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Copper in your pregnancy diet

Why you need copper during pregnancy

Copper, a trace mineral found in all plant and animal tissues, is essential for forming red blood cells. This is especially important during pregnancy, when your blood supply doubles.

Copper also boosts your body's ability to mend tissues and break down sugars. And it keeps your hair growing and looking healthy.

During pregnancy, copper helps form your baby's heart, blood vessels, and skeletal and nervous systems.

How much copper you need

Pregnant women: 1 milligram (mg) per day

Breastfeeding women: about 1.3 mg

You don't have to get the recommended amount of copper every day. Instead, aim for that amount as an average over the course of a few days or a week.

Food sources of copper

Here are some typical amounts of copper found in some good food sources:

  • 3 ounces canned crabmeat: 1.0 mg
  • 1/4 cup roasted pumpkin and squash seed kernels, no salt (pepitas): 0.8 mg
  • 1 ounce raw cashews: 0.6 mg
  • 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds, no salt: 0.6 mg
  • 1/4 cup raw hazelnuts: 0.6 mg
  • 3 ounces steamed oysters: 0.5 mg
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds: 0.5 mg
  • 3 ounces cooked tempeh: 0.5 mg
  • 1 medium baked potato, without skin: 0.3 mg
  • 1/2 cup grilled sliced portabella mushrooms: 0.3 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans: 0.3 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked kidney beans: 0.23 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked navy beans: 0.3 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked lentils 0.23 mg

Note: Don't cook food in uninsulated copper pots. Unlike iron pots, which enhance your body's ability to absorb vitamin C, copper pots react with food in a way that destroys vitamin C, as well as vitamin E and folic acid. Cooking in copper pots may also raise your copper intake to toxic levels.

Should you take a supplement?

No. If you eat a healthy, varied diet, you'll probably get enough copper. It's present in seafood, nuts, seeds, wheat bran cereals, whole grain products, dark leafy greens, and even cocoa products.

If your diet doesn't include these foods, a good prenatal multivitamin usually includes an adequate amount. It's possible to get too much copper in your diet, so talk with your healthcare provider before taking any additional supplements.

The signs of a copper deficiency

Copper deficiencies are uncommon, though women sometimes come up short in their childbearing years. If you're concerned that you're not getting enough copper, talk with your healthcare provider before supplementing.

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