Eating for Two: A Guide to Mother’s Nutrition during Pregnancy – Part 11 – Liver

Eating for Two: A Guide to Mother's Nutrition during Pregnancy - Part 11 - Liver


We’re getting close to the part on chocolate, but first a word about liver. You’ll have noticed that many of the vitamins and elements needed in larger proportions during pregnancy are present in liver. Liver is loaded with iron and folate, the two nutrients at the top of the increased-need-in-pregnancy list. Does this make liver a great choice for pregnancy? The glory of the gestational gourmet?

I think not.

Here’s one good reason. Liver is also loaded with vitamin A. While vitamins are necessary for life, too much of a good thing can be toxic. This is especially true of the fat soluble vitamins, E, A, D, and K. The requirements for E, D, and K do not go up at all during pregnancy. Slightly more vitamin A is needed – but not as much as the increase in calories. The diet can be proportionally lower in vitamin A during pregnancy.

The recommended daily amount of vitamin A is 770 micrograms (compared to 700 micrograms before pregnancy). This is 2567 IU (international units). Prenatal vitamins usually contain about 2700 IU, covering the pregnancy needs.

One study found that pregnant women given more than 10,000 IU a day had double the risks of birth defects. Other studies suggest that up to 25,000 IU may be safe. But all agree that too much vitamin A is toxic. The official upper limit recommended during pregnancy is 10,000 IU per day, including that obtained in food and supplements combined. You are unlikely to get too much from a prenatal vitamin coupled with a normal balanced diet – with one exception.

A single 3-ounce serving of liver can contain up to 30,000 IU of vitamin A! There is no proof that eating liver causes birth defects, but I can’t recommend eating liver regularly during pregnancy. (Nor can I recommend taking extra supplements of the vitamins or minerals found in your prenatal vitamins.) Of course, many pregnant women can’t stomach the sight or smell of liver, no matter how it is prepared.

Chocolate, though, is another story.

Read More from: Eating for Two: A Guide to Mother’s Nutrition during Pregnancy

Eating for Two: Part 1 – Pregnancy A Special Time
Eating for Two: Part 2 – Folate and Iron
Eating for Two: Part 3 – How Much Folate Do You Need?
Eating for Two: Part 4 – The Gift of Iron
Eating for Two: Part 5 – Vitamin B6 and Iodine
Eating for Two Part 6 – Zinc
Eating for Two: Part 7 – Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Pantothenic Acid, and Omega-3
Eating for Two: Part 8 – Not Found in Most Prenatal Vitamins!
Eating for Two: Part 9 – Calcium!?
Eating for Two: Part 10 – Calories
Eating for Two: Part 11 – Liver
Eating for Two: Part 12 – Chocolate
Eating for Two: Part 13 – Eating for the Future

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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