: What’s your favorite prenatal and does it have the recommended amounts of prenatal nutrients?

If you’re looking for additional pregnancy and postpartum support, we’d love for you to join Unique Footprints – you’ll get a food guide with meal plan, prenatal yoga, audio practices to de-stress, you’ll learn how to decrease your discomforts and increase in your energy.  Plus, you’re not only going to feel better, but you’re also going to improve the health of your baby.

You have the power within you to create an incredibly healthy child and to experience and enjoy vibrant health during the process. It would be an honor to have you join us.



Top 5 Pregnancy Superfoods

MTHFR Implications on Fertility & Pregnancy (these moms need folate)

Gestational Diabetes – what you need to know!

Stress & Fetal Brain Development

Ways to Decrease the Stress Response


Unique Footprints Authors:

Caroline Susie, RD/LD

Caroline is in private practice and is the Unique Footprints Registered Dietitian, mother of a 6 month old and two Jack Russel Terriers. She helps women sort through nutrition trends to find the best evidence-based nutrition approach for their lifestyle. She currently specializes in prenatal and postnatal nutrition and believes that taking a personalized approach is best. She is a contributor for Fox News and many other publications. Personally, Caroline is a fitness enthusiast who enjoys running, yoga, tennis and is a lover of food. You can learn more about Carline here. 

Jenny Morrow, RN, IBCLC, LCCE, RYT

Jenny is a born and raised Texan who loves the feel of a book in her hands, an unshakable optimistic and refuels by time in nature. She’s a mom, neonatal nurse and founder of Unique Footprints (a fully realized, 100% digital pregnant and new mom resource). She created her company in the delivery room – literally! As a nurse assisting with deliveries and postpartum care, she directly witnessed families who did not feel prepared and were shocked through the transition into parenthood, and she knew there was a better way. Jenny has taught over 10,000 expecting families how to prepare for this time in their lives. You can learn more about Jenny here.

Share your thoughts




Hit the pause button and join us for A FREE (VIRTUAL) PREGNANCY CLASS!

Come meet other expecting moms and learn ways to prepare for baby's arrival!

Once you RSVP, we’ll send you a detailed email with how to join. 


A welcome email is on its way from me to your inbox and it contains all the details for the Pregnancy Class! 

I'm looking forward to meeting you!


With love,