What Kind of Food Is Good for a Baby's Heart Development?

Research of milk in laboratory
Milk contains both calcium and phosphorous, two essential nutrients for fetal heart development. (Image: View Stock/View Stock/Getty Images)

Proper nutrition plays an essential role in the development of your child’s cardiovascular system. Like adults, babies require adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, along with essential vitamins and minerals to develop properly. Since fetal heart development primarily occurs in the first trimester, it is important for pregnant women to receive plenty of essential nutrients -- such as calcium and phosphorous -- that help form the tissues of your baby’s heart. For best results, talk to your doctor or dietitian about the best nutrition plan for your baby’s development.

Definition

An average person’s heart is equivalent to the size of her fist; as your body develops, your heart and hand grow at a relatively similar rate, according to The Franklin Institute. However, fetuses in the womb have much larger hearts during the first and second trimesters, in relation to the surrounding organs. As your baby develops, the heart grows in size from a simple tube to an intricate mass of vessels and ventricles. Since the nutrition of the fetus is directly related to the nutrition of the mother, pregnant women are typically advised to avoid certain substances and foods -- such as caffeine or excess sodium and cholesterol intake -- which may hinder the development of the baby’s heart.

The Best Food Choices

Most pregnant women can consume a sufficient amount of heart-healthy nutrients by following a balanced diet rich in whole grains, leafy greens and lean proteins. However, some pregnant women may want to emphasize foods that contain high amounts of certain minerals and nutrients. Calcium, copper, phosphorous and thiamine are four nutrients that are critical to the development of the fetal heart, according to the BabyCenter.com. Calcium and phosphorous can be found in found in milk and are recommended in daily quantities of 1,000 and 700 milligrams respectively. You should also receive at least 1 milligram of copper per day from foods such as cashews, kidney beans and crabmeat. Lastly, thiamine is necessary -- about 1.4 milligrams a day --- and can be found in oats, split peas and most meat products.

Foods to Avoid

In addition to increasing your intake of heart-healthy foods, try to decrease the amount of unhealthy foods you eat. The Franklin Institute recommends limiting your fat intake to less than 30 percent of your total caloric value each day. Additionally, keep your cholesterol and sodium intake under 300 and 3,000 milligrams per day, respectively. Food additives and chemicals, such as MSG, may also have undetermined side effects on fetal development. When in doubt, talk to your doctor about specific foods and beverages to eliminate from your diet.

Postpartum

Once your baby is born, his heart continues to grow along with other bodily organs. To maintain adequate cardiovascular development as he gets older, emphasize a diet of beans, nuts, whole grains, vegetables and fruits, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Additionally, the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna and flaxseed play an important role in protecting the heart from antioxidants. Check the labels of the foods you buy to make sure they contain these healthy ingredients.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Comments
PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2018 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy. The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.