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Breast milk is best for your baby.

Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society, and the Dietitians of Canada recommend that you exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months and that you continue to breastfeed for up to 2 years or longer along with complementary foods.

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Home / Pregnant / Nutrition during pregnancy / Benefits of dha and lutein during pregnancy

Benefits of DHA and lutein during pregnancy

DHA (the acronym for docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid, is one of the building blocks of the fetal brain and eyes. Therefore, including DHA-rich foods, such as recommended fatty fish, during pregnancy is important.

During pregnancy, DHA is transferred to the baby through the placenta and accumulates in the baby’s brain and eyes, especially during the third trimester, when there is significant brain growth. After he is born, the baby will get DHA through breast milk or infant formula. DHA supports the normal physical development of your baby’s brain, eyes, and nerves. While Health Canada has not published official recommendations for the amount of DHA pregnant and lactating women should consume, they are encouraged to include at least 150 g of cooked fish (see Health Canada. Food and Nutrition - Prenatal Nutrition Guidelines for Health Professionals - Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. 2009) every week because they contain omega-3 fats and other important nutrients.


Health Canada. Food and Nutrition-Prenatal Nutrition. 2011.

If you are worried about not getting enough DHA, you may want to discuss this with your doctor, who may recommend a fish oil supplement. Remember to look for a Natural Product Number (NPN) on the product label, which shows that the fish oil supplement is government-approved for safety, efficacy, and quality.

DHA and lutein: an important team for your baby’s health

Lutein is an antioxidant found in breast milk. As such, it helps protect fatty acids, like DHA, from oxidative damage. In one study, infants supplemented with lutein immediately after birth reduced the development of harmful oxidizing substances known as free radicals.


Perrone et al. Neonatology 2010;97:36–40.

What is lutein?

Lutein (pronounced loo’-teen) is a carotenoid, like beta-carotene, that acts as an antioxidant. Carotenoids are a family of compounds found in different amounts in vegetables, eggs, and fruits. They are responsible for many of the colours we see in nature, such as the red in tomatoes, the orange in carrots, and the yellow in egg yolks. Your body cannot make lutein, so you must get it from your diet.

Make sure to include foods like spinach and eggs, or any of the following lutein-rich foods in your diet:

  • Leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard, turnip greens, collard greens, and romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Zucchini
  • Garden peas & Brussels sprouts
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Okra
  • Celery
  • Oranges
  • Tomatoes
  • Melons
  • Grapefruit
  • Beets
  • Asparagus