Pregnant women are often bombarded with warnings about the foods they need to avoid. For example, you probably know that you need to cut back on caffeine, and that certain soft cheeses are off the menu. However, it’s just as vital to consider positive dietary changes. There are plenty of delicious foods that support the health of developing babies. Here are the top 10 foods to consider eating during pregnancy, along with explanations of why they’re so beneficial.
Pregnant women should aim to get approximately 1.9 mg of vitamin B6 each day, as it assists in developing your baby’s brain and nervous system (as well as supporting red blood cell formation). Bananas are a useful ally here, and their potassium content can help to keep you energized as well. In addition, if you suffer from particularly bad morning sickness during pregnancy, increasing your vitamin B6 intake further may relieve some of the symptoms.
Eggs are often favored by those who are trying to lose weight, as a standard egg contains fewer than 90 calories. In spite of this, eggs are packed with nutrients that support the health of both mother and baby during pregnancy. Choline can reduce the likelihood of neural tube defects, protein helps with the development of your growing baby’s cells, and the low saturated-fat content of eggs ensures good cardiovascular health.
3. Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, which your body needs in large amounts during pregnancy in order to form your baby’s teeth and bones. If your calcium intake isn’t high enough, your body will tap into your own backup supply, potentially leaving you with problematically low bone density (which puts you at risk of fractures). As well as regularly enjoying Greek yogurt, note that broccoli, spinach, tofu, and turnip greens are all great sources of calcium.
4. Brown rice
It’s likely that you’ll be advised to take folic acid supplements during pregnancy, but it’s also a good idea to increase the amount of folate in your diet to help lower the risk of birth defects such as like spina bifida. Brown rice is one of the best sources of folic acid available, along with fortified cereals and leafy green vegetables. As a bonus, brown rice provides your body with plenty of selenium to help keep your blood pressure within healthy limits during pregnancy.
Most doctors recommend pregnant women maintain a daily zinc intake of 11 mg per day, as this nutrient is required for cell division when your baby’s organs are developing. Beans are packed with zinc, and also offer plenty of fiber to help compensate for any pregnancy-induced constipation. Other sources of zinc include red meat, chicken, and dairy.
If you eat meat, you’re tapping into an excellent source of iron, which helps to prevent anemia and boost your energy levels during pregnancy. However, if you’re a vegetarian, don’t worry too much; just focus on alternative sources of iron, like meat substitutes and those oft-mentioned leafy green vegetables. Make sure your doctor closely monitors your iron levels, and always report any excessive tiredness or physical weakness you experience.
7. Oily fish
You’ll probably already know that oily fish are full of folic acid, but you may not be aware of their rich vitamin D content. Vitamin D regulates levels of calcium and phosphate, which support bone strength in both you and your baby. Aim for an intake of 10 mg of vitamin D per day during pregnancy, which may require some help from supplements. Also consider asking your doctor to test your vitamin D levels, as some pregnant women suffer from an unexpected deficiency.
Oranges, well known for their vitamin C levels, and are popular in part because vitamin C is said to support the immune system. When you’re pregnant, vitamin C helps your body absorb more iron from your diet, warding off anemia. To increase your vitamin C consumption, add more strawberries, broccoli, and bell peppers to your diet as well.
9. Sweet potatoes
When your levels of preformed vitamin A are too high during pregnancy, you risk liver damage and birth defects. Preformed vitamin A is found in animal sources of food, such as meat (particularly liver), dairy and fish. On the other hand, carotenoids are safe to consume, as your body coverts them to vitamin A only when your body needs it. Along with sweet potatoes, carrots and tomatoes are good sources of carotenoids.
Complex carbohydrates are incredibly useful when you’re pregnant, as they can help to combat tiredness and keep you on your feet during the more exhausting days. As well as providing you with complex carbs, oatmeal appears to support heart health by cutting levels of LDL (i.e., “bad”) cholesterol.
As suggested by the above, it’s just as important to add certain things to your diet as it is to remove them during pregnancy. With so many tasty, beneficial foods to choose from, eating healthily doesn’t have to be a chore.