The effect of vitamin A during pregnancy is often misunderstood. Many of you may have heard that too much vitamin A is dangerous to your fetus. This is certainly true: too much vitamin A can cause birth defects. However, excess vitamin A is almost always related to the synthetic form (from vitamins). It is for this reason that pregnant women need to make sure they are not taking too much Vitamin A from supplements and food combined (over 3,000 ug/day or about 5,000 IU/day). However, some prenatal vitamin manufacturers have actually removed Vitamin A from their formulas, so check your supplement. If it does not have vitamin A that is okay- it was probably removed to make room for omega-3 fatty acids, or other vitamins that are more difficult to get from food.
A healthy pregnancy requires vitamin A for embryonic and fetal developments. Animal studies show that vitamin A affects gene expression and the formation of the heart, central nervous system, circulatory, urogenital, and respiratory systems, along with the development of the skull, skeleton and limbs. A deficiency of vitamin A during early pregnancy results in abnormalities of these systems or even miscarriages. There is also some research that vitamin A has anti-viral and anti-tumor properties, which can be passed on to the fetus. Vitamin A requirements are even higher during breastfeeding (1,300 ug/day) because deficiency of vitamin A in children can cause blindness and problems with lung development .
Many pregnant women in the United States have no problem getting the recommended daily intake of 770 ug/day from food sources. Vitamin A carotenoids are found in yellow, orange, and deep green vegetables. Vitamin A retinols are found in milk, butter, fish oils and animal livers. It is safer for pregnant women to obtain vitamin A from fruits and vegetables, rather than fish oils and animal livers. For example, cod liver oil is healthy for non-pregnant women and children but may not be safe for pregnant women or women who might become pregnant due to the toxic levels of vitamin A to the fetus. If you want to take a fish oil supplement consider another source, or make sure not to take more than 5,000 IU/day from cod liver oil, supplements, and food combined. Beef liver should only be eaten occasionally and you should probably skip your prenatal vitamin that day. Always consult with a Registered Dietitian if you think you need more personalized guidance.
If you do not eat yellow, orange, and deep green fruits and vegetables (such as carrots, winter squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, apricots, cantaloupe, tomatoes, watermelon, broccoli, kale, collards, and spinach), make sure you eat vitamin A-fortified foods or take a prenatal vitamin that contains Vitamin A. In order for vitamin A to be well absorbed, your body needs to have sufficient fat intake and zinc stores as well.
These seasonal muffins are a fun way to get some vitamin A and they also contain fat, and zinc!
Stir together: 1 3/4 cup whole grain pastry flour 1 cup sugar 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg, ginger, and allspice 1/8 teaspoon cloves
Mix together: 1 cup pureed pumpkin (I used canned) 1/2 cup soymilk 1/2 cup coconut oil, canola oil, or melted Earth Balance 2 tablespoons molassess
Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir, being careful not to over-mix. Pour into muffin tins 2/3 full and bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool before serving or they will be chewy.
My family loves this recipe because the muffins are yummy and I love it because it works for families with food allergies (like ours). I have also tried some variations, such as using agave instead of sugar (add to wet ingredients) and Toffuti sour cream instead of oil. The muffins come out more 'bread-like' but still descent. Stick to the recipe as listed above to be safe.